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The Meteors

The Meteors began life in Maryport in 1961.

The original members were John Voce on rhythm guitar, Alan Lyall on drums, Barry Nixon on lead guitar and Jerry Bell on vocals, (but without an amplifier between them!)

One day John Voce (or La'al Ted as he was known to the band) passed an electrical shop in Crosby St., Maryport and heard the sound of John Forster practising on his electric guitar in the back of the shop using an amplifier. John Voce asked him if he would like to join his group. John Forster, while overjoyed, always wondered whether it was his playing or the ownership of an amplifier which swung it for him. Anyway the group were sufficiently impressed with Johnís playing to appoint him lead guitarist, Barry switching to bass.

A non-playing asset to the band was Reg Nixon, Barryís dad who became the bandís manager/agent and advisor. He also provided the final missing component - transport (albeit a builderís pick-up truck). Reg also provided somewhere to practise either in his home or in his workshop.

They played their first gig in the Bewery House pub in Little Broughton with a total repertoire of ten numbers. Even so they managed to play all night and were rewarded with five shillings (25p) each. Another early venue was The Crown Inn in Maryport (which was commonly referred to as "Minshaws" ) which had a "singing room" round the back.

In those days singalongs were popular, with regulars getting up to do their favourite songs, usually accompanied by a piano. When Regís cousin Jackie played the piano for the singers the band would join in. This proved invaluable experience, having to play by the seat of the pants without knowing which song was coming next.

The Meteors first "big" gig was a charity concert at Netherhall school in October 1962 - actually on a stage and with lights!
Also in 1962 came a breakthrough. The leader of the resident band at the Hipodrome ballroom in Workington heard the Meteors and asked them if they would like to play during the bandís interval. (This echoes the experience of Billy Steele and the Strollers where the resident band at the Palace ballroom also committed musical suicide by inviting the group to play in the interval and so hastening the end of the dance band era!)

As a result of their success the band decided to upgrade their amplification from a deafening 19 watts (a 15 watt amp and a 4 watt amp) by purchasing a 50 watt Selmer amplifier from J.P. Dyas's shop in Carlisle.

Most of the bands of Cumbria bought their gear from Dyasís shop as there was no other source until later Brian Holmes (previously of The Electrons and The Defenders started his chain of Northern Sounds shops which remains to this day the main music store in West Cumbria. Similarly Redmaynes gents outfitters was the main supplier of suits for the local bands, so the Meteors went along and got themselves kitted out. The Meteors became regulars at the Hippodrome (now long gone) in place of the dance band.

Jerry eventually decided to leave the band and for a time Barry took over the bulk of the singing with the others contributing the odd number as well. In time a new lead singer was found in George Jones (not that one!) known as "Jeep". (who also sang for a time with The Electrons)

The Meteors became very popular, with John Forster's guitar virtuosity envied by many other bands. They played in all the usual Cumbrian venues - Siddick Miners Welfare, Westfield Welfare, The Pavilion in Keswick (with itís infamous sloping stage) and The Tow bar at Nethertown.

The Meteors' favourite venues (as with most other bands) were Threlkeld village hall where you got fed as well as paid and the Empress in Whitehaven on a Saturday morning where a children's dance was held and whoever was playing was greeted with screams and hysteria as if they were the Beatles.

The Meteors made their quest for glory by travelling to Manchester to play two nights at the Rainbow club in Moss Side where they appeared on the same bill as Russ Hamilton who had had a massive hit with "We will make love". They even ventured as far as London seeking a record deal (making the epic journey in the builders pick-up truck) unfortunately without success. They upgraded their transport when Alan bought an old Commer van which they painted themselves complete with their "The Meteors" logo.

The Meteors tasted international success with their trip to Annan in the south of Scotland, but eventually in 1967 the band started to break up. Alan and Barry left to be replaced for a time by John Goldie on drums and Glyn Davies on bass. but in 1968 they all decided to call it a day.

John Voce and Barry Nixon have sadly passed on but are still remembered by their many friends.

John Forster went on to play with "The Princess Rhythm Aces" in the Princess Hall in Workington and then was asked by Ray Collister to join
"The Cumbria Combo" in the Cumbria ballroom
in Workington.

John now teaches guitar, repairs guitars and other string instruments and builds Hawaiian guitars to order.
Visit his web site at www.johnforsterguitars.co.uk .