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The Invaders
Ashley Kay

Des Murdoch (lead guitar), Ralph Watson (bass), Joe Thwaites (drums),
Bob Macfarlane (vocals), Steve Woodend (guitar)

Outside the Towbar at Nethertown

Ralph Watson, Steve Woodend and Joe Thwaites all lived in the same street in Bransty, Whitehaven. As teenagers they formed a group and used to practise in the YMCA.

Bob Macfarlane and Des Murdoch were school friends who grew up together in Kells. They had played in a group with two brothers from Mirehouse, Barry and Michael Smitham.

They played a couple of gigs at Workington College and the Towbar club at Nethertown before disbanding.


Michael Smitham went on in later years to join The Fortunes and can be seen on their website which he built and maintains at www.thefortunes.co.uk.

Bob and Des carried on for a time as a duo playing and singing in the youth club at St. Mary's church , but eventually gave up.

Des eventually met up with Ralph, Steve and Joe who were playing in the Central in Whitehaven. The budding Invaders decided that they needed a singer, so Des brought along Bob who auditioned with the group and was invited to join.

The Invaders started off performing in the back room of the Central every Friday and Saturday night. They then went on to play on Monday nights in the Teen and Twenty club which had started up in Whitehaven.

They also played the usual round of youth clubs and pubs including the Fox club in Workington.

They supported a couple of Liverpool groups in the Towbar club and asked the manager, Bruce Johnson, if they could practise there and he agreed. This led to them becoming regulars at the Towbar and topping the bill in their own right.

Bruce Johnson got in touch with Les Leighton at the Cosmo club in Carlisle and it was arranged that they should play some gigs there.

Early Days at The Fox Club in Workington

Des Murdoch, John Marcangelo, Bob Macfarlane, Steve Woodend and Ralph Watson

At the Cosmo they supported big name groups starting with the Graham Bond Organisation which at the time featured Ginger Baker on drums.

They also supported the Yardbirds (with Jeff Beck), the Fourmost and the Moody Blues.

Eventually the lads decided to turn professional as the Ashley Kay Group because there already was a band called the Invaders (there never was an Ashley Kay in the group, the name being made up).

Joe Thwaites decided not to take the plunge and was replaced by John Marcangelo.


The Ashley Kay group played the Sound club in Manchester and the Cavern in Liverpool. They were surprised to find that in the cities they were expected to play three or four gigs a night for about threequarters of an hour in each club. This meant carrying their heavy gear up and down stairs several times a night.

Bob Macfarlane with The Invaders

Many thanks to Bob Macfarlane for supplying the information and pictures for this page.

In Liverpool, after their gigs, they would go to the Blue Angel club, where many of the groups would hang out, where they remember seeing the young Freddie Starr when he was a singer with the Delmonts, a Liverpool group.

The Ashley Kay group played a lot of gigs in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire due to the location of their manager Mark Jordan in Shipley.They found that they were expected to play for £7 to £10 a night between them and to pay for their digs out of that.

The lads made a couple of demo discs but unfortunately never achieved a recording contract.

After about 18 months the band folded as among other things a couple of the lads were thinking of getting engaged.

John Marcangelo, having played with Cow and PLM, went on to success with Violinski, playing keyboards on their albums "No Cause for Alarm" in 1979 and "Stop Cloning About" in 1980.

John is still an active musician and composer, touring the world on cruise liners accompanying his vocalist wife Cath on keyboards.

Bob after winning a talent contest at Pontins, Blackpool

Des Murdoch has enjoyed local radio success with a track from his "Tribute to Whitehaven" EP called "Golden Days" in which he commemorates the local bands and venues of the 60s .