I'm a Road Runner honey, and you can't catch up with me!
By the early 1960's, whilst still at school, two of the band's founder members, John Dominic (né Jenkinson) and Gary (Gareth) Thomas had been playing live gigs as a blues duo; Gary on guitar and John doing vocals and harmonica. Their material was very much based on that of Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee [http://www.example.com and they would perform during intervals at suburban London Trad Jazz clubs, at private parties or maybe jamming in Soho jazz cellars.
In 1962 John joined a NW London based mainstream jazz group called Group Indigo (no prizes for guessing their theme tune!) who's programme comprised of swing standards with the occasional more adventurous Be Bop tune. Having problems in finding a bass player Gary was imported as a temporary stopgap. He recalls; 'I didn't have a bass so I just downtuned my guitar, must have sounded awful!' The band began to play regularly at school and college dances around their home area. Drummer in Group Indigo was another local jazz enthusiast, Nigel 'Hutch' Hutchinson.
Around this period there was a growing interest amongst both musicians and music fans of the rich, untapped heritage of blues music. Musicians such as Alexis Korner, Cyril Davies and Long John Baldry had aready started performing and recording blues material. The harmonica player Cyril Davies had released his classic instumental single 'Countryline Special'. Also it had also became common practise for Trad Jazz bands, such as Ken Colyer's, to have a small group within the band who would play a blues set during intervals.
Following this trend Group Indigo too formed a group within a group to perform a short RnB set during the band's interval. This, unamed, quartet was made up of John Dominic on vocals and harmonica, Gary Thomas on bass, Hutch Hutchinson on drums and the band's guitarist (?). It soon became clear that the earthy interval music was going down a storm with the dancers compared to the polite reception given to Group Indigo, so, Gary, John and Hutch decided to breakaway and form a new group dedicated to playing soley R n B.
At this point Gary reverted to playing guitar and a schoolfriend of his, Dick Connor, was recruited on bass guitar along with Bob O'Brien (Né Thompson) on keyboards. Bob was already performing with 'Blues Syndicate' who played support to Cyril Davies at the The Railway Hotel, Harrow. The, as yet, nameless group began rehearsing to expand their repertoire of blues and Rhytmn and Blues standards. Very much in vogue at this time, 1963, were the records of Bo Diddley with their infectous 'Bo Diddley Beat' and one of his numbers, 'I'm a Roadrunner Honey' had become part of the new group's programme. What simpler then than to name the band 'The Roadrunners'!
This is an early publicity image of the 'Roadrunners' doing the popular 'jump and snap' routine. L to R: Bob O'Brien, Dick Connor, Gary Thomas, Hutch Hutchinson and John Dominic.
So with a programme in place early summer 1963 saw the group starting to do modestly paid gigs aroundthe NW Londonn suburbs, with ocassional forays further away into the Home Counties and the odd club gig in central London. The average, inauspicious venue might be a church hall, back room of a pub, social club or dances at schools and colleges.
So as 1963 wore on the group continued to develop musically, play more regularly and to gather a cohort of fans around the Harrow and Wembley suburbs. In the autumn of that year the band was approached by a local music promotor who was looking for a group to fill a Friday night residency at a well established Harrow venue The Railway Hotel. In it's early days every band is on the lookout for a regular, preferably weekly, place to play at and this opportunity was grabbed with both hands.
See the page The Railway Hotel to see what this would lead to.
http://www.livinblues.com/bluesrooms/brownieandsonny.asp] Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee
http://www.cyrildavies.com/bluesinc.html Cyril Davies and Alexis Korner
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long_John_Baldry Long John Baldry
http://www.bo-diddley.com/ Bo Diddley biog.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qs8FJergjas&feature=related Bo Diddley singing 'Roadrunner' (Youtube)