California Brakemen Gallery (1970-1974?)
Photo Gallery -
Band Lineups -
- Audio samples -
Where Are They Now?
As far as we can tell, the California Brakemen started life as a
five piece cabaret group around the Belfast pubs and cabaret clubs
in 1970. They had a residency in The Whistle Stop country club. The
first reference to them we found was an advertisement for their new
album, The Country Music World of the California Brakemen
which was released on the M and M label in January, 1971.
A few months later, an article
appeared in Spotlight reporting that the group had become a six
piece and was turning professional in April. The original lineup
included Crawford Bell (guitar), Mike Morris (guitar), Dave O'Brien
(bass), Jimmy McLenaghan (drums), Maxie Catherwood (steel) and they
added Tom Hickland (fiddle and keyboards) in turning pro. They were
being launched and managed by Mick Connolly of Aiken Promotions.
It wasn't too long before they had
their first defection, Mike Morris left the band and was replaced by
Johnny Burke. In the beginning, they mostly played in and around
Belfast, but by mid year, they had started to journey far from the
city centre to more rural spots and more importantly, south of the
border. Said leader Crawford Bell in July, 1971, "Now that we're
doing a full band programme, we only make rare appearances in the
cities. It is in the out-of-town centres that a good country and
western sound is appreciated."
They released their first single
in early 1972, Waltz of the Angels. It did not sell well
enough to make the Irish charts, but helped further establish the
band on the lucrative ballroom circuit across Ireland. They were
soon playing places like Dublin, Limerick, Offaly and Galway as well
as their base in the North. A second single was released in June of
1972, Cowboy Convention. Again it did not sell that well, but
further helped with gigs in the South.
The band underwent a fairly major
change at the beginning of 1973 when Johnny Bourke left and was
replaced by a female vocalist, 18 year old Linda Mayne. The changed
helped broaden the band's appeal and said Crawford Bell at the time,
"Linda has pulled the band together like never before. She's a
really strong force in the band now."
Although it took some time, about
8 months later (in August), they released the first single to
feature Linda, Medals for Mothers on the Release label. As
far as we can tell, this was their last single. We came across an
advert for the band in 1974, but nothing after that, so we think
they may have gone off the road then.
We do know that Crawford Bell went
on to a long solo career and will try to find more about that as
soon as we can.
More to come.....
click on thumbnails for full image