Lemon Grass

Lineup - Gordon Henshaw, Terry Mills, Ann Robinson,
Geoff Morris and Malcom Mason.

Lemon Grass have been around in one form or another since the sixties, and are best known as a country band, but things didn't start off that way. Malcolm Mason was in a country band called The Country Boys. One night Mike Wilding from Penrith joined them to play at a gig in Ivegill. He sang 'Hey Jude' and they thought it was fantastic. It presented a whole new direction and resulted in Mike joining the band. Mike's musical talent and superb singing capabilities brought about a transition from country music to the sixties popular music.

Dave Storey, feeling uneasy with the changes, decided to part company and go his separate way as did the drummer. Dave Little, who had been part of Carlisle Rhythm and Blues group called The Tribe, was introduced to them one Wednesday lunchtime. That evening they put together a repertoire of songs in the knowledge that Mike would join them for a gig at Welton on the Saturday night. A good friend of Dave's happened to be Walter Johnstone, who had been the drummer of The VIP's, and he agreed to join them at the Saturday gig. The gig was a memorable one as Dave broke down en-route and was rescued by Walter who was on his way to the venue. The night was a success and they were hardly allowed off the stage. Some unknown person must have had some complaint however, in that when Walter returned to his car there was a dead badger slumped over the steering wheel! It took a week to get rid of the smell.

Back row - Walter Johnstone, Terry Mills, Ernie Green
Front row - Bruce Thomson and Malcolm Mason.

The following week during rehearsals, Mike returned from the bathroom carrying a tin of talcum powder, guess what the name on the tin was...yes 'Lemon Grass' and so the decision was made and 'Lemon Grass' was born. The flexibility of range in their singing voices enabled them to engage in strong harmony and they specialised in songs by The Hollies, The Beach Boys and The Eagles. Brian Atkinson joined the band on C3 Hammond organ, Dave played electric violin and harmonica and Malcolm introduced the saxophone into the instrumental line-up.

They travelled the northern nightclub circuit and successfully performed with The Searchers, Hot Chocolate, The Sweet and Pickety Witch. They still remember some of the B&B's they stayed at. One was so bad they decided to sleep on the beach that night rather than endure breakfast in the morning! It was a sad day when Mike announced in the dressing room at The Cosmo that he was leaving the band to concentrate on his Sales Manager career.

It was a sad day for the band when Mike left. Brian took over on bass as a temporary measure until Dave introduced another old pal from yesteryear, Ernie Green, who is part of Carlisle's history on the music scene. Ernie played bass, but was equally as good on guitar and keyboards.

Malcolm Mason

Bruce Thomson joined in 1972, bringing congas and percussion to the band. His first night was when they played at the legendary Wigan Casino. They continued to be in demand, but again it was time for change when Dave Little decided to call it a day after five years, to explore further his career in architecture. With the loss of Mike who had been such an asset to them and then Dave, the original line up was lost and the band went through a bit of a dip, until that is, Terry Mills joined up. He particularly enjoyed doing Drifters songs, so that gave them yet another new direction and their enthusiasm grew once more.

They travelled all over the North of England and Southern Scotland, mostly playing four nights a week. The photos of Malcolm, Walter and Ernie were taken in the summer of '73 en-route to play at the American Submarine base on the Clyde. By saving time and taking the ferry across from Greenock to Dunoon, they arrived at the base, fortunately minutes before another band from Dundee turned up at a 'double booking', and then had a long drive home. After a successful night, in which they were invited back, they were taken in to stay at the home of an American couple, who gave them full access to their refrigerator! This was the band's first introduction to Budweiser!

Walter Johnstone and Ernie Green

Over the next few years from the mid-seventies onwards, there were several changes in the line-up. Ernie Green left to be replaced by Dave Lee. Bruce left and a short time later Walter also left. Walter was replaced by Gordon Henshaw on drums. Dave Lee, when he too left, was replaced by Stan Harrison on bass guitar and David Kent on vocals. Around this time Geoff Morris joined. They had many changes to endure, but endure them they did. In the words of 'Suite: Judy Blue Eyes' - 'what have you got to lose?'.

Lemon Grass went to Germany for a three month tour, playing at numerous army bases. Ann Robinson joined the band as a singer for the tour - a good decision on their part. All the soldiers loved her. The band's fortunes took another downward turn on their return to Britain, so much so that they decided to call it a day, and for a while it seemed as though Lemon Grass had reached the end of the road.

Malcolm was far from the end of his musical career however. He joined up with Jim Henshaw and John Stubbs - better known to everyone locally as "Stubby" and they formed Captain Flint, a soul band, it didn't end there either, but that's for another time.

Malcom has since re-formed Lemon Grass - see http://www.lemongrassmusic.co.uk/