The Stargazers

The Stargazers

There have been two British musical groups called The Stargazers:

The Stargazers (1940s-1950s group)

The Stargazers, a London based Rock'n'Roll band led by Danny Brittain, were preceded by a vocal group of the same name. Founded in 1949 by Cliff Adams, the original Stargazers served as backing vocalists for Petula Clark on her first recordings. They enjoyed considerable commercial success during the 1950s, including two United Kingdom number one hit singles on their own, "I See The Moon" and "Broken Wings", along with a third number 1 hit with Dickie Valentine on "Finger Of Suspicion", and were much in demand for back-up work and broadcast work. They were voted "most popular vocal group" by readers of the New Musical Express five years running.

Stargazers' member Fred Dachtler went on to form The Polkadots, who enjoyed great success in their own right. Beyond their own hit singles and albums, which included a cover version of "April In Paris", they recorded extensively with the likes of Jo Stafford, Peggy Lee and Frank Sinatra. One of Dachtler's sons is Clark Datchler of Johnny Hates Jazz. Clark is now recording under the name of Nightfoxx, and has released an album entitled "Tomorrow".

The Stargazers (1980s group)

A second outfit to adopt the name emerged in 1981, some time after the Cliff Adams version had folded. Work on the new band by founder members Ricky Lee Brawn and Peter Davenport began in August 1980 and following a series of auditions Anders Janes, John Wallace and Danny Brittain were added to the line-up. After a succession of high profile concerts and gigs during 1981, Muff Winwood secured The Stargazers a major recording contract on the CBS Epic (now Sony) records. A total of four 7" records and one 12" album were released, with "Groove Baby Groove" (Davenport) reaching a chart high of 56, and a cover of the old Louis Prima song "Hey Marie" just breaking into the top 100. The group became very popular and well known in the UK for their performances of 1950s style rock and roll. Offering a mixture of original songs, artfully arranged standards and cover versions of 1950s hits, particularly those of Bill Haley & His Comets, after whom the group loosely patterned its appearance and performance style. Though it is difficult to pinpoint with any degree of certainty when the "revival" was born, the 1970s scene was dominated by a crowd typically attired in the unique and very English Teddyboy style, who were in general devotees of the aggressive, hard edged electric Rockabilly of Crazy Cavan. With that in mind, it is safe to say that The Stargazers spearheaded the trend towards a more accurate and authentic mid '50s sound and look. Despite their triumphs, a run of bad luck, questionable management decisions and plain old fashioned "artistic differences" led to the end of the original line-up in 1983.

Several attempts at reformation were made during the mid eighties until a "reasonably" stable group was established in 1998/9 The line-up comprised Peter Davenport on guitar, Ricky Lee Brawn on drums, Chris Gardner on piano, Danny Brittain on lead vocals, John Wallace on sax and Tim "Trundle" Purkess (previously with the popular Kentish band Red Hot) on bass. Enough UK and international engagements were booked over the next few years to maintain the band's status as a top flight Rock'n'Roll act and they often headlined major Rock'n'Roll shows. Further releases on the Ace, Vinyl Japan and Blue Light labels were also well received and helped reinforce their reputation. These were indeed halcyon days for the band.

The Stargazers continue (albeit sporadically) to record, and make occasional live appearances in the UK, United States and Europe and although the line-up still changes from time to time, Brittain, Davenport and Purkess remain the stable nucleus of the band.

Ricky Lee Brawn parted company with The Stargazers in 1993 and formed a series of popular groups including The Big 6 (which again was to feature Anders Janes, and later Tim Purkess, on bass) and his "Astrobilly" creation, the Space Cadets. Original bassist Anders Janes went on to join singer/saxophonist Ray Gelato in the Chevalier Brothers and then The Ray Gelato Giants, both swing bands, using the stage name of 'Clark Kent'. He was also involved with the aformentioned Space Cadets. Finally leaving Ray Gelato in 2004, he now manages, and plays in, the Jazz Dynamos. John Wallace resigned in October 2007, to concentrate on his other projects (The Hep Chaps and Heavy Shift) and divides his spare time between freelance sessions and working as a driving instructor.

Stargazers' guitarist Davenport toured Great Britain in the early 1990s as a guest member of the Original Comets (he played steel guitar on the live album "We're Gonna Party" on Hydra Records). Around this time, Comets bass player Marshall Lytle (who had earlier guested on the Stargazers album "The Speaking Clock says Rock!") along with partner and drummer Ricky Lee Brawn recorded a solo album for the Vinyl Japan label backed by fellow Stargazers member John Wallace entitled "Air Mail Special" (the group took the name "Marshall and the Shooting Stars" for the album). Also during the mid '90s, Purkess, Brittain, Wallace and Davenport formed a light-hearted Stargazers spin-off quartet called The Four Chaps. This act had a very humorous, tongue-in-cheek aspect to it and the lads delighted in murdering ancient (mostly between the wars) jazz numbers whilst blatantly poking fun at themselves - and their audiences. Ricky Lee Brawn went on to produce, the reunited Comets' 1997 album, "The House is Rockin', "for Rockstar Records. Several tracks on this release also features guest appearances from Purkess, as well as Brawn's wife, singer Helen Shadow. Ricky can also be heard playing drums on certain songs." A major off-shoot trading under the name of "The Rock'n'Roll Society" and featuring Dan Brittain, Tim "Trundle" Purkess, Pete Davenport, Jimmy "DaHoof" Russell, Aaron Liddard and Henri Herbert is due to be launched in the autumn of 2008. This band has been created specifically to showcase mainstream '50s Rock and Roll party anthems, in a bold effort to stimulate new interest in the genre. On the "scene", the never-ending hunt for fresh material has led to a steady drift away from the big, powerhouse hits of the 1950s. This diversion, whilst understandable, is actually considered by some to have damaged the revival movement. The campaign for rare and obscure sounds has become something of an archaeological dig and as historically interesting as these vinyl relics may be, it is doubtful they hold that much appeal for the general public. It is hoped that by revisiting those songs which first gave rise to the global phenomenon of "teenage music", The Rock'n'Roll Society will, to some degree, be able to generate the same kind of interest again. Though the band intends to target club and festival promoters, they also aim to impress the "hit-hungry" corporate/party organisers, with an act that could almost be tailor made for that circuit.

In addition to The Stargazers and The Rock'n'Roll Society, Davenport works with the Bill Haley Orchestra in "Rock Around The Clock - The Bill Haley Story", a tribute revue based in Germany . Brittain runs his own well established music agency (DBBM) and gigs with his London band, The Wild Uncles. Purkess has a joinery firm (producing exhibition plinths and counters) and still does some session work for other outfits.

Other notable musicians who have at times worked with the band over the past 28 years include Alex Bland (sax), Aaron Liddard (sax), Simon Gilby (sax), Big Al Mumbray (sax), Clive Osbourn (sax), Jim Russell (drums), Terry Doe (drums), Shaun O'Keefe (drums), John Dillon (drums), Gary Richardson (drums), Bobby Trimble (drums), Mark Brennan (guitar), Jim Knowler (guitar), James Compton (piano) and Henri Herbert (piano).

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