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Lenny & The Silhouettes

The forerunners of Whitehaven's Lenny & The Silhouettes were a skiffle group called The Cumbrians who won a local skiffle competition at which they remember seeing their first ever electric guitar and amplifier.

At that time the lads who were to become The Silhouettes were all in the air cadets and so after The Cumbrians they formed another skiffle group called 10/37 which was the number of their air cadets unit. They then decided to make the change from a skiffle group to a rock and roll band and The Silhouettes were born.

The Silhouettes were joined by two singers - Lenny Robson and John Garroway and for a while operated with both singers, each performing in a different style. They then decided it would be better if they only had one singer - but which one?.

They agreed that for a show at Moresby John would be the singer for the first half and Lenny for the second. John had a wild rock and roll style and threw himself around on stage while singing. The decision to go with Lenny was made when John managed to throw himself off the high stage.

The band now became Lenny and The Silhouettes with the following lineup -

Dave Graham (leader and bass guitar), Rodney Parr (rhythm guitar), Ronnie Reed (lead guitar), Lenny Robson (vocals) and George Houghton (drums)

David, Lenny and Rodney in action

The lads would appear to be paying homage to the legendary sand dancers Wilson, Keppel and Betty !

The band, like many others, started with cheap Rosetti guitars and practised in the local YWCA, playing a free gig each month as payment.

The Silhouettes main American influences were Buddy Holly, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis etc.

Their English influences were Joe Brown and Jonny Kidd and The Pirates. They also played the instrumental hits of The Ventures and The Shadows.

Lenny's big numbers were "Who Wears Short Shorts" and "Muleskinner Blues".

Eventually Rodney got his first Fender Stratocaster and Dave got a Fender Jazz bass.

Soon the band were all kitted out with ice blue Fenders. Lenny and The Silhouettes quickly became Whitehaven’s premier rock and roll band.

They used to support most of the top acts visiting the Empress Ballroom in Whitehaven and the Palace Ballroom in Maryport including the great Gene Vincent.
Among the other big names they supported were Joe Brown, Mike Berry & The Outlaws, Freddy & The Dreamers and Shane Fenton (who later became Alvin Stardust)

Ronny Reed, Lenny Robson, George Houghton, Rodney Parr and David Graham

At the time of this picture the guitars the band were using were Futurama 3, a Fender Strat and a Fender Jazz bass The amplification was a Linear 20 watt amp with a Fenton Wiell echo unit (later replaced by a Vox AC30 and a Watkins Copycat) together with a Phillips bass amp with Celestion speakers and Elpico and Ampeg 20 watt amps.

The band played all over Cumbria, having a regular fortnightly gig in Millom.A highlight for the band was starring in an edition of Border Television’s popular "Beat in the Border" show.

Border Television

Beat in The Border

Lenny & The Silhouettes

The lads are pictured with Emile Ford
Lenny and The Silhouettes went to Southport where they won two competitions, one at the Floral hall and one on the Pier and were rewarded with a BBC audition in Leeds.

When they went to Leeds for their audition they were met by Jimmy Saville who later invited them to his club. The lads felt a bit out of their depth at the audition as they were still using home made speaker cabinets, while most of the others had top gear and flash suits.

The lads also went to play in Manchester and found that they were expected to play in two clubs each night. They had to play their set in the Princess club and then pack up and rush to the Domino clup and do it all again. During this trip to Manchester they ran into The Meteors who were also playing in a Manchester club. The Meteors were pleased to be invited back to the lad’s hotel to enjoy an overdue wash and shower and change of clothes.

One summer the lads took their holidays together and they all went to Butlins in Ayr, taking their gear with them. They set up their gear outside their chalet and started to play. Soon they had a sizeable crowd gathered and even the star turn of the week Brian Poole and the Tremoloes came to listen to them.

In 1962 The Silhouettes were offered a contract to tour American Air bases in France and Germany together with other club work.
This might have been their chance to go for the big time
, but as they all had apprenticeships with Whitehaven companies the lads turned it down for the sake of their futures. (After all rock 'n' roll wasn't going to last was it)

In 1962 Ronny Reed left the band and was replaced by Rod Alexander (previously with the Meteors/Titans from Seascale). See the separate page for Rod Alexander's later career.

In 1963 David Graham, who was the leader of the band, sadly died at the age of only 23.

In the late 1985 the band first got back together by popular request for a charity performance (which became a regular event). Former lead guitarist Rod Alexander (second left) was by this time a professional guitarist playing in London. When he heard about the reunion he was determined to come back for it.

Unfortunately due to his commitments he couldn’t get back for a rehearsal so the lads taped the numbers they were intending to play and sent them down to him. On the night, to the lads’ delight, Rod played as if he had never been away.

The performance was such a success it was followed up with other shows which raised a substantial amount for local charities.

A CD of the band recorded by Tom Tyson when the band were rehearsing in his Music Farm studio for a charity reunion in 1999 shows that they have maintained their enthusiasm for their music and that Lenny's voice is as still good as ever, especially on his great version of "Mule Skinner Blues".

In April 2002 sadly Rodney Parr died.

A tribute show was held at the Marchon club in Whitehaven.

The lineup of The Silhouettes on that night for their final appearance was -
Lenny Robson (vocals), George Houghton (drums), Ronnie Reed (keyboards), Rod Alexander (lead guitar), Tom Tyson (bass) and Guy Lancaster (guitar)

We would like to thank George Houghton and Lenny Robson for providing most r additional information.

Lenny Still Rockin' in Maryport in 2006 (on the right with Billy Steele of The Strollers)

Lenny and the boys celebrated their fiftieth anniversary this year (2009). Not only one reunion gig this year, but two!! both in the Civic Hall,Whitehaven. Lenny and the Silhouettes raised over two thousand, five hundred pounds for the Make A Wish childrens charity.

As well as this Lenny celebrated his 70th birthday in November. The band were also honoured in sharing the switching on of the Whitehaven Christmas Lights together with top Michael Jackson tribute artiste Ben.

The 50th Anniversary gig

The line-up for both gigs was Lenny Robson (vocals), George Horton (drums), Ronnie Reed(keybds), Rod Alexander (guitar), Malcolm Smitham (bass) and Malcolm Kinnaird(guitar).

On the second gig, the band was augmented with backing singers Cheryl Smitham and Jen Alexander.