Of the many Rhythm & Blues groups who surfaced in the very early 1960s, only a few could lay claim to fame: The Stones, Yardbirds and The Animals. They burst onto the scene with a new kind of music. But there were a few other great bands playing in small clubs to packed audiences who never quite made the big time. One such group was THE BETTERDAYS from Plymouth.
Formed in 1960, THE BETTERDAYS started adding rhythm and blues in 1962 to their programme bit by bit, replacing the hard American rock and roll they were known for. Banned for playing ‘unusual’ music from Plymouth’s ballrooms and clubs, they toured all over Devon and Cornwall booked only little village halls – playing for up to 5 hours a night and got tighter, harder and developed the raw driving sound that drew enormous crowds later on. At the end of 1963 the group had established itself as a sensation in the West Country and throughout 1964 the riots and a fanatical following easily rivalled the reaction other more famous groups were achieving.
But Plymouth is a sea port better known for the Mayflower that sailed to America than its music and no record company executive ever strayed down into the West Country’s backwoods. They toured the north of England and Wales and played to huge crowds – but always returned to their home town Plymouth.
Finally, almost by accident, they won a major record contract and released one single which many regard as a minor classic “Don’t Want That / bw “Here It Is” on the Polydor label late in 1965. With no management and no promotion behind them, disillusioned and disappointed the group disbanded.
The newly remastered and pressed double album Backlash represents what might have been.
"Down on the waterfront early 1964 – a stones throw from Plymouth's famous Mayflower Steps, I first heard the music of a loud R&B band coming from a 2nd floor window. The venue was called the Quay Club and the band, the Saints Beat Combo, consisted of lead guitar, bass, drums and vocalist. However, as I entered the club I couldn't believe four musicians could make such an incredible sound – I was mesmerised. Having just arrived from London and familiar with the club scene there, I was not prepared for what I was hearing – this was something else.
Later that year, I went back to find a huge crowd queuing outside the Quay Club – but the line-up had changed to include a keyboard player, Bob Pitcher, who played some terrific authentic solos on the harmonica. The group was now called The Betterdays which they had taken from a Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee number.
These guys deserved fame.
The next time that I saw them was in a Westward TV spectacular showcase featuring the group playing both sides of their Polydor single 'Don't Want That' b/w 'Here t'is'. The guitar and harmonica solos on Here T'is is the sound that had become the trademark of the band.
25 years later the band had reformed and had been booked to play at the Wallingford Blues Festival near Oxford. This was the fourth time that I would see the band play and hoped that I wasn't going to be disappointed. A Saturday night in June 1993, the Betterdays were to play at 9.30pm. As they walked on the stage, they were greeted with a stony silence. I smiled to myself as I thought I knew what was about to happen. They played a medley of three numbers and then stopped to introduce themselves, to a stunned audience. The roar came from the back and swept through the crowd. Three more numbers and the Betterdays left the stage to non-stop rapturous applause.
The album BACKLASH, in my opinion, is testament to one of the greatest British R&B bands to come out of the 1960's.
The lack of promotion and good management consigned the Betterdays to relative obscurity, but this album 'BACKLASH' captures the talent and excitement of this great band."