A HISTORY OF ... The JASPER HART BAND
by Ken Brown - guitarist
Developing through our previous bands of The Gobi Desert Canoe Club in 1967, and then Crusade, The Jasper Hart Band was formed in mid 1970 and played, with some success, in the working men’s clubs of the North East.
The band comprised:
Fred Smith – drums
Steve Chance – bass
Brian Johnson – vocals
Ken Brown – guitar
It was in about November 1970 that the band was approached by Ms Ruth Saxon, a well respected comedienne, who asked if we would like to be a professional band on the British cabaret circuit, (Can a duck swim? Is the Pope a Catholic? came to mind), playing songs from the musical “Hair“ with well-known and favourite “pop/soft rock”songs of the time.
But, there was a proviso or three:
1. A keyboard player was required.
In came Alan Taylorson, who had played with Fred, Steve, and me in a previous band.
2. The band had to be as tight as sh***.
There followed a few months of intensive
rehearsals at Studio 1, Clayton Street, Newcastle.
3. Stage appearance had to be improved, involving a lot of trudging around Newcastle to find clothes that suited Ms Saxon.
All this was done, and we embarked on doing lots of club gigs before going into cabaret.
Everything went fine ... until ... Ms Saxon disappeared; leaving the band in lots of debt !! - all of the gig proceeds were therefore used to pay this off. After the initial euphoria, things were very bad, and after all the financial dealings had been settled, the band sort of broke up. Steve left and Alan decided to quit playing altogether and went off to manage a DIY store in Sunderland.
In those days, gigs were in plentiful supply and it was not unusual to be out five or six nights a week, and doing two gigs on Friday and Saturday nights, playing in a working men's club, before heading off later to play at a nightclub. It could be quite a lucrative “job”.
Fred, Brian and I therefore decided to continue with the band and, as it happened, a bass player - namely Tom Hill who had been in local bands Lusika State Group, Blondie (not the Debbie Harry version), and Yellow - was available and fancied the job.
In about May 1971, Mike Forster, owner of Circa 2000 Records, saw and liked the band, and said he would like to manage us, and record some songs with a view to national release. Would we be interested? Can a duck, etc... This we did, but due to a lack of the necessary finance, the recordings were never issued. However, you can hear a selection of clips from the studio sessions here. The band continued gigging with just one change: Fred Smith was replaced on drums by Brian Gibson.
Shortly after this, Tom informed me that he had the chance to join a professional band with Vic Malcolm, a guitarist from South Shields, but would honour all the dates that we had booked if that was OK. What I didn’t know was that Vic wanted all my band apart from me (big Aaahhh) to form USA, later to become Geordie.
The Jasper Hart Band was shelved in late 1971, and other bands came and went until I called it a day in 1984.
After years in retirement from music, apart from playing at the odd party and small gigs, I put a band together in 2006, comprising:
Fred Smith - drums
Mike Larsen - bass
Emily Brown - vocals
Ken Brown - guitar
Scott Anderson - keyboards
The name? The Jasper Hart Band.
Scott left the band in May 2009 to do other things, and until we found a replacement keyboard player Jimmy Hall, from Raw Spirit, helped out along with John Campbell adding sax, flute, and clarinet. Adam Rapley brought his keyboard talents to the band in 2011.
So that’s a brief history, leaving out all the gory details of sex, drugs, rock’n’roll, and all the other goings on that happened – and reputedly happen – with semi-pro bands. If, after reading this, you would like to see or hear the band, check out our gig listings page.
You can hear some of the 2007 Jasper Hart Band studio recordings here, and we hope to add some live tracks too. There is also a possibility that the songs we recorded in 1971 will soon be available on CD. You can listen to a selection of those clips from the 1971 Jasper Hart Band studio sessions here
It's 2012, and The Jasper Hart Band has reverted to its original four-piece format. Emily Brown stays to lead on vocals backed by Ken Brown with guitar, Fred Smith on drums and Mike Larsen on bass.
If we have your interest, do also see some history of the Jasper Hart Band at Ready Steady Gone