Showaddywaddy’s former lead singer for almost four decades now manages the band. This year, they celebrate their 50th anniversary with an extensive tour and boxset. By Douglas McPherson

For the children of the 1970s, Showaddywaddy defined rock’n’roll. The kids who grew up to become rockabilly rebels in 1980 were often weaned on the band’s hit covers of Blue Moon, Three Steps To Heaven and I Wonder Why long before they heard the originals by The Marcels, Eddie Cochran and Dion.

The group was created by the amalgamation of two bands, Choise and the Golden Hammers, hence their eight-man line-up.

The band achieved national fame on TV talent show New Faces in 1973 and hit the charts the following year with Hey Rock And Roll. They then went on to a decade-long run of hits including the chart-topping Under The Moon of Love.

We meet the band’s former frontman and current manager, Dave Bartram, to relive those heady days..

As a child in the 50s, do you remember the arrival of rock’n’roll?

My best pal had a brother who was four years older than us and into things like Eddie Cochran and Buddy Holly. I used to borrow his records and half wear them out. Consequently, I grew to love that era. I became a big Elvis fan and had a great love for artists like The Beatles and the Stones who were basically rock’n’roll bands and wrote great songs.

You joined your first band, Buttercup Jelly, in 1967. Can you tell us about that?

You can tell merely from the name what era that was! It sounds like a psychedelic band and was influenced by the Flower Power era. But we were playing quite a lot of rock’n’roll covers – Beatles stuff – and I was penning a few songs myself and creeping those in gently. We got quite a big following and I was then spotted by a professional band called Choise. I had a good job in telecommunications at the time but was desperate to be a professional musician and be successful. So I decided to grasp the nettle. And here I am 50 years later!

What sort of material were you performing in Choise?

We were almost a heavy rock band playing mainly original material written by myself and Trevor Oakes. But like
a lot of bands in that era, you had to stick some crowdpleasers in towards the end of your set. So we would play C’mon Everybody – quite a heavy version of it – and some Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard. The rock’n’roll used to go down an absolute storm and it became obvious that we needed to steer our songs more in that direction.

How did that then evolve into Showaddywaddy?

We amalgamated with another band that we’d had a jam session with at the Fosse Way pub in our hometown of Leicester and we thought that we would be able to put on a spectacular show playing rock’n’roll. I’m lucky to have been blessed with a bit of business acumen and within a few months I was selling an entire evening with the two four-piece bands playing the opening sets and then Showaddywaddy would top the bill with the eight of us on stage.

Where did the name come from?

I was doing a vocal arrangement for a song called Little Darlin’ by The Diamonds. The backing vocals were “Bop bop sho-waddy-waddy”. I picked up on the word and put it to the boys. It was different enough for them to think it might work. And so it proved.

And how did the 50s-inspired look of the band come about?

One of the boys had an older brother who still had some Ted jackets in the wardrobe. He came along in one of them and we thought, “Yeah, that’s really the English rock’n’roll look”. There were no tailors in Leicester for entertainers but we managed to find somebody who could make them and decided to go a little more colourful to enter into the spirit of the glam rock explosion that was happening – or certainly the showbusiness side of things – which was very important in the 70s. We were described by one DJ as an explosion in a paint factory!

Was it a coincidence that Mud came out with a similar look at the same time?

When we performed on New Faces, one of the judges was the record producer Mickie Most. He wanted to sign us, but we’d signed a management deal before we did the show, so we were spoken for. Within a few weeks he’d got Mud dressed up in Ted suits to sing Tiger Feet, trying to steal our thunder! But with Mud being a four-piece it didn’t have the same visual effect, so it didn’t really affect us. Our first single, Hey Rock And Roll, stormed up the charts and everything was hunky dory.

Did you see yourselves as a glam band or a rock’n’roll revival band?

We certainly didn’t consider ourselves to be a revival band because 75% of the songs on our first three albums was original material. In fact, our first four singles were self-penned: Hey Rock And Roll, Rock’n’Roll Lady, Hey Mister Christmas and Sweet Music. But once we had a hit with a cover of Three Steps To Heaven, you kind of get encouraged by the powers that be into doing more covers. We got sucked into doing cover after cover until certain members of the band almost wanted to rest on their laurels and record more covers than originals, which was frustrating as a writer. But we had 24 Top 40 records, so in many ways they were proven right.

Most of the covers were of songs that people didn’t know. How did you choose?

There were songs that were massive hits in the States in the 50s that didn’t touch the charts in the UK, and vice versa. We owed a lot to a Leicester DJ called Mick Stacey, a rock’n’roll fanatic who became a big fan of the band. He made us a cassette of about 30 songs and there were some absolute gems on there. We thought they were way too good to be missed, so we must have recorded five or six, including A Little Bit Of Soap and Under The Moon Of Love.

Do you think rock’n’roll was a big influence on glam rock generally, not just people like Alvin Stardust but also Marc Bolan and David Bowie?

I think it was a big influence on a lot of musicians. They were all influenced by Elvis and The Beatles. The 50s was the most influential era of them all. Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochran, Little Richard, Elvis… those people were geniuses. They were so charismatic, they could write songs, and the music was so alive, exciting and raw. If you go to a party today and somebody sticks Rock Around The Clock on, everyone’s body language changes.

You didn’t copy the sound of the 50s, though, but gave it your own twist…

Very much so. If you’re just copying, it’s the road to ruin because there’s nowhere to go. If you’re creative then you’ve got to put your own stamp on it. That was what we always endeavoured to do, at any cost. It had to sound like Showaddywaddy, not the Kalin Twins or Curtis Lee. We created our own sound – it’s always a recipe for success when you’ve got your own sound.

 What other qualities do you feel have led to Showaddywaddy celebrating their 50th anniversary with a new 5CD boxset career retrospective and more than 100 tour dates this year?

We’ve always been a very hard-working band. The media tended to pigeonhole us more as a pop band than a rock’n’roll band – teenage idols, if you like – but people knew we could deliver on stage and I think that took us further than anything. Throughout the whole 50 years we’ve worked our butts off. Our original drummer, Romeo Challenger, is still bashing the skins and he’s told me he’ll carry on until he drops.

What would you like people to get out of the boxset overall?

I would like them to listen to some of the original songs that we wrote. I’d also like people to realise that we were a lot more than a covers band.