Formed in Swansea in 1961 The Jets were one of the more productive roots of the Manband family tree. Powerhouses of the Swansea scene throughout the beat years, driven in no small degree by the energy and presence of lead singer Tony 'Plum' Howells. The Jets saw many lineup changes, played many gigs both at home and abroad but sadly no recordings are known to have survived.

What's the connection?

Future brothers-in-law and Man cohorts Deke Leonard and Martin Ace first combined forces in The Jets.

The Jets 1964
l-r Tony Howells, Billy Evans, John Phillips, Martin Ace
The Jets - L-R Tony Howells, Billy Evans, John Phillips, Martin Ace

Formed in Swansea in 1961 The Jets were one of the more productive roots of the Manband family tree. The earliest lineup included Tony 'Plum' Howells (described as 'Hollis' on Christmas At The Patti) as lead vocalist, Alan Davies and Peter Williams on guitar, together with other players whose names are now sadly lost with the passing of years.

In 1963 though there was a radical shakeup of the band's personnel and the first familiar name appears, that of Martin Ace. Bass player Martin joined Tony Court on drums and John Phillips on guitar to support the only remaining Jet, Plum Howells. In this guise The Jets began to look for live gigs and made their first tentative steps out into the burgeoning club scene in south Wales.

As their fortunes began to take flight, in April 1964 the band's first drummer, Tony Court, was replaced by Billy 'Doc' Evans. Club gigs were coming in thick and fast now and the Jets entered several beat contests at the Embassy Ballroom in Swansea. Billy's brother Clem, now resident in Canada, later recalled that ; "The Jets shows at the Embassy ballroom were the first gigs I remember going to. They were awash with people shoulder to shoulder and there seemed to be free-floating fights going on all over the place. It was one of the places where recreational fighting was popular - but, thankfully, easy to avoid. Bill's time with the Jets did actually span that great change when bands stopped wearing suits and ties. They started growing their hair and wearing jeans and leather waistcoats. The early hippy look."

As 1964 progressed so did the Jets and towards the end of the year they were playing regular shows in Oystermouth, Swansea, Skewen, Clyne and Carmarthen. Martin Ace briefly left the group in late 1964, heading across to take over from Maldwyn Stevens in The Vikings, and meeting up with Pugwash Weathers along with Peter Shane and Mike Turnham.

Replacing Martin was Clive Davies, but this was a shortlived arrangement as within a month The Jets had combined forces with another local group, The Corncrackers, in a second radical shakeup. From The Corncrackers came Wes Reynolds on bass and vocals, and Deke Leonard on guitar, piano and vocals. Once again this lineup didn't stay together very long as within a few days Martin Ace was back on bass, marking the start of a long association between future brothers-in-law Ace and Leonard.

December 1964 and January 1965 proved to be quiet months for The Jets. The inactivity clearly didn't appeal much to Deke Leonard who left to rejoin his erstwhile colleagues Wes Reynolds and drummer Keith Hodge back in The Corncrackers. In March things began to pick up once more with a flurry of local shows in Skewen and Swansea.

It was soon time for another lineup change and this time it was Billy Evans who left to be replaced by Beau Adams. Adams was a local drummer of no small reputation, and even today his influence is still felt in the music of the area. This lineup, Howells, Ace, Phillips and Adams, that travelled to an un-named studio in London to record a demo disc featuring two songs, 'One Day In White' and 'Lovers'.

The Jets now began to spread their wings a little more widely and the next few weeks saw them playing three shows in Sheffield, several London club dates and then embarking on a month's tour of Germany in August. The German tour did it for guitarist John Phillips who was briefly replaced by original member Alan Davies and then by the returning Deke Leonard.

For the rest of 1965 and indeed right through to the late spring of 1966 The Jets lineup remained comparatively stable. In May the band changed their name to Smokeless Zone to avoid confusion with another similarly named band, and headed over to Germany for a one month residency at the Top Ten club in Hamburg. During this stay the band were filmed as part of a Beatles documentary, playing songs which included 'One Fine Day' and 'I Got A Woman'.

The final show for Beau Adams was at the Glanmor in Swansea as August drew to a close. Stepping in to take over the drum stool was a fearsomely gifted young drummer from another Swansea band, the Comancheros. Terry Williams was the name, and Terry became the third key character from the future Manband to have paid some of his dues while working in The Jets. Unfortunately Smokless Zone played only intermittently from then on and a four week tour of Germany during October was the last major concentration of shows. The final gig was at the Glen Ballroom in Llanelli, on December 12th 1966.

As Smokeless Zone broke up, in early 1967 Deke Leonard found his way back to the Corncrackers, Martin Ace briefly teamed up with Brian Breeze in the shortlived Ace/Breeze, and Terry Williams joined the Bobcats. After just a few weeks Martin Ace was also a Bobcat and the band decamped to Germany again for a tour that was to last three months. On returning to Wales in June, Martin and Terry from the Bobcats and Deke and Wes from the Corncrackers became amalgamated into Dream whose story will be told seperately.

Jets reformations have taken place and have been geatly welcomed. Most famously the Jets performed with drummer Terry Williams at Man's Christmas show at the Patti Pavillion in Swansea in 1972, and this marks the only occasion on which a Jets performance has been recorded and released. In 1999 The Jets performed two shows with Pugwash Weathers on drums in Swansea. The first of these, at the Adam And Eve in September, was a fundraising event in memory of drummer Billy 'Doc' Evans who unfortunately passed away earlier in the year. At Christmas a second show was performed at the Railmens Club and Institute. Both shows were thoroughly enjoyable events and reviews can be found in the 'Live Dates' section, elsewhere on this site.