The Junco Partners must be one of the few bands in existence that has been together playing great music for over 50 years, albeit with just one ‘career’ break during that period. Amazingly, most of six of the original 1964 members are still performing with the band. The length of time the guys have been together speaks volumes about friendship and the respect they have for each others musical abilities.

The first time I saw the Juncos was in 1965 at the Blue Note club in Sunderland. At the time I had been playing in my first proper band, the Kylastrons, for about a month and had seen quite a few bands at the Blue Note. But nothing I had seen so far could compare with the show the Junco Partners put on that night. Their performance had such an impact on me that I still have vivid memories of it 46 years later.

The club was full and by the time the band started the atmosphere in the Blue Note was electric. The band was tight with a superb solid rhythm section and individually the musicians were brilliant. It was mesmerising to watch the two vocalists – John Anderson and Ronnie Barker dancing from side to side and clapping their hands in unison. Overall, it was an exciting performance and the band lived up to all the great things I had heard about them.

The Junco Partners in 1964. (l to r) Peter Wallis, John Anderson, John Woods, Ronnie Barker, Dave Sproat and Charlie Harcourt

The Junco Partners in 1964. (l to r) Peter Wallis, John Anderson, John Woods, Ronnie Barker, Dave Sproat and Charlie Harcourt

Later that year and two bands on, I saw the Juncos for a second time. I was playing with the Sunderland based Jazzboard and in December 1965 we appeared at the Sunderland Art College Ball at Seaburn Hall on the same bill as John McCoy’s Crawdaddies and the Junco Partners. The Juncos were just as enthralling as they had been at the Blue Note when I’d seen them earlier in the year. Towards the end of the night there was an impromptu jam section involving some members of the Juncos and the Crawdaddies, including the two sax players from the Crawdaddies, plus me. I can’t recollect exactly what songs we played but for me the experience of playing alongside the Juncos made it a night to remember. I seem to recall Ronnie Barker collapsing in a drunken stupor before the end of the session but that’s rock ‘n roll for you!

2 junco ads

Between 1966 and 1970 I saw the Juncos many times and often played on the same bill as them at the Mayfair, first as a member of the Jazzboard and then Sneeze. Over these years the Juncos line up gradually changed and, in my opinion, with every change a little bit of the magic I had seen in 1965 was lost. That’s not to say that the music had deteriorated in any way – it hadn’t. If anything, the band sounded better and more polished than before. While other local bands were changing their repertoires to keep up with current musical tastes, often not that successfully, the Juncos were, by and large, still playing a lot of the blues material they had been performing since 1964. Throughout the mid to late sixties they were still well respected by local musicians and considered to be one of the best bands in the area. However, whereas in 1964 and 1965 there had been an overwhelming expectation that they would achieve national success, by the late sixties it was apparent that the Juncos chances of fame and fortune on the same scale as the Animals were diminishing.

The Junco Partners original six piece line up in 1964 was Ronnie Barker (vocals/harmonica), John Anderson (vocals), Charlie Harcourt (guitar), Peter Wallis (organ), Dave Sproat (bass) and John Woods (drums).

3 charlie 69 2

Charlie Harcourt in 1969

The band became a success in Newcastle almost straight away when they took over from the Animals as the resident house band at the Club A’Gogo. In addition to the Gogo, the band played regularly at the most popular clubs and ballrooms in the north east; the el Cubana and Blue Note clubs in Sunderland; the Mayfair ballroom, the Majestic, the Downbeat and Quay Club in Newcastle and Redcar Jazz Club and Kirklevington Country Club in Teesside. With the prospect of gigs further a field, including Germany, they turned professional and looked forward to striving for the same degree of success as their predecessors at the Gogo – the Animals.

