Six months ago, the name of The Whispers was rarely seen on the Swindon beat scene, yet here was a group with enormous potential and greater musical ability than many beat groups. However, in the annual Rock Group Competition of last year at the Locarno Ballroom, the judges commented that although the group’s ability was evident, it was not being fully exploited.
This has proved to be a milestone in the history of the group, for with two changes in personnel and the appointment of a manager; The Whispers have made rapid strides since the competition and are now held in high regard by most local promoters. It seems fairly certain that early in 1964, the group will be generally accepted as Swindon’s top group and the 1964 competition should prove the point. Several of the top groups (The Searchers and The Hollies), for instance, have recently commented very favourably on the group having seen and heard them perform.
Founder member, lead guitarist and principal vocalist of the group, is Justin Hayward, only 17 years old, but without doubt the most talented guitarist on the local pop scene. He formed The Whispers a few years ago, while still at school, having previously played with another local group. He has some experience as professional performer in summer season shows, and this experience is clearly put to good use in his expert leadership of the group. At present he is employed in the sales department of a local building company, but his ambition is to make a full-time career in show business.
Bass guitarist of the group is Nigel Norman, who, in his early twenties, is the grand old man of the group. Formerly with a dance band, Nigel decided that the popularity of dance music had waned and took up the guitar. He has been with the group since the early days and is at present a full time student.
Rhythm guitarist Michael Greenland joined the group in the autumn of last year, having been the lead guitarist with The Alpines, a local group which, as yet, has made little impression on the scene. Michael is also a capable vocalist and plays an important part in the performance of duets and harmony numbers, which are currently extremely popular. He is employed in the accounts department of a television rental company, but is very keen to enter the entertainment field on a full-time basis.
Drummer Chris Richardson joined the group last autumn, also from The Alpines, having been recommended by a local drums expert. He, too, is a good vocalist and one of the most popular numbers in the group’s repertoire is that in which Chris rises from behind his drum kit to sing a duet with the lead guitarist. He is a ladies’ hairdresser, but is also enthusiastic about becoming a professional entertainer.
What is in store for the future? To be on the top of the local scene is not enough and manager Tony Bowd is confident that the group could hold its own in the professional world of pop music. However, with such an enormous number of professional groups in the business today, entry into the business without a hit record can be very risky. So, The Whispers are due to cut their first disc early in the year and a short summer tour is planned on which the group can gain firsthand experience of the hard life which a tour of one night stands entails.
The Whispers are certain to emerge as the town’s top group of 1964 and maybe we shall see a hit record by the group in ‘the charts’ sometime during the year. This would certainly be a fine achievement for the group and a chance for the ‘Swindon sound’ to take a tilt at the ‘Mersey Beat’.
This article by Peter Antony originally appeared in the Swindon & District Review, Volume 3, Number 11 in February 1964 (front cover shown below).