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Ralph Ellis Ray Ennis Les Braid Norman Kuhlke Terry Sylvester Colin Manley John Ryan Bruce McCaskill Mike Gregory Mick McCann Jim Rodford Hedley Vick Garth Elliott Phil Thompson Tommy Hughes Alan Lovell
The group had its origins in 1957, when Bruce McCaskill formed a jazz influenced skiffle sextet group called the Bluegenes. Besides guitarist/vocalist McCaskill, the original line-up also included banjo player Tommy Hughes, washboard player Norman Kuhlke, and oil drum bass player Spud Ward. There were a number of early personnel changes, as guitarist Ralph Ellis joined the band and Ward was replaced by Les Braid. Johnny Carter and Paul Moss entered the band to replace Hughes and McCaskill. They were a fully working band by 1962, playing skiffle at venues in Liverpool and at the Star Club in Hamburg. The German audiences booed them off the stage, however, and the group rapidly changed direction and focus. They switched to rock and roll, and with a name change to reflect their attire, to the Swinging Blue Jeans. This earned the band, then a quintet featuring Ennis, Braid, Ellis, Kuhlke and Moss, a recording contract with HMV with record producer, Walter Ridley. The quintet's first recording, "It's Too Late Now", which was written by Ennis, made the British Top 30. After the departure of Moss, the band became a quartet. In December 1963, a cover of the song "Hippy Hippy Shake" took the band to Number two on the British charts and established them as stars.
They had a three-year spell of success, rising and falling with Merseybeat itself. The Swinging Blue Jeans had the standard Shadows line-up of two guitars, a bass guitar and drums and achieved local fame with their appearances at the Mardi Gras Club and the Cavern Club.
An album Blue Jeans a-Swinging was released in 1964 by HMV; a contemporaneous American LP composed of 45 and EP tracks, Hippy Hippy Shake included the released-in-the-US-only instrumental, "Wasting Time".
The Swinging Blue Jeans performing in 2013
In early 1966, Terry Sylvester from The Escorts replaced Ellis, who had shared songwriting duties with Ray Ennis. The band drifted into a middle of the road direction which failed to bring them any success. In 1967, the band's producer Ridley decided to try and transform Ennis into a solo star, cutting the disc "Tremblin'" with session musicians and backing vocals by Madeline Bell and Kiki Dee, but it was ultimately released under the band's name. Also in that year the band went to a five piece unit with the introduction of another member from The Escorts, bass player Mike Gregory, with Braid moving on to keyboards. Sylvester left at the end of 1968 to replace Graham Nash in The Hollies. The band eventually retired to the cabaret circuit.
Early in 1999 Alan Lovell deputised for guitarist Colin Manley due to his deteriorating health. Manley died in April 1999 and Lovell became a permanent member of the band as lead guitarist/vocalist. When Les Braid died in 2005, Peter Oakman took over on bass guitar/vocals.
At the end of The Solid Silver Sixties tour in May 2010, Ray Ennis officially retired, announcing his retirement on radio and to the general public. During and prior to the tour, Ennis offered Lovell the opportunity to continue with the band under the name "The Swinging Blue Jeans". Initially Lovell declined but subsequently registered the trademark of the name "The Swinging Blue Jeans" without Ray Ennis's knowledge. Phil Thompson (drums) was unable to continue with band due to personal reasons so in June 2010, two new musicians joined; Graham Hollingworth (drums) and Jeff Bannister (keyboards/vocals).
Ennis then decided to challenge Lovell for the ownership of the trademark but a Court decision ruled that Lovell had exclusive legal rights to the name. A subsequent appeal was lodged but was also dismissed. Meanwhile, Ennis came out of retirement to make occasional appearances with another band under the name "Ray Ennis's Blue Jeans".
The Swinging Blue Jeans continue to perform today, with no original members, under the leadership of Lovell.
Ray Ennis - Vocalist / lead guitarist - born Raymond Vincent Ennis, 26 May 1940, Huyton, Liverpool - 1957 - 2010
Les Braid - Bassist / keyboardist - born William Leslie Braid, 15 September 1937, West Derby Road, West Derby, Liverpool - died 31 July 2005, Fazakerley Hospital, Fazakerley, Liverpool - 1957-2005
Norman Kuhlke - Drummer - born 17 June 1942, Liverpool - 1957 -
Ralph Ellis - Guitarist - born 8 March 1942, Liverpool - 1958-1966
Norman Houghton - Washboard - born 18 September 1940, Liverpool - 1957