More press about the Juncos at El Cubana

More press about the Juncos at El Cubana

In 1965 the Juncos were signed by the Robert Stigwood Agency. Robert Stigwood had been involved in a string of top ten hits in the early sixties and, despite mixed fortunes as a musical impresario in the mid sixties, his skills as a manager and record producer were not in doubt. With Stigwood as their manager they released their first single in August 1965 – ‘As Long As I Have You’ a cover of an Elgin/Ragevoy composition recorded by the US R&B singer, Garnett Mimms a year earlier. Their ‘B’ side was a song that the band featured in their stage set and always went down well with audiences – ‘Take This Hammer’. The single didn’t do that well and only reached number 60 in the UK charts. Perhaps the reason for this was the lack of publicity given to the record and the band at the right time. In a Tyneside publication called ‘Pop Parade’, reporter Albert Watson wrote –

“.. anyone would think there was a conspiracy against the Junco Partners. Not only have they not appeared on television, but their disc, “As Long As I Have You” is not even being advertised in the Trade Press!

I have yet to hear the record on radio, despite having heard a rival version several times, and it appears it is not being distributed very well.

“We’ve had loads, of complaints from fans,” the group told me. “They can’t even buy the disc in Newcastle shops! We’re a bit choked about the way it’s being put out.”

The low chart position of the single was not high enough to bring the band to the attention of the nation and with no immediate follow up single, the Juncos had to rely on a busy touring schedule to raise their profile.

4 disc

(Click below to listen to the single)

record iconAs Long As I Have You by The Junco Partners

1966 saw the first change to the Junco’s line up. Keyboard player Peter Wallis was replaced by Bob Sargeant. During the following two years the two front men, Ronnie Barker and John Anderson left the band, handing over vocal duties to Charlie Harcourt and Bob Sargeant.

In October 1969, as a four piece consisting of Charlie Harcourt (guitar), Bob Sargeant (Hammond), Dave Sproat (bass) and John Woods (drums), the Juncos toured as a backing band for the well known blues man – Howlin’ Wolf. The tour commenced with two gigs. The first was at the blues loft in High Wickham followed by a 2am spot at The Lyceum in London’s Strand for Brunel University, with both Fleetwood Mac and Deep Purple on the same bill. Both Gigs were amazing with Peter Green watching from the wings at the Lyceum. Howlin’ Wolf’s voice was so strong that it filled the 3,500 crowd Lyceum with only the help of the Juncos modest PA system. This became even more evident as Fleetwood Mac’s roadies removed their massive PA during the Juncos performance.

Bob Sargeant, John Woods and Dave Sproat – the 3 piece Juncos before the band’s split in 1970

Bob Sargeant, John Woods and Dave Sproat – the 3 piece Juncos before the band’s split in 1970

The 21 day tour then continued crisscrossing the entire country as far apart as Southampton University to Cardiff University and Aberdeen Music Hall. Other memorable dates were the LSE, the London Marquee Club, The Bull at Richmond and the University of Lancaster where we were joined by Freddie King. Wolf ignored and completely upstaged Freddie King by crawling on stage on all fours clutching an empty bottle of bourbon as the band opened his set with the great riff from Killing Floor. The audience were treated to Howlin’ Wolf’s best ever performance as he asserted his authority over the young pretender Freddie King. Freddie later slipped on to the stage for a jam towards the end of the set but received no acknowledgement from Howlin’ Wolf who he should not have been let on stage.

Wolf made a point of introducing the Junco Partners to the audience each night and as the Melody Maker review of the Marquee gig acknowledged “He seemed to enjoy working with them and they worked well with him”..

Charlie and Dave in 1969

Charlie and Dave in 1969

After recording an album “Junco Partners” in 1970, Charlie Harcourt departed, leaving the band to carry on as a three piece for a short time before splitting up.

I left the north east in 1973 and in doing so, missed out on the rebirth of the Junco Partners in 1977. In fact, it was to be another 32 years before I saw the band again at the launch of the North East Beat Exhibition at Newcastle’s Discovery Museum in 2009. The only difference in personnel to when I had first seen the band in 1965 was that the organ had been replaced by a tenor saxophone and there was an additional guitarist. Instead of the mod gear sported by John Anderson in the sixties, he now wore the long mac which has become his trade mark in recent years.

