Back to the Roots: „Brum Rocked!“ is published (1999)

In 1999 a book was published in which Steve Gibbons plays an important role: It’s called „Brum Rocked“ by Laurie Hornsby, and it describes the early days of rock and beat music in Birmingham.

The volume contains a sometimes unsystematic, but pleasant to read review of the music scene of the 1950s and 1960s in „Brum“. The book, including many photographs of musicians, programmes and tickets, takes you straight back to that time.

The website „Brumbeat“ describes the book in the following way:

At last! – a published work that deals exclusively with the influence that the early years of rock ’n‘ roll had on the development of the Birmingham music scene. Laurie Hornsby is a well known local historian in Birmingham and his recorded works such as The Brummagem Air and Any Road Up! are familiar to many as both fond and humorous recollections of what it meant to be a „Brummie“ in working class Birmingham.

Then it goes on:

In Brum Rocked!, his first book, he has done a first-class job in telling the story of how Birmingham’s entry into the rock ’n‘ roll era would shape the lives of many of its citizens and eventually bring a lot of talent from the front rooms, church halls, and youth clubs, to the superstadiums of the world. ….

The book covers an approximate 10 year period from the mid 1950’s with the first importation of rock ’n‘ roll from America, up until the mid 1960’s at the height of the British beat boom. Written in Laurie Hornsby’s characteristic style and humour, the book is full of recollections from those who participated in the Birmingham music scene and many who tell their own stories for the very first time…

Furthermore it is stated that „Brum“ musically does not have the status it should have:

Up until now, most of the groups and individuals who played a part in the making of the West Midlands music scene of that era have been virtually ignored unless they were in some way connected to a famous group, and even then, the information available about them was often incorrect or misleading. …

There were places I remember

Not only musician careers are described, but also the places where it all happens. For this purpose, it says on „Brumbeat:

Brum Rocked! also documents the venues in and around Birmingham that provided a setting for so many of these groups. Some such as the Carlton Ballroom, the Golden Eagle Pub, and the Cedar Club which in my opinion, are of no less significance than Liverpool’s Cavern or London’s Marquee are mentioned, as well as many other local haunts that remain but distant memories today.

And indeed, the book takes you on a journey through time. The text is complemented by many rare photos, not only of bands and locations, but also of tickets, business cards of music groups and newspaper headlines.


So with „Brum Rocked!“ you can really browse and dive into that time: The pictures alone are worth the purchase. There is Alexes Pye Stand, band busses, semi-acoustic guitars and countless band photos.

Among the many pictures there are also those with a very young Steve Gibbons as a guest of The Rocking Modernaires at an event at Margate Pier Ballroom (p. 55) or with the Dominettes at Scala in Wolverhampton (p. 74). You also meet a very young Chuck Berry, surrounded by The Rockin`Berries and a funny looking band called Robby Hood & the Merrimen (p. 101), who obviously just escaped from Shearwood Forest.

There is also a group photo of the five winning bands of the EMI audition which the Ugly`s missed due to gigs abroad, besides a detailed description of the event (p. 115) and also Tony Iommi and John „Ozzie“ Osborne, who together with Black Sabbath should later become one of the figureheads of Birmingham, are mentioned. Also the relations between Paul McCartney and Moody Blues are discussed in more detail (p. 126) and on the following page you meet „The Uglies“ again (in this spelling).


Especially great is the photo of Buddy Holly taken from far below, with his famous Stratocaster in the backward bend and his at least as famous glasses in his face – and behind it the impressive columns of Birmingham Town Hall (p. 25). „It’s a Long Way to Tipperary“, but also from Lubbock, Texas, to Birmingham, Midlands, it’s not very close!

The book sold so well that Hornsby started an even thicker follow-up volume. A success, then.

But that wasn’t all: The book, together with the follow-up volume, was to provide Steve Gibbons and some other veterans of the Brum scene with additional opportunities to perform and earn money a few years later, and to enable the audience to see and, above all, hear some of the musicians of that time together on stage again. More about that later.

Click here for an overview of the 2000s.

And here it goes directly to the next article Fill-in for Paul McCartney with two Rolling Stones and Elvis guitarist Scotty Moore as accompanying musician (2004)


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