Davie Jones and the King Bees

The first record David Bowie made was as lead singer of Davie Jones & the King Bees on the single "Liza Jane"/"Louie Louie Go Home," which came out in June 1964. Bowie was still going by his first name of David Jones at this point, and playing Rolling Stones-styled R&B-rock with the King Bees. Their sound was very much in the rough sub-Stones strata inhabited by too many groups to count in 1964, with a repertoire full of staples like "Hoochie Coochie Man" and "Got My Mojo Working." A press release of the time listed Bowie's favorite vocalists as Little Richard, Bob Dylan, and John Lee Hooker. The music was a long way from what Bowie would become famous for in the '70s, and a good deal less original.

Nonetheless, Davie Jones & the King Bees attracted the interest of manager Leslie Conn, who producing their first single and arranged for it to come out on the Decca subsidiary Vocalion. The A-side was a rearrangement of the black spiritual "Liza Jane," for which Conn took the songwriting credits. Although shunned as worthless by some Bowie biographers, it wasn't a bad British R&B effort, brash if typical and derivative. Bowie played sang and played saxophone, an instrument he would rarely return to in his lengthy career. The B-side, a cover of the obscure Paul Revere song "Louie Louie Go Home," was lousy, and one of the worst things Bowie ever issued on disc.

The single didn't go anywhere, and soon after its release, Bowie left the King Bees, moving on to his next group, the Manish Boys. "Liza Jane"/"Louie Louie Go Home," an extremely rare and valuable single for years, eventually got reissued on several occasions, and is most readily available on Rhino's compilation of early David Bowie material, Early On (1964-1966). The only member of the King Bees to play a role in Bowie's post-King Bees activities was rhythm guitarist and harmonica player George Underwood, a childhood friend who did the painting of Bowie that appeared on the back of the 1969 David Bowie album, and worked for the singer's management company, Mainman, as a designer and graphic artist. ~ Richie Unterberger

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