Front men John Anderson and Ronnie Barker

Front men John Anderson and Ronnie Barker

The band had re-formed in 1977 for the Newcastle Festival and after that began playing regularly at the Cooperage on the Newcastle Quayside. The revived Juncos included some members of the original line up plus Kenny Barker on guitar and Neil Perry on saxophone – (Neil left the band in 1999 for health reasons and was replaced by Justin Radford). An independent single achieved national release in 1978 and caught the attention of Malcolm Gerrie who had produced the television programs The Tube, its forerunner Alright Now and also White Room. A complete episode of Alright Now was made with the Juncos and Eric Burdon, former lead singer with the Animals, who was especially flown in from Los Angeles to jam live in the studio. A singles deal with Roxy Music’s management followed but chart success was still elusive. A cameo appearance as themselves on Jimmy Nail’s drama series Spender in 1993 reminded those of us who knew the band in the sixties just how good they still were.

8 juncos3

The 5 original members plus saxophonist Justin Radford

So although the Junco Partners never reached the same heights as the Animals, they continue to perform today with the same enthusiasm and professionalism as they did back in the sixties. Perhaps the only thing missing is the youthful energy of the original Juncos but that has been replaced with a vintage quality that comes with 45 years of stage experience and playing together as a band. Long may they continue to entertain and excite audiences in the north east.

Finally, here’s a great video of the band talking about their experiences with Howlin’ Wolf and performing Smokestack Lightning.

  1. Pete Wallis

    May 29, 2011 •

    Fantastic reading this, brought back many memories. I know many people mentioned. I was the original keyboard player in the Junco Partners when we formed during 1965. I left the band to join the Gamblers who were backing Billy Fury at that time.
    I am still involved in music and earn my living playing piano/keyboards and teaching where I now live in Tampa Florida.
    Best wishes
    Pete

    _____________________________________________________________________

  2. Ray Laidlaw

    July 11, 2011 •

    In 1966/7 the Juncos played regularly at the Vic in Whitley Bay. Me and my mate Rod Clements went to see them as many times as we could and marvelled at their power, authenticity and ability to play as a team. As drummer and bass player ourselves we were particularly impressed with the John Woods/Dave Sproat rhythm section. It was the Juncos who inspired us to keep searching till we found the right people to help us create the band we had been trying to put together. Eventually we found them and Lindisfarne was the result. Rod and I are part of a very small group of people who have had the opportunity to be replacement Junco Partners when one of the originals was indisposed, what a buzz that was.

    _____________________________________________________________________

  3. Briony Goodier

    August 5, 2011 •

    I remember Charlie Harcourt from the days when he and my brother Dale used to sit in our garage learning to play their guitars, Dale on the guitar he made in woodshop at John Marlay Technical School. Half the girls I went to Rutherford High School with drooled over Junco Partners, and we did everything we could to sneak out and go to Club A'Gogo. I left England in 69, but I still remember the "Old Newcastle". Last time I was back there, around 20 years ago, I hardly recognised the place.
    Ray ... I was lucky enough to find a Lindisfarne CD here in Canada about 4 years ago. Nearly fell over when I saw it!

  4. Norm Comerford

    September 7, 2011 •

    I remember the Juncos well, as Charlie worked at the same company as I did (Joyce Loebl). We used to talk a lot, since I had a band (Jesters) but it turned out Juncos were much better!
    I still try to follow whats going on - even though it's 45 years later and I left the UK in 69 for the US.
    I plunk around on my Telecaster, here in Atlanta, while thinking of the old Geordie band-scene! Cheers!

    _____________________________________________________________________

  5. Nigel Anderson

    September 15, 2011 •

    I came across this while doing a search on something for work, what a great article, John Anderson is my uncle (in fact we are close enough to be brothers!) I live in the midlands and have never seen the juncos live, but remember them arriving at my parents house while gigging and crashing out in our living room.
    I have all their records and lots of pictures but this article is brilliant, thank you

    _____________________________________________________________________

  6. Inge Chapman (Boland)

    October 9, 2011 •

    I was looking around the internet to see if I could find anything relating to the Junco Partners as Peter Wallis is my uncle that I have not see for year was good to see him write a comment on this and only this year.

