The Glitter Band History
June 1972 saw the emergence of a new artist, Gary Glitter with his very first single: 'Rock and Roll (Parts 1 and 2)'. Gary’s image had, of course, been vaguely worked out when the name was chosen but the prospect of being required to appear on the TV shows of the time, such as Top Of The Pops etc. was fast approaching. He was in a dilemma! Was he to appear solo with a guitar around his neck, or fronting a band?
The single had been released in March but the version of the song that was eventually receiving airplay was the instrumental B-side (Rock `n` Roll Part 2) which was in essence a catchy guitar instrumental, with an infectious drumbeat and some 'ughs' and 'aaghs' and the chant overdubbed. Did this mean he would be better to appear in front of a band of backing musicians with a guitar round his neck so that he didn’t seem ridiculous fronting a track with limited lyrics to sing?
The ‘big’ sound of the record was the factor which led to the decision to put a band behind Gary. This was how the Glitter Band's previous incarnation came into being – unofficially tagged 'The Glittermen’. The initial members were made up from some ex-Boston International Showband members and Mike Leander, Gary's song writing partner, Producer and Manager. The Bostons were the band that worked with Gary when he was known as Paul Raven. John Rossall, erry Shephard, Harvey Ellison, Ray Moxley and John White from the B.I.S. were the most immediate and obvious choices for his new band. The first Top of the Pops appearance on 22nd June 1972 featured Mike Leander on guitar alongside the nascent 'Glittermen'.
Mike Leander quickly decided that he would remain studio-based to continue with the song writing and production side of things. Gerry Shephard was given the responsibility of replicating the distinctive distorted slide guitar sound from the records and it was decided that the band required two drummers to represent the double-tracked drum sound of the records when out on the road.
Drummer, Pete Phipps, who was on the books of Gary's management company working with bands such as Black Velvet, Heaven and Tamla Motown band, The Elgins, was brought in by manager, Jef Hanlon who affectionately described Pete as a ‘monster drummer’. One further interesting feature to be added, was the provision of a gold, star-shaped guitar by Mike Leander for Gerry to play. The star guitar was designed to visually highlight and reflect the distinctive, singular guitar sound. This first incarnation of the star guitar was made from a mish-mash of a short-scale guitar neck, plywood body but with the essential Gibson SG humbucker pickups.
By Christmas of 1972, the bass player had been replaced by John Springate, previously of Elegy, Clem Curtis and the Foundations and Johnny Johnson and the Bandwagon, who had answered an advert in Melody Maker and passed the audition, with flying colours, by performing 'Shakey Sue' and 'The Famous Instigator'! It wasn’t without some trepidation on John’s part, however, as he didn’t know what to make of the glittery catsuits that he’d caught the band wearing on Top of the Pops. John had said to his mum “But what about my image?” His mum brought him down to earth with her matter of fact reply though: “What image? You haven’t got an image!” Drummer John White left at this time and Pete Gill was hired as his replacement to sit alongside Pete Phipps as second drummer.
After the first TOTP saxophonist, Harvey Ellison, was involved in a road accident and was temporarily replaced by Bob Edmunds. In early '73, Harvey returned to the Glittermen and for a short while there were three brass players until Bob Edmonds departed shortly afterwards.
By the time of ‘I’m The Leader Of The Gang', Pete Gill took his leave. Auditions for a new drummer were soon set up with Pete Phipps on the panel for choosing his drumming partner. Numerous drummers from up and down the UK were seen but Pete recalls that it wasn’t until the very end of the auditions that Tony Leonard walked in and demonstrated that he was the man that they had been looking for.
Except for one member, this line up of musicians were to see Gary through until 1976 and they were soon to become increasingly better known as "The Glitter Band”. The band, having showcased their talents behind Gary, were beginning to get written representation from the fans to the Fan Club, with letters asking all manner of questions requiring more details on the Glitter Band members! Much to the annoyance of Gary.