Early Days 4

About that time they also won other talent shows at the Hammersmith Palais which resulted in their making guest appearances with Lou Preager's band, Freddy Randall's jazz band and in concert with the Eric Delaney band, with whom Chas was sometimes featured as skiffle singer, with Eric Delaney playing washboard.


The group made their first major appearance at the Metropolitan Theatre, Edgware Road.  The show's promoters were, Bert Ambrose the celebrated band leader and Joe Collins the impresario, father of the then starlets, Joan and Jackie Collins.


On Easter Monday, 22 April 1957, the group played the Royal Festival Hall in London's first big skiffle session which included; Johnny Duncan, Ray Bush and the Avon Cities jazz band and skiffle group, Bob Cort and Dickie Bishop. Rollercoaster records released a mini album of the McDevitt group's contribution to this epic show, using tapes that had lain dormant until 1994. The excitement of this event is captured faithfully and demonstrates that audience hysteria didn't only start with the Beatles. There are existing tapes of two renditions of 'Mama Don't Allow' by the whole ensemble; maybe one day they will be released.


In June  the group appeared on the first 'Rock Across the Channel' on S.S. 'Royal Daffodil'.  The 2 I's had chosen a day trip to invade France with rock and skiffle.  It never really caught hold at the time but nowadays there is a cult following for this music in France, Holland and Germany, which puts the British fans to shame. Chas regularly takes the current group over and remembers vividly a show the McDevitt group and the Donegan group played in Nantes in 1984. The audience were all either rockabilly or black leather rockers yet they were so knowledgeable about the music and it's origins, it was a sell-out show.


 May 1957 saw the major change in the group's personnel.  Alex, Dennis and John left and formed the Oldtimers skiffle group.  They were reluctant to abandon their successful careers for the precarious life on the road. For a while Jimmie MacGregor was with the group, but left to join the City Ramblers just before 'Freight Train' hit the charts. He was replaced by Tony Kohn, formerly with the Ghouls and the Cottonpickers.  Bass player, Bill Bramwell was recruited on guitar and on bass, Lennie Harrison, the daddy of the group. Before the war Lennie had played in Paris with Benny Carter and Django Reinhardt and even before that with some early jug bands. He had also accompanied Big Bill Broonzy on one of his visits to the U.K. Lennie was a much loved character often seen around Archer Street on a Monday morning, regaling everyone with his outlandish stories about his experiences; all so unbelievable yet always proved to be absolutely true.