    I can remember the song about the hammer.

    _____________________________________________________________________

  7. Eric Hall

    November 7, 2011 •

    Saw Juncos some four years ago after an absence of 40 years
    - Still briliant!
    Pity the Cotswolds are so far away!

    _____________________________________________________________________

  8. BOB SARGEANT

    November 29, 2011 •

    After shuffling around the North East with various bands,I got the job replacing Pete on keyboards as the apprentice (sorry Dave). First gig at the Bay hotel Whitburn(?) was a bit scary - knowing the Juncos fine reputation - but no problem. They were exciting and a joy to play with. No finer rhythm section!
    For four years we had some extreme highs and a few lows but I couldn't have wished for a better start to a musical career.
    The Howlin' Wolf tour was incredible, playing to sold out audiences every night for four weeks.
    Reluctantly,I left in 1970 and moved South to play with Mick Abrahams, Andy Roberts and later into record production - producing John Peel sessions for Radio 1. Couldn't have done this without my Juncos years! Many fond memories! Unforgettable times. Love em!

    _____________________________________________________________________

  9. Gus Brooks

    December 3, 2011 •

    The Cooperage 78-81, The Juncos, the Sabrejets and the 45s. We were so lucky.

    _____________________________________________________________________

  10. john smith,

    January 9, 2012 •

    Tall Windows / Noizez in my Head.
    Energy Record Co 1981, great record. anybody got a contact for Neil Perry please.

    _____________________________________________________________________

  11. Neil perry

    January 15, 2012 •

    I had the pleasure of playing sax with the Junco's since 1976 leaving the band around 2000 due to
    Illness .the stories I could tell ! Maybe I'll do it one day.Thanks lads.

    _____________________________________________________________________

  12. Dickie Needham

    April 6, 2012 •

    Played with Charlie in the 80's wonderful guitarist, beautiful person. Happy days fond memories, now in the states, shame the Hammond is so heavy!!

    _____________________________________________________________________

  13. Big Mal

    June 18, 2012 •

    WOW This brings it all back. the JUNCO PARTNERS @ Stanley youth centre circa 1966- 1968. Full House.

    _____________________________________________________________________

  14. peter brigham

    August 8, 2012 •

    I still have a copy of the Barclay label, Junco Partners LP
    from the Bob Sergeant days. Happy 60's.

    _____________________________________________________________________

  15. Wally Nash

    December 5, 2012 •

    This nis for Pete Wallis. Pete this is Wally Nash. I was around and about in those days and was the manager of The Blue Note when you were playing in fact I booked you in there. Big pal of Crombie and the Animals, (Kansaa City 5)Manager of the Marimba before it burnt down. Happy days

    _____________________________________________________________________

  16. Wally Nash

    December 5, 2012 •

    I live outside of Seattle now

    _____________________________________________________________________

  17. Keith Chatton

    December 26, 2012 •

    Great to read all these comments about a superb local band. I have been reliving many fond musical memories by listening to a "bootleg" recording of the Juncos from around 1987/88. If I recall correctly, it's from a performance at Heaton Buffs and the tracklisting is as follows :-
    1. Once Bitten Twice Shy
    2. You Got Me Hummin'
    3. (Looks like I've Been) Fooled Again
    4. Don't Burn Down the Bridge
    5. Noizez in My Head
    6. Fire Down Below
    7. Cocaine
    8. No More Parties
    9. Fire
    10. Swingin' 60's Boys
    11. Bring it on Home.

    2014 will be the Junco Partners' 50th anniversary & there should be some form of commemoration/fitting tribute to these Geordie Heroes. I'd love to see a DVD of a live gig or even edited footage of the band in action. There must be many afficionados who feel the same way, hopefully enough to bring this to fruition.

