(c’62 – ’73) Arthur Sharp (vocals), Ray Phillips (vocals), John Hawken (piano), Mick Dunford (lead guitar), Pete Harris/Shannon (bass) and Dave Maine (drums)

Formed in Weybridge in the summer of 1962 they are best known for the 1964 single “Tobacco Road”. Roger Groome replaced Maine shortly after the band formed, but was in turn replaced by Barry Jenkins in ’63, in which year a third vocalist, Terry Crowe, joined briefly and Dunford left, to be replaced by John Allen. There was also another member, Derek Gentle (vocals), who was diagnosed with cancer in the summer of 1962 and had to leave the band. He subsequently died in June ’63. An earlier incarnation, called The Boot Hill Stompers supported The Vampires a couple of times; in fact both bands partook in a talent competition hosted at the Weybridge Hall, which was won by The Boot Hill Stompers. The band morphed and practiced at the Sheerwater Youth Club and gigged locally – Addlestone Co-op Hall being one venue.

Just like The Beatles they played Hamburg and backed Jerry Lee Lewis for his “Live at the Star Club, Hamburg” album. Music critic Stephen Erlewine stating, “Live at the Star Club is extraordinary, the purest, hardest rock & roll ever committed to record.”

They later backed Carl Perkins on his hit single “Big Bad Blues” in ’64, and played with Chuck Berry when he toured Britain. Also in ’64, Mickie Most produced their debut single “Tobacco Road” which reached number 6 in the UK Singles Chart (“Hard Day’s Night” was #1 that week – August 8th) and number 14 in the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Chart. Here’s a fact from “The Rough Guide to Cult Pop” – ‘this 1960’s quintet signed to Decca for seven-eighths of a penny per record sold, meaning if each member were to make a modest £1000, they needed to sell 1,600,000 records’. They didn’t, by all accounts.

Tabacco Road advert. Picture courtesy of Ben’s Collectors Record

The follow-up, another Loudermilk song, “Google Eye”, reached number 10 in the UK in October. In December ’64 they launched into a US Tour. In early ’65, Nashville Teens were front and centre in decrying the restrictions the US were imposing on British bands and singers. A further three top fifty singles, “Find My Way Back Home” and “This Little Bird”, followed in February and May ’65 respectively and “The Hard Way” made a brief appearance the following year but three subsequent records: “I Know How It Feels To Be Loved”, “Forbidden Fruit” and “That’s My Woman”, all failed to chart.

22 December 1965 at the Ice Rink, Paisley: Nashville Teens w/ The Blues Council, The Sabres, and The Fortune Tellers.

Jenkins left in ’66 to join The Animals, and was replaced by his predecessor Roger Groome. Reportedly Phillips got an offer to join Cream in ’66 – he refused. In the late sixties the group returned to its old craft: backing other artists like Carl Perkins, Chuck Berry and Gene Vincent.

In ’71 they released a single, “Ella James”, a Roy Wood penned song originally recorded by The Move, on the Parlophone label, again without success. Sharp (who used to work at Aerco Records in Woking) left in ’72 to join their one-time manager Don Arden in management, and Trevor Willams joined. On 26 May ’73: The Nashville Teens along with Wizzard, Neil Sedaka, Bryan Chalker’s New Frontier, Geordie, John Martyn, The Settlers, Southern Ramblers, Michael Blount, Country Fever, Ian Page, Wild Oats, Tim Allen, Thomahawk, and Steve Tilston performed at Soundscene ’73 (nothing to do with the Woking News & Mail music column) open air concert in West Wycombe aiding the New Chilterns Samaritan Centre. Despite Phillips’s efforts the Nashville Teens reportedly split in 1973, but we know the band with at least one original member appeared at Maxwell’s, Basingstoke on 25 April ’75 and at Red Cow, Hammersmith on 28 September ’76.

They reformed in 1980, however, with Phillips as the only original member, joined by Peter Agate (guitar), Len Surtees (bass) and Adrian Metcalfe (drums). In ’84 there was further reformation. Dave Dee of Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich pulled together a concert at The Rainbow. London with Phillips, (vocals), Spud Metcalf (drums), Simon Spratley (keyboards), Colin Pattenden (bass) and Ian Campbell (lead guitar), giving the band a kick start. Campbell left at some point and was replaced by Ken Osborn. The band is still working. Phillips joined The British Invasion All-Stars in the 1990s and made three albums with the group. They did a cover of “Tobacco Road”. The current line-up is Phillips, Metcalfe, Pettenden, Spratley and Osborn and Adam Russel has played harmonica for the Nashville Teens in recent years. A ’93 EMI label compilation, Best of the Nashville Teens, contained a re-recording of their “Tobacco Road” hit which is the only version available on iTunes.

Sadly, Dunford died of a cerebral hemorrhage on 20 November 2012. Crowe has also passed. Crowe and Dunford had formed The Plebs after leaving Nashville Teens, with Danny McCulloch, and were re-united with Hawken in Renaissance in 1970. Chris Brayne (drums), who went onto Mungo Jerry, Backhurst, The Famous Rondini Brothers, and Poker, also played with the band at some point.