WELCOME TO THE PROWLERS
Alan Davies - Vocals & Harmonica
Dave Stanton - Guitar, Vocals & Percussion
Ian Macdonald - Bass & Vocals
Phil Norman - Lead Guitar
Malcolm Coram (Mally) - Drums
The Prowlers were formed in early 1964 when Phil Norman, Ian Macdonald and Alex McLachlan, the remaining members of short-lived Wirral band the Blackjacks, were joined by Dave Stanton (ex Abstracts)and Alan Davies.
The new group took its inspiration from the Chicago and Delta bluesmen, combining a feeling for the blues with the raw energy of a young rock band, a combination that helped them quickly establish a loyal and devoted fan base around Wirral and beyond. “We were looking for a suitable name when we stumbled on Prowlers by chance,” recalls Dave. The band liked it because it sounded a bit sinister. As Phil pointed out, “so many bands at the time had such tame sounding names – we were looking for something with a bit more edge.”
With a clear idea of what they wanted to do, and with the benefit of a place to practice, the new band worked hard to build up a set that was original, blues-based and good for an audience to dance to. Using a simple but effective plan to get the name known, Dave printed off a batch of 12 inch-square cards with the simple message “The Prowlers Are Coming.”
“We just went round all the clubs and dance halls and stuck them up,” he says, “often without the owner’s permission. Then when we were ready to ask for some work, our name was already familiar to club owners and promoters."
The Prowlers were well received by Wirral audiences right from their first date in late March 1964 and within a couple of months were getting the sort of screaming receptions normally reserved for star bands. Fans were regularly turned away from venues that were packed to capacity.
Among the many Wirral venues, played in those early days, were the Tower Ballroom and Kraal in New Brighton along with the Majestic Ballroom, Left Bank and Cubik clubs in Birkenhead. There were numerous youth clubs and community centres around the area as well as Birkenhead Technical College which had a good-sized hall. In Liverpool the band’s dates included the Cavern and Rumblin’ Tum, as well as gigs further afield in Blackpool, Southport, Preston, Rochdale and Wrexham. In July the Prowlers played a cruise dance on the Royal Iris with the Kubas. Ian remembers it getting fairly choppy but “we managed to stay on our feet, just about.”
A fan club was established (annual subs 3 shillings and sixpence) and ran smoothly thanks to the hard work of local girl Margie Platt who regularly arranged coaches for fans wishing to go to out of town shows.
On stage the Prowlers backed up their driving R&B music with plenty of movement. Ian Macdonald says “It was to make the band stand out from those who just stood there and played.” Maybe it was this that started the screaming that greeted them at just about every show they did from early summer ’64 onwards.
The Prowlers were serious about becoming successful on a much wider level and recorded a demo of a song written by Dave and Alan called Lost & Alone, a thoughtful ballad, far removed from their usual choice of material. They reasoned that there was a better chance of getting a recording contract if they had their own songs and this first attempt at writing produced a ballad. “We were a bit unsure about playing it live,” admits Phil, “but the fans loved it and shouted for it all the time. To be honest we didn’t like playing it that much and when we failed to get a recording contract with it, we dropped it from the set.” On the B side was Slim Harpo’s King Bee which was much more to the band’s liking.
In August ’64 Mally Coram, from Vince Earle’s Talismen, replaced Alex McLachlan as the Prowlers’ drummer.
In October 1964, with the group busier than ever, the Prowlers were approached about going to Germany. “We played a very quick audition - I think we did just one song,” says Phil “and we were offered a month based in Kiel for January 1965. We’d all been finding it hard to combine jobs and, in my case, art college with our increasing band commitments so we decided to go full-time from the end of the year and see if we could make a real go of it.” Up until then, Ian’s step-father, Don, had kept the band’s bookings diary but it was now time to sign with a professional agency, giving them the chance to work around the UK and abroad.”
Before setting off for Germany, the Prowlers were asked to visit Dacre Hill Orphanage in Rock Ferry on Christmas Day, so that the staff and kids could say thanks for all the benefit shows they’d played. “We walked into a big room all decorated for Christmas,” remembers Ian, “to be confronted with rows of kids of various ages all singing a song dedicated to us. I think we were pleased and embarrassed all at the same time. Dave was swaying a bit because he’d made an early start on the Christmas cheer. Nobody noticed though and after talking to the staff we went outside to play football with the kids. They won.”
The last show of the year before departing for Germany was at Fareways Wrexham on 26th December 1964. The Prowlers had played 165 shows in just 9 months.
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