When ex Help Yourself members Sean Tyla and Ken Whaley joined up with Martin
Belmont, Nick Garvey and Tim Roper in early 1972, Ducks Deluxe were in at
the start of the London pub rock scene of the seventies.
Tony Clayton-Lea describes the scene; "Consisting of working musicians (regularly
comprising a smattering of Irishmen, due to Dave Robinson's Murphia connections),
eager for the dosh and free beer for the night, the bands included Bees Make
Honey, Ducks Deluxe, Kilburn And The High Roads, Roogalator, Help Yourself,
Clancy, Chilli Willi and the Red Hot Peppers, Ace and The Winkies. The new
bands needed more places to play, however, and gradually other pub venues
were made available to them, creating a gig circuit that enabled them to
move around London on a nightly basis. Previously playing host to jazz, folk,
and country & western outfits, the likes of the Hope & Anchor, The
Kensington, The Cock Tavern and The Lord Nelson became the breeding ground
for a motley assortment of jobbing musicians with an anything-goes attitude
and an unpretentious approach to stagecraft."
Ducks Deluxe - 1974
Stripping the music down to its bare essentials the Ducks helped to define
the moment and soon had established a regular booking at the Tally Ho club
in Kentish Town, playing twice a week to enthusiastic and energetic crowds.
Before long, in December 1972, Ken Whaley had departed to rejoin Help Yourself
just as the Ducks were captured on record for the first time, playing 'Boogaloo
Babe' on Man's 'Christmas
At The Patti' twin 10" set. In typical small world fashion Ken would
later join Man for a short stint after Help Yourself folded. Tyla and the
rest of the crew were busy paying their dues throughout 1973. In his liner
notes to the collectable 'Last Night Of A Pub Rock Band', Peter Meulenbroeks
remember them making a 200 mile drive up North in
a rented van on a Saturday in May, to do a £200 gig, staying overnight
and ending up back in London practically broke with no more than a fiver
each in their pockets."
A hard year though ended with the band signing to RCA and releasing their
first single, Nick Garvey's 'Coast To Coast' which was followed in early
1974 by the debut album 'Ducks Deluxe'. This captures something of the fire
and excitement that the Ducks' live act generated, the ultimate pub-rock
band in all its glory, a record great for dancing and drinking, and not intended
for critical analysis. The album was well received on both sides of the Atlantic.
With the addition of keyboard and bass player Andy McMasters, a Scotsman
who'd previously been in The Sabres, to fill out the sound they recorded
a second album, 1975's 'Taxi To The Terminal Zone' at Rockfield Studios in
Monmouth. Taking its title from a line in Chuck Berry's "Promised Land,"
the album was regarded as disappointing when compared to the first although
songs 'Paris 9', 'My My Music' and 'Love's Melody' helped to lift the standard.
It was the beginning of the end.
Ducks Deluxe - 1974 again
With the band's fortunes now on a downward turn Nick Garvey departed to form
Snakes, followed soon after by McMasters. The players would later be re-united
in The Motors in 1977 when Garvey (guitar/vocals) and McMasters (bass), joined
Ricky Wernham (drums), and Peter Bramall, aka Bram Tchaikovsky (guitar/vocals).
The Motors released a debut single on Virgin records, 'Dancing The Night
Away', which flickered into and out of the charts, and was supported by the
album from which it was taken 'Motors 1'. The next six months saw the band
established as a fine live act, although singles releases came and went.
Then in 1978 The Motors achieved their moment of greatness, releasing the
UK hit 'Airport', but the album 'Approved By The Motors' failed to lift off.
Soon after, Bram Tchaikovsky and Ricky Wernham left, and Martin Ace (bass)
and Terry Williams (drums) came in. These changes did little to improve the
band's fortunes, and after the release of 'Tenement Steps', the last Motors
album, the band split up.
In the meantime, back in the Ducks, Tyla, Belmont and Roper carried on with
the addition of bassist Micky Groom, who'd once been in The Nashville Teens,
but before long the Ducks were dropped by RCA and instead of a third album
were reduced to recording an EP, 'Jumpin' on Skydog. Tim Roper abandoned
ship on the eve of the band's farewell tour and in the final few months former
Brinsley Schwarz members Brinsley Schwarz and Billy Rankin provided the guitar
and drums in support of stalwarts Sean Tyla and Martin Belmont. On the Continent,
particularly in France, they had built up a good following but their recording
career was going nowhere and they finally called it a day in the Summer of
1975. The final gig, at the 100 Club in London was on July 1st 1975.
Sean Tyla went on to form The Tyla Gang, who also included Ken Whaley, and
signed to Stiff records with his "Texas Chainsaw Massacre Boogie" being the
label's fourth release. Trouser Press have this to say; "Tyla's three albums
(the first two with a steady band of pub compadres) are hard-rocking and
honest but not thrilling, despite good playing and Tyla's sincere hoarse
vocals. Yachtless is the raunchy one, full of lead guitar and aggressive
drumming. Moonproof takes a subtler attack, introducing acoustic guitar and
a more American sound, but no energy loss. Just Popped Out, which employs
an amazing cast of pub-rock characters (including former members of Ace,
Bees Make Honey, Ducks Deluxe, Chilli Willi and the Red Hot Peppers and Man)
not to mention Joan Jett and Kenny Laguna, offers bitter, depressed songs
given the best studio treatment of Tyla's career." Sean then moved on, persuading
Deke Leonard back from the USA to create The Force before dropping out of
the music business.
Brinsley Schwarz and Martin Belmont joined up with Brinsley's keyboard player
Bob Andrews and emerged as the Rumour behind Graham Parker and The Rumour.
Martin later went on to play in Carlene Carter's CC Riders, and in 1988 was
playing with The Frank Chickens.
Micky Groome joined Deke Leonard and Sean Tyla in The Force and later carried
on with Deke in Iceberg after Sean Tyla dropped out.
Sean Tyla (Guitars, vocals)
Martin Belmont (Guitars, vocals)
Ken Whaley (Bass, vocals)
Nick Garvey (Bass, vocals)
Tim Roper (Drums)
Andy McMasters (Keyboards, vocals)
Micky Groome (Bass, vocals)
Billy Rankin (Drums)
Brinsley Schwartz (Guitar, vocals, saxophone)