Way before The Beatles burst onto the scene with Love Me Do in 1962, bands were being formed up and down Britain. Bands literally sprung up from John O’ Groats to Land’s End. This included in Leiston, a small, rural town in sleepy Suffolk. It was an unlikely place for a new band to be formed. Things changed in 1961, when The Rebels were formed. Suddenly, Leiston was about to awake from its slumbers.

That wouldn’t please everyone. Many locals viewed Leiston as their own rural idyll. It was a  a Paradise Lost in post War England that now seemed to be in a constant state of flux. So when word spread through the town that a new ‘musical combo’ had been formed locally, this proved disconcerting. Especially when the new band turned out to be called The Rebels. This was sure to set tongues wagging, curtains twitching and most likely, would end up with letters being written to the parish council. For locals it was a worrying time. Who knows what the held for the denizens of Leiston?

Just over two years later, and The Rebels had changed their name to The Wild Oats. They were about to go onstage at Leiston village hall. This was their hometown show, and The Wild Oats were about to hold court. By then, they were a popular band in the local area. However, tonight, there was a special guest in the audience… David Nicolson.

By day, David Nicolson was a publicist at EMI’s press office in London. David Nicolson was also an aspiring producer. He was keen to cut his teeth as a producer, so placed adverts in the NME, which was then one of the three main music papers. The first group who replied to David Nicolson’s advert were The Wild Oats. Hence, David Nicolson’s racing to catch a train to sleepy Suffolk.

Having caught the train Leiston, David Nicolson made his way to the village hall. When he opened the doors, the village hall was packed. It was also a dark, hot and smoky. A cloud of cigarette smoke seemed to sit above the enthusiastic crowd. However, as The Wild Oats took to the stage, this no longer mattered. All that mattered was the music. 

David Nicolson watched as The Wild Oats worked their way through a set where blues and rock ’n’ roll numbers rubbed shoulders. They weren’t alone. Many of the new bands that were determined to follow in the footsteps of The Beatles, Rolling Stones and The Who were playing similar songs. However, The Wild Oats did it their way.

Unlike many of these aspiring bands, The Wild Oats didn’t ape the choreographed moves of The Shadows and The Beatles. That wouldn’t go down well in  Leiston village hall. Nor would the mid-Atlantic accent that had been adopted by many vocalists in the latest wave of new bands. The Wild Oats left that to their competitors. They were a British band, who played Lowestoft and Leiston, not L.A. Meanwhile, aspiring teenage producer David Nicolson had seen enough.

After the show at Leiston village hall, he went in search of The Wild Oats. When they began to talk, he realised that they had much in common. Not only were they a similar age to him, but shared a love of music. The Wild Oats were also a talented band with potential. So David Nicolson offered The Wild Oats a recording contract.

From then on, The Wild Oats were excited about making their recording debut. As far as the members of The Wild Oats were concerned, the recording session couldn’t come soon enough. They were already a popular live band, and had come on leaps and bounds recently. Those that saw The Wild Oats live, remembered “that they were a band that gave everything that had. That was the case every night they took to the stage.” Buoyed by their success as a live band, The Wild Oats were desperate to enter the studio. So The Wild Oats were told to choose five songs to record, and practise them.

The five songs that The Wild Oats chose, were ones that they had previously played live. This included You Can’t Judge A Book By Its Cover, Walking The Dog, Will You Love Me Tomorrow, Put The Blame On Me and Whole Lotta Woman. After this, it was a case of practise makes perfect. Meanwhile, The Wild Oats were waiting for the first available slot at the recording studio David Nicolson had chosen.

That’s how, at 7.30am on 12th April 1964, The Wild Oats found themselves setting up their equipment in R.G. Jones’ studios in Morden, Surrey. It featured state of the art recording equipment. However, given its suburban location, it was a far cry from EMI’s Abbey Road studios, which was home to producer George Martin, and where he recorded The Beatles’ albums. However, for The Wild Oats all that mattered was that they were about to make their recording debut.

After forty minutes setting their equipment up, the six members of The Wild Oats were ready to make their recording debut. The Wild Oats’ rhythm section featured drummer Stykx Scarlett, bassist Ron Goldsmith and rhythm guitarist Robin HareRon Goldsmith. They were joined by lead guitarist Trevor Rowland and vocalists Willy Brown and Carl Harrison. Overseeing the recording session was engineer R.G. Jones and debutante producer David Nicolson. The pair would ensure that the session ran smoothly. However, there was just two hours and twenty minutes of the session left to record the five songs. Despite almost being behind the black ball, The Wild Oats managed to record four blistering slices of R&B. They also recorded a hopeful and almost wistful cover of Will You Love Me Tomorrow? These tracks were recorded within the allotted time, and would The Wild Oats’ debut recording session was hailed a success. 

