The group was formed in 1962 by six students from Grangefield Grammar School, Stockton on Tees. The original line up was
Vocals - Geoff Barker
Keyboard - Brian Humpherson
Lead guitar - Peter Mackie
Rhythm guitar - Mike Wassall
Bass guitar - Norman Hardwick (later Graham Rayner)
Drums - Cliff Thornton
The band started when Pete and Mike bought electric guitars and got together in Pete’s attic bedroom. Mick Ross joined briefly as a drummer with a single snare drum and with Pete’s amp made from a radio and Mike plugged into his Grundig tape recorder they began to make some (rather quiet) noise. With the benefit of the one or two chords at their command they tried their hand at Apache.
I’m not sure how the next stage came about but Norman joined on bass, and then Brian and Geoff joined. At this time Mick Ross had disappeared and still on a single snare drum we had Morgan who carried forward his Boys Brigade style of drumming into the rock arena. We had one disastrous gig in this format at Norton Youth Club and Morgan was replaced by Cliff with a complete drum set.
The Cyclones of course were formerly - and briefly - known as the Floridas! In fact the cards actually refer to the Fabulous Floridas! Can't understand why we changed the name at all !!
After the Norton Duckpond fiasco, we had a few practices and decided to shock the school’s conservative musical establishment by entering the music festival playing an instrumental version of Summertime. I can’t remember the reaction but it did lead to our first real public performance, playing during the intervals of the school’s annual pantomime. The Cyclones Rhythm Group provided the entertainment between the scenes of the production of 'The Mutiny at Strangefield' in December 1962 – about 50 years ago! Significant because that was probably the first
occasion featuring Cliff on drums - a single white snare drum and a Boys Brigade side drum with no snares! No cymbals! Our programme that evening included numbers like Walk Don't Run, Perfidia, Bristol Express, Stand Up and Say That - a purely instrumental set! I can't remember what happened to 'The Blues' on that occasion - I suspect that Strangefield audiences were not quite ready for him at that time! As you can see from the programme, we ceded the top billing to the community singing led by one of the teachers.
After this the band began to practise on Sunday nights at the Stockton Presbyterian Youth Club in the church hall and eventually took their first paid booking at a dance at the Eaglescliffe Village Hall. This one was much more successful and the Cyclones were now on their way !
The group found plenty of bookings in and around Stockton, mostly at weekends and mostly in pubs, social clubs and at dances. The tickets show some of the places we played at and others include Fairfield Boys Club, Elmwood Community Centre, The Blythe Home, Acklam Garden City, Acklam Steelworks Club, Oxbridge Workingmen’s Club, Redcar Albion, Stillington Workingmen’s Club, Eaglescliffe Village Hall, Egglescliffe Village Hall, The Outlook Club in Middlesbrough, The Blythe Home Club, where they booed the National Anthem, Grays Road Institute, Elmwood Community Centre Hartburn, and too many other to remember. Also St Cuthbert's Hall in Yarm Lane and numerous do's at the Presbyterian Church Hall which had such amazing acoustics, pre-dating modern reverb FX.
A couple of our favourite venues were the Stockton Cricket Club and the Stockton Rugby Club where we seemed to end up playing in an assortment of rugby shirts and with half the first XI or first XIV on stage with us.
Talking of stage dress, we were into our more professional presentation phase by that time -
wearing those natty red velvet waistcoats. The material was liberated from Pete’s mum before it could become much needed new curtains in the Mackie household and it was turned into our stage wear by the expert seamstress Mrs. Wassall.
At most of the places we played we were too young to order a drink at the bar! Some of the pubs we played were rougher than others. The roughest included the Sun and The Brunswick on Yarm Lane.
The Brunswick had a tiny stage in the corner of the upstairs bar. The landlady was a feisty sort and was used to sorting out the fights that often broke out. She would wade fearlessly into the middle of any fracas and separate the contenders before dragging them out by the scruff of their necks. We were glad that we were tucked away in the relative safety of a corner of the room, but our equipment was still vulnerable.
One night the second half of the show at the Brunswick ”kicked off” with the band playing an instrumental - the Dakotas 'Cruel Sea' - while Brian hung around out the back waiting to make an entrance. “I just remember that evening when all hell broke loose, and I thought that the crowd had attacked the band.” A few people were glassed, but luckily the Cyclones survived!
Never really understood what those women were doing sitting on the bench alongside the stage next to Norman!
On this occasion Pete, our lead guitarist, had just taken delivery of a new guitar and was playing his lead break when a fight broke out. The band kept on playing despite the “floor cabaret” and Pete, frightened for the safety of his new guitar, thrust it out of the nearby open window whilst continuing to play.
A couple of weeks later the drummer of The Tremors was not so lucky. “Tap-Tap” Thompson fell victim to a disgruntled drinker who walked up to the stage and kicked in the front of the bass drum before calmly walking off again.