Formed from Folkestone band The Travellers
The Sundowners were one of Folkestone's most influential bands of the 60's through to the mid 90's.
The Sundowners were probably the most known and loved band Folkestone ever had. In their 2nd year they replaced Pat Barry and The Travellers as resident band at Tofts Jazz Club in the Pleasure Gardens on Bouverie Road West . until around Christmas 1963. This club attracted attendances of 1500 dancers, 3 nights a week. Amazingly performing at Tofts 110 times that year the band also found time to appear at many of the other dance clubs, public and private functions throughout Kent.
In summer 1963 the big break came when the chief engineer of Dover's Southern Television Studios recorded the band and sent the tape to London. Roger returning from New Zealand re-joined the band. Almost immediately The Sundowners had a 3-year contract with agency the George Cooper Organisation and a 5-year recording contract with Pye. Their test recording was mastered straight to disc and released September 24th on the Pye/Piccadilly label. - (Baby Baby / House Of The Rising Sun (Piccadilly 7N 35142) 1963 ) Martin's own composition "Baby Baby" was chosen as the "A" side with an old folk number "House of The Rising Sun" on the "B" side. The Sundowners were the first British band to record this song; they had no idea at this time that "The Animals" would follow their lead so successfully. At the time, reviewers called House of the Rising Sun "a ditty" and not as commercial as the "A" side. Bet they wished they'd kept their mouths shut. The Sundowners agents refused to name the songs on their second single until it was released, maybe to prevent it happening again?
Turning professional meant a new life for the boys. During the next year they performed in the best venues touring the UK with stars; Joe Brown, Dee Dee Sharp, Johnny Kidd & The Pirates, Heinz, Manfred Mann, Gerry & The Pacemakers, The Crystals, Dusty Springfield, The Tornados and others. Their transport was an old converted ambulance purchased for £90, they travelled over 40,000 miles and slept in bunks. Martin being the smallest got the crib at the front of the van where his nose would touch the roof if not careful. The roadmanager, Dennis Pimlott slept in the cab.
TV appearances in 1963 included "Thank Your Lucky Stars", "Ready Steady Go" and "Juke Box Jury", "Scene at 6.30", "Dad You're a Square", "Saturday Club" & "Day by Day".
09/11/1963 The Sundowners back the great Dee Dee Sharp The Sundowners' popularity may have disintegrated chart wise, but they still claim great deal of support in personal appearances. Fifty of their fans fron Folkestone and Dymchurch hired a coach and travelled to Hastings to see them in their newly acquired professional status. The Sundowners appeared at the Pier Ballroom, backing the dynamic American singer Dee Dee Sharp This little coloured girl with the big, big voice Is a a marvellous singer, but she did not quite fit in with the instrumental arrangement which had made The Sundowners what they are.Even so, the tour has been extremely successful and the evening proved most entertaining.
Second Single - Come On In / Shot Of Rhythm And Blues (Piccadilly 7N 35162) 1964 Distrib/Label - Jamie 1271 SUNDOWNERS, THE Come On In / A Shot Of Rhythm & Blues 2/8/64
The Sundowners also backed Linda Doll (LuLu) on her first promo single in 1964 Linda Doll & The Sundowners - He Don't Want Your Love Anymore and Bonie Maronie
Third Single - The "A" side Where Am I, was written by Peter Lee Stirling later known as Singer/songwriter Daniel Boone ("Beautiful Sunday"). Where Am I / Gonna Make The Future Bright (Parlophone R 5243) 1965
On compilation appearances have included: A Shot Of Rhythm and Blues on Pop Inside The Sixties Vol. 3 (CD) The R&B Era, Vol. 1 (LP & CD); Baby Baby on Rare 60's Beat Treasures, Vol. 5 (CD).
Two further singles and no massive chart success The Sundowners eventually returned home. They continued their local residencies including "The Neptune" and "The Leas Club".
New Musical Express Articles - 3 January Issue No. 886 1964 by Alldis, Barry Ifield's Oldies [Searchers, Dean and Jean, Shirley Bassey, Kris Jensen, Ginny Arnell, Little Eva, Peggy Lee, The Sundowners, Martha and the Vandellas] 4
At a later date Martin and his friend and partner Peter Hickey opened the "Sundowner Club" on the 2nd floor of the Empress Ballroom site, which later had to move to the bottom of Dover Road due to town and road restructuring. The club gave opportunity to new bands to start their own careers in the music business, an ideal still required today.
Other members of the band through the years included John Stiling (Bass) - Snowy White (drums) - John Berry (bass)
The Band stopped playing about 1995
I was delighted to come across your website yesterday. My father was Peter Hickie and Martin Jones' business partner in the Sundowners Club Folkestone. Sadly, my father passed away in July 2011. However, I have many fond memories of working behind the bar at the club and DJing during the summer vacations for foreign exchange students. I managed to retrieve a vinyl copy of House of the Rising Sun when my father sold the club - couldn't let it fall into the wrong hands! Peter Hickie and Martin Jones met when they both worked at Dungeness power station in the wages office. The Sundowners Club came about because they were both going to be made redundant by a new computer system. He persuaded Martin that Folkestone needed a new nightclub - and the rest is history.
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