The Golden Age of instrumental rock 'n' roll (IRR hereafter) was 1958-1963. In the United States at least. The genre did not really take off in the United Kingdom until 1960. The John Barry Seven started recording instrumentals in March 1958, but did not have a hit until 1960, with "Hit and Miss", which became the signature tune of the popular TV programme Juke Box Jury, hosted by David Jacobs. Likewise the Shadows, formed in 1958 as the Drifters, had to wait until 1960 for their first chart success ("Apache"). The first homegrown IRR hit in the UK was "Hoots Mon" by Lord Rocking- ham's XI, which went all the way to # 1 in the autumn of 1958, but strangely this was not followed by further British IRR hits in 1959 (unless you consider Russ Conway to be rock n roll). In the early 1960sn however, a tidal wave of instrumental combos started springing up all over the UK. Apart from the Shadows and John Barry, only Bert Weedon and the Tornados managed to score hits with some consistency. Nevertheless, many of these groups made some worthwhile records, like the Outlaws, Nero and the Gladiators, the Krew Kats, Peter Jay and the Jaywalkers, David Ede and the Go-Man-Go Men, and Sounds Incorporated.
The Flee-Rekkers certainly belong in this category. They were a sax-led unit with a full, aggressive sound. The spelling of their name was never consistent. The group was named after their leader, Peter Fleerackers, whose father was Dutch. On the Triumph pressings of their first single, this became "Flee-Rakkers", which evolved into "Flee-Rekkers" when they moved to the Pye label. The Flee-Rekkers were probably the first instrumental group recorded by Joe Meek in his studio on Holloway Road and their first record, "Green Jeans" (an adaptation of Greensleeves) was released on Meek's own, short-lived Triumph label. Acute problems arising from the inability to press sufficient copies and distribute them adequately meant that "Green Jeans" stalled at # 23 in the charts, where it had a 13-week run, from May until August 1960. When Triumph folded, the record was reissued by Top Rank, which also went into liquidation, before it was taken over by EMI. Notwithstanding this bad luck, the group went on to cut six collectable singles and an EP on Pye/Piccadilly, but they would not enter the charts again.
Apart from Fleerackers, who played tenor sax, the group consisted of Dave Cameron (lead guitar), Alan Monger (rhythm guitar, occasionally baritone sax), Doug Henning (bass), Derek Skinner (drums, soon replaced by Mickey Waller) and a second tenor sax player, Elmy Durrant. Fleerackers liked the Johnny and the Hurricanes sound, whilst Cameron was a great Duane Eddy fan. These were the main influences of the group, though on some recordings they also remind me of the Piltdown Men, another group with twin saxes out front. Their material was a mix of original compositions, old folk tunes in the public domain and covers of little-known instrumentals, like "Stage To Cimarron" by Santo and Johnny. The Flees turned professional after being discovered in West London's "Hive of Jive" Putney Ballroom. They toured Britain extensively during the period 1960-1963. By all accounts they were a wild live act. Joe Meek certainly managed to capture the group's pulsating sound in his studio. As usual with his liberal use of echo, reverb, compression, distortion and other unusual effects, he was able to make the group sound even more full-blooded. "Fireball" was the Flee-Rekkers' final single in 1963. The group broke up after a summer season at Blackpool in August 1963. Fleerackers played in assorted pro and semi-pro bands until quitting the music business altogether in the late '60s. Derek Skinner had a spell with the Spotnicks. Cameron, Monger and Durrant recruited two new members and continued as the Giants, trying their luck in Germany for some time. Mickey Waller became a top session drummer and is the most famous ex-Flee-Rekker.
Triumph RGM 1008 - Green Jeans / You Are My Sunshine (4/60)
- The Fabulous Flee-Rekkers, Green Jeans : The Anthology (Castle CMQDD 1457, 2006, 32 tracks). http://tinyurl.com/pezo65l
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