So much so, that in June 1964 David Nicolson returned to R.G. Jones’ studio with a request. He was looking to have an E.P. pressed to sell at The Wild Oaks concerts. David Nicolson knew that R.G. Jones’ studio had its own in-house label, Oak. A total of 100 copies of The Wild Oats’ E.P. were pressed that day. 

With The Wild Oats’ E.P pressed, they were sold after concerts, giving concert-goers a souvenir of their evening. Little did they realise that they had made a shrewd investment. That would only become apparent later.

Before that, The Wild Oats made another journey to R.G. Jones’ studio. This time, they were going to record two new songs. To help record these new songs, The Wild Oats had brought along two friends. 

Harry Stoneham played piano on the Charlie Rich composition I’m Coming Home. It’s a driving slice of rock ’n’ roll, that sounds as if it was recorded in Memphis, rather than Surrey. The other song was So Long, which vocalist Willy Brown had penned. It featured singer-songwriter Peter Smith, who would go on to reinvent himself as Crispin St. Peters. He added harmonies on So Long, which is dreamy, melancholy and melodic. There’s with an almost proto psychedelic sound to So Long, which showed another side to The Wild Oats. Sadly, this was the last time that The Wild Oats recorded at R.G. Jones’ studio.

The Wild Oats recording career was far from over. Their final recording session took place in Putney, South West London. That was where Tony Pike lived. He was a drummer who previously, had played in Joe Loss and Ted Heath’s bands. Since then, Tony Pike had also built his own studio in the basement of his Putney home. Tony Pike had placed an advert advertising his home studio. That was how The Wild Oats met Tony Pike.

When they met Tony Pike, the six members of The Wild Oats struck it off with the older, more experienced musician. Soon, The Wild Oats were rehearsing and experimenting in Tony Pike’s basement studio. It was much cheaper than other studios. This made it the perfect place for The Wild Oats to record five tracks in 1965.

Among the five tracks recorded were Route 66 and Fanny Mae. Having rocked their way through Route 66, The Wild Oats deliver a blues tinged version of Fanny Mae. Alas, the other three tracks recorded during the 1965 Tony Pike session have been lost. Only the versions of Route 66 and Fanny Mae remain, and close The Wild Oats. It’s a welcome addition to The Wild Oats LP, which celebrates the long career of The Wild Oats. It was recently released by Big Beat, an imprint of Ace Records.

Five decades later, and The Wild Oats are still playing live. The Wild Oats show no signs of calling it a day. That’s despite being in their early seventies. Still though, The Wild Oats can rock out with the best of them. They’re a tight and talented band who have been together for fifty-five years, when The Wild Oats were known as The Rebels. That was enough to strike fear into the hearts of denizens of sleepy Leiston. 

After all, rock ’n’ roll was in its infancy, and was something of an unknown quantity. That would soon change. By the time, that The Wild Oats entered the recording studio for the first time in 1964, the British Invasion groups had arrived on American shores; and Beatlemania had sweeping the world. The four cheeky mop topped Liverpudlian rapscallions had given music an air of respectability. No longer were bands regarded as a group of outlaws living on the edges of society. That certainly doesn’t describe The Wild Oats.

They comprised six young men who loved, and still love music. Being in The Wild Oats allowed them to embark upon an adventure where anything was possible. The lucky groups, like The Wild Oats signed recording contracts and released an E.P. on the Oak label. That E.P. is now a collector’s item, worth between £500 and £1,000. It’s a prized item in collector’s circles. So anyone who bought a copy when they saw The Wild Oats in 1964 or 1965, will be in for a surprise. Those that don’t have a copy of The Wild Oats E.P. now have the opportunity to rectify this.

Recently, the Big Beat label, an imprint of Ace Records recently, released The Wild Oats, a nine track, deluxe 10” LP. It features the five tracks on the original E.P., plus another four tracks recorded between 1964 and 1965. These tracks are a reminder of The Rebels who became The Wild Oats, and awoke sleepy Leiston from its slumbers.









  1. Brian Corbett

    Fond memories of The Wild Oats. If possible I would appreciate this message being passed on to Trevor Rowland.

    We haven’t been in contact for many years and I just realised that it will be Trevor and Liz’s golden wedding anniversary later this year. Sadly my Hazel died 5 years ago and I would really like to get in touch with Trevor and Liz.

    Brian Corbett
    T: 01634 715245
    M: 07860 891395

  2. Michael Nunn

    There are many people still resident in or near Wickham Market who,will remember with great fondness the boys who first came to the Village Hall in the very early days of the band setting up. Friday night was eventually a night not to be missed .Later a guest appearance by Crispian St. Peter was a bonus. Trev’s guitar skills were absolutely magic for someone like myself who was an avid Hank Marvin fan. This group,of lads were terrifically popular in our corner of Suffolk

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