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Lord Rockingham's XI

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Biography

Lord Rockingham's XI were the house band for the TV pop show Oh Boy!, one of the first dedicated pop music shows on TV in the late '50s. Jack Good, who controlled the Oh Boy! TV show, wanted a band to segue together the guest stars and also to provide a raucous instrumental backing for them. He already had the band's name, Lord Rockingham's XI -- based on a play on the words "rocking 'em" -- and he hired musical arranger Harry Robinson to get the band together. Knowing the sort of sound that Good was looking for, Robinson put together a large collection of musicians including Red Price and Rex Morris on tenor sax, Benny Greene and Cyril Reubens on baritone sax, Ronnie Black on double bass, Cherry Wainer (from South Africa) on organ, Bernie Taylor and Eric Ford on guitars, and Don Storer and Reg Weller on percussion. The 11 of them (including Robinson) produced an instrumental wall of sound and stomping beat that quickly became synonymous with the show. Benny Greene would go on to have a very long-lasting career on the jazz scene, but in the late '50s rock & roll was all the rage. Despite guest appearances by the likes of Billy Fury and Marty Wilde, the most popular part of Oh Boy! was often the Lord Rockingham's XI interludes as they played a brand of rocking saxophone-dominated instrumental rock & roll that would go on to greatly influence the likes of Johnny & the Hurricanes, who achieved lots of late-'50s/early-'60s hits. There were only 38 episodes of Oh Boy! and Lord Rockingham's XI appeared in 35 of them, although virtually none of the performances survive on videotape in the modern era. A talking point among viewers was "just who is Lord Rockingham?," but he did not really exist and there was a legal battle between Jack Good, who invented the name, and Harry Robinson, who created the band. The demand for their music exceeded the show's output, and it was agreed that Good should retain the name for the Oh Boy! show and the recordings, and Robinson should have the rights for the live tour that took place throughout cities in the U.K. in the late '50s. Indeed, on the record labels, the name of the act was actually credited as Jack Good Presents Lord Rockingham's XI. They released the double-sided single "Fried Onions" b/w "The Squelch," but despite their popularity, it was not a hit. That all changed, however, with the release of their second single, "Hoots Mon," a track based on a traditional Scottish song, "A Hundred Pipers." This raucous instrumental track soared all the way to number one in November 1958, selling over half a million copies, although the bandmembers reputedly received only six pounds each (at the time around 15 dollars). Although nominally an instrumental, there were some Scottish-sounding grunts and interjections at the end of each chorus. They followed this massive hit early in 1959 with a lesser-selling title, "Wee Tom," but despite several further releases including "Ra-Ra Rockingham," "Farewell to Rockingham," and couple of predictable twist songs, "Newcastle Twist" and "Rockingham Twist," in 1962, none of their music troubled the chart again. At the end of the rock & roll era, the group disbanded and all the members went their own way. In 1968, EMI attempted to resurrect the project with an album, directed by Harry Robinson, titled The Return of Lord Rockingham, which included their number one hit "Hoots Mon" and versions of contemporary 1968 hits "Lady Madonna," "Yummy Yummy Yummy," "Mony Mony," "Baby Come Back," "Simon Says," and "The Son of Hickory Holler's Tramp," an album described as ideal music for parties, dances, or even listening to on your own. The album did not sell well and failed to chart, and Lord Rockingham's XI were consigned to an era in time associated with the fun and extravagance of rock & roll. ~ Sharon Mawer

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