The Voltaires
The Dolls

The Voltaires Later to become The Dolls
pictured in the County Ballroom, Carlisle

Back row - Dennis Watt, Ian Meldrum, Ray Parr
Front - Rob Holliday and Tony Maxted

The Dolls started life as The Voltaires in 1962 at Currock Methodist church Carlisle as part of the Saturday youth club.

The line up of the Voltaires (and the original lineup of The Dolls) was Robin Holliday - bass and vocals, Ian Meldrum - drums, Raymond Parr ( Parro ) lead guitar, Terry Maxted - singer, Dennis Watt - rhythm guitar (replacing a guy known as "Buster"). This was also the original line up for The Dolls.

They started out playing the Beatles etc. but became very much R&B orientated, which gave some of the dancers problems coping with the heavy blues beat.

Robin Holliday (Polly) at the time used a bass guitar which had been made for him by his father. He later bought a Fender precision bass and a Vox amp. He also did some vocals. Robin was the innovative musician and was a hard task master insisting things were right. He could throw tantrums when things did not go his way.

Drummer - Ian Meldrum he was brains of the band as it were, looking after the bookings and the money etc. He used a Premier drum kit.

Lead Guitar/vocals - Raymond Parr (Parro) his first guitar was probably an Epifone together with a Vox amp

Dennis Watt played a Gretsch Anniversary guitar.

Later Norman Sowerby joined the band and Dennis Watt left shortly afterwards.

The Dolls were regulars at the famous Cosmo club in Carlisle owned by Les Leighton who was an agent for a number of local groups.

Ernie Lazenby started as road manager/general dogsbody to The Dolls in about 1963 then ended up driver of the worn out Morris J2 van that he managed to write off one night after a gig. They had all gone back to a girl's house for the ususual after gig love in (happy days). Ernie drew the short straw (being road manager) and ended up taking 2 girls home in the early hours.They never made it unfortunately as a river bridge parapet made short work of the van and some of the equipment!

The Dolls became very popular and got a lot of bookings as far south as The Peppermint Lounge in Liverpool and as far north as Aberdeen. Their reputation was such that they played in Newcastle on the same bill as Steve and Muff Winwood at the hallowed Go Go club, home to many stars of the future.

Brian Dunk has kindly supplied the following additional information -

In October 1964 I replaced Dennis Watt in the Dolls after being recommended to Ian Meldrum by Tom Foster of the Cave Dwellers. Dennis Watts must have left the Group in the Summer of 1964 because I saw them as a 4 piece at the Club 63 in Harraby. They had Norman Sowerby on Vocals - he had left the Shades to replace Terry Maxted, Ray Parr on Guitar , Robin Holliday on Bass and Ian Meldrum on the Drums Dennis had used a Top Boost Vox AC30 with his Gretsch Guitar and when he left the Band they kept the amp as a PA .  They took the blue speakers out and made separate cabinets for them. We took that so-called "PA" everywhere and other Bands we were supporting -- eg. the Junco Partners at the Queens Hall sang through it ! The Queens Hall was where Tescos is now on West Walls.

Norman Sowerby then left and I got my friend from Harraby Paul Maclachlen in on vocals.  He was only 16 and Ian had to use his best posh "Beaumont Road" voice to persuade Paul's parents to let him join the group. Ian Meldrum still talks like that today when he does the commentories on the Gretna Football matches for Radio Cumbria.

The Dolls played all the R and B of the day - " Smokestack Lightning"-- "Gloria"-- "Reconsider Baby" etc. I remember one of the occasions at the Club a Go-Go in Newcastle we played first in the "young" set and our first number was "By the Way" by the Big Three. In the interval the disco DJ played "The Times they are a Changing" by Bob Dylan , ah those were the days ! We later carried our gear through into the older set where they sold alcohol until 2am. When I played the guitar solo in "Baby Please Don't Go" the audience went wild. For three minutes I was a Pop Star !

Things moved fast then and on January 21st 1965 (my 18th Birthday) we supported the Spencer Davies Group at the Club a Gogo in Newcastle. Leaving Newcastle we were heading down the Westgate Hill homewards when we crashed into the roundabout at the bottom.

I played at that Peppermint lounge gig but it was full of Sailors and guys dressed like the Krays!

The crash in Haltwhistle mentioned above took place in August 1965 and as the van was a write-off  the Dolls split. I soon packed in myself but 4 years later in October 1969 I joined Jimmy Henshaw, Neil Marshall and Ian "Charlie " Carruthers in the group "Cottage". Monica Linton hated the name and said "Neil Marshall is 25 you know - he is too old to be in your Group" !

Keep Rocking --   Brian Dunk