    _____________________________________________________________________

  18. gary stafford

    March 17, 2013 •

    Excellent

    _____________________________________________________________________

  19. gary stafford

    March 18, 2013 •

    I agree keith

    _____________________________________________________________________

  20. richard clark

    January 8, 2014 •

    fantastic didn't know junco partners were still around. first seen them play el cabana 64.i was there evrytime they played. liked their rendition of boom boom boom . does anyone know if this is recorded on any of they cds

    _____________________________________________________________________

  21. BRIAN JENKINSON

    February 22, 2014 •

    A tremendous band! I started seeing them about 1978/79 when they used to play at the Golden Eagle in Blyth, which led me to their regular Wednesday night slot at the Cooperage. Somewhere knocking about I have a tape recording of a gig at The Golden Eagle from 1979 - I hope I can find it! P.S. I did ask first!

    _____________________________________________________________________

  22. Barry Irwin

    January 23, 2015 •

    Come and see The Junco Partners at Gosforth Empire Club on Friday 22nd May,really looking forward to it.

    _____________________________________________________________________

  23. Ronnie

    May 19, 2015 •

    I don't know if I'm imagining this or my memory is playing tricks but I'm sure that I watched the Junco Partners play at Thornhill Comprehensive School in Sunderland where I was a pupil sometime in the late sixties at the school dance.
    I don't know whether someone could enlighten me on this!

    _____________________________________________________________________

  24. Tony

    May 21, 2015 •

    I was lucky to be at Newcastle University between 1978-79. Great Wednesday night sessions at the Cooperage on the Quayside. At the time they were has good as the E Street Band. Many thanks for some great nights out.

    _____________________________________________________________________

  25. Philip Lombard

    August 16, 2015 •

    Saw the Junco Partners at Bede Grammar school dance around '65/'66...brilliant

    _____________________________________________________________________

  26. david hall

    April 3, 2016 •

    I attended The John Marlay School and knew Charlie Harcourt. In 1963 we went to see the Beatles at Newcastle City Hall. What was memorable (apart from the Music) was our seats which were on the organ/choir steps at the back of the stage where the artists performed. So we saw the beatles but mostly their backsides!

    _____________________________________________________________________

  27. neil thompson

    April 13, 2016 •

    haway Man Bob sargeant - you and me went to see the juncos at fulham cock, christmas 1979 - get it right - anyway how ye doin'? i moved from london a couple of months ago and now living in sunny south shields. all the best if you read this. Neil, the carpettes

    _____________________________________________________________________

  28. neil thompson

    April 14, 2016 •

    sorry Bob - I was reading the comment before yours and thought it was you!! Anyway - all the best

    _____________________________________________________________________

  29. gowan

    May 24, 2016 •

    The phantom and (very) occasional sax player with the junkos was Gowan Turnbull. Mate of neil perry. Now living in France and scoring french films. What great memories from the cooperage!

    _____________________________________________________________________

  30. Dave Bell

    December 23, 2016 •

    Possibly my closest brush with a proper music legend came when Howlin' Wolf was sitting on a bar stool at Annabels waiting to Headline, and nobody noticed him it seemed. He allowed to buy him a drink, signed an autograph, (not much more than an "X"), and chatted happily for 10 minutes.

    Goodness me we got so many undeniable legends in Sunderland, didn't we. Ike and Tina seemed to be on every other month, Alex Harvey the same at Cubana, Rod the mod and the brilliant Beryl Marsden with Shotgun Express at the Tech, which also hosted for my money the best female British singer ever - Sandy Denny and Fairport Convention. Those definitely were the days.

    _____________________________________________________________________

  31. Jim melhuish

    January 5, 2017 •

    What a blast from the past.remember John and Ronnie at Rutherford grammar also Charlie at John marlay before their great days at the above. Seems like yesterday

    _____________________________________________________________________

  32. John Dunford

    April 7, 2017 •

    I've still got the 'Junco Partners' album (on the Phillips label). Crackly as hell, but still plays!

    _____________________________________________________________________

  33. Doreen

    May 18, 2018 •

    Well I think my blast from the past is of a young Ronnie Barker. if I am right he worked at the Ministry in Longbenton. He told me he was leaving to go to Hamburg with a band. I think he mentioned The Junco Partners.

    _____________________________________________________________________


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *