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A History of Adge Cutler & The Wurzels
Part 2: Adge Cutler & The Wurzels (1966-1974)

A Tale of Adge Cutler (1930-1966) | Adge Cutler & The Wurzels (1966-1974) | The Wurzels: The Glory Years (1974-1980) | The Wurzels: The Wilderness Years (1980-1999) | The Wurzels: Renaissance (1999-20??)

work in progress!

1966

In June 1966, with little more than a fiver in his pocket and a collection of self-penned songs, Adge Cutler 'broke into' John Miles' office armed with demo tapes and an idea about creating a West Country band to compete with the weird psychedelic bands of the time. At the meeting, the idea of Adge Cutler & The Wurzels was conceived with John Miles as manager; John would remain the band's manger until the late 1980s. Originally the band was to be called The Mangoldwurzels - but it was felt that The Wurzels had a more commercial feel to it.

Joining Adge in that first line-up were his good friend, banjo and guitar player Reg Quantrill, and Bristolian pub landlord and accordion player Reg Chant. Adge also poached an impressive rhythm section from Acker Bilk's Paramount Jazz Band - well-respected upright acoustic bass player John Macey and tuba player Brian Walker. In July 1966, Adge Cutler & The Wurzels was unleashed upon an unsuspecting world!

As a result of the meeting - and calling in a lot of favours - John managed to negotiate a recording contract with EMI. With this came the EMI producer Bob Barratt and sound engineer Geoff Emerick. After a few months of gigging across the county, the Royal Oak pub in Nailsea was commandeered and the band's debut album was recorded. Bob Barratt's evocative sleeve notes from the back of the album recounts the event:

And 2nd November, 1966, was a night of entertainment to remember in Nailsea. For a studio recording you can reckon on allowing thirty minutes or more until the audience warms up and you begin to feel atmosphere. For a Somerset pub recording it took thirty seconds. The audience were a cross-section of cider-quaffing Wurzel-lovers from every corner of Somerset; from Westonzoyland to Monkton Combe. Nailsea's oldest inhabitant, wearing a top-hat for such a special occasion, was flanked by long-haired youths and mini-skirted girls.

At first the broadcasting men and journalists from rival stations and newspapers eyed each other somewhat coldly: the locals wondered if they should be on their Sunday-best behaviour with 'them thar record men from Lunnon in town'. By nine o'clock the journalists and television-men were clinking glasses like old friends as the TV cameras whirred; by 9:30 the locals were proving that not all the best voices are t'other side of the new Severn Bridge. At ten o'clock we sent out for fresh supplies of cider and beer and the landlord's wife was dancing a Highland fling with Adge; the cameramen complained that the room was too smokey for photographs - then lit up fresh cigarettes. At 10:30 the Wurzels did a third encore of "Drink Up Thy Zider" and the Nailsea Mixed Voice Choir raised the rafters on the chorus.

It makes you want to have been there - or if you were there, it makes you wish you hadn't drunk so much cider that you can't remember the night! Such media coverage is always useful for an emerging band, and so it proved. Off the back of the recording, the BBC gave Adge his first taste of national fame with an appearance on the The Frost Report - David Frost's "a live satirical show mixing monologues, sketches and music" - later that month.

A few weeks later (December 1966?), the double A-sided single Drink Up Thy Zider backed with Twice Daily was released as the band's debut single. The BBC promptly banned it - considering the lyrical content of Twice Daily (a shotgun wedding) as being unsuitable for their listening public. Shows how public opinion has changed over the years!

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1967

Adge's pioneering debut single was a massive success locally - topping the local Bristol single charts. It sold over 100,000 copies and reached the national singles charts - arriving at #45 on 4th February 1967, and disappearing the week after. This was one of the first times that a local release had "broken out" and hit the national singles charts.

On the back of that chart success, EMI quickly released the four-track Scrumpy & Western EP (February 1967) containing two more songs from the Royal Oak session. This release was issued hurriedly to satisfy demand for more material following the success of Drink Up Thy Cider. It was the only EP issued by Adge Cutler & The Wurzels - and the one that gave its name to the Scrumpy & Western genre of music.

The Scrumpy & Western EP was a stop-gap allowing EMI to complete the release of the band's debut album Adge Cutler & The Wurzels which was released the following month (March 1967). It is interesting to note that all twelve tracks on the album were Adge Cutler compositions - an impressive showcase of the man's songwriting prowess.

This release gave Adge more chart success as the album hit the official UK Albums Charts at #38 on 11th March 1967. This is as good as it got though with the album dropping to #40 the following week before leaving the charts for good the week after. But for your debut album, two weeks in the national album charts is something to be proud of (and sadly something Adge would not better).

Coinciding with the album, EMI released the band's second single The Champion Dung Spreader on 10th March 1967. Champion Dung Spreader was Adge's answer to Lonnie Donegan's 1960 UK hit My Old Man's A Dustman - but sadly the general public were more interested in rubbish than muck spreading, and the single failed to chart.

The band were quickly embraced across the country with appearances on top national TV shows including the prime-time chat shows hosted by former Radio Caroline/BBC 1 DJ Simon Dee. The band went from strength to strength, and although subsequent albums and singles may have failed to repeat the chart success of Drink Up Thy Zider, Adge Cutler & The Wurzels were now a national touring band playing - and selling-out - top cabaret and music venues across the country.

But along with success came the first casualty of success - Brian Walker quit the band and took his Wurzelphone back into the Bristol jazz scene from whence he came. Adge decided not to replace him, and it was John Macey's bass playing which held the band together through the touring and the recording of the band's follow-up album.

Adge Cutler & The Wurzels' second album Adge Cutler's Family Album was, like the first, recorded in front of a live audience in the upstairs room of the Royal Oak pub in Nailsea in North Somerset. I have no definitive date for the recording, nor for the release; but the band line-up of Cutler-Quantrill-Chant-Macey is useful in dating the personnel changes that took place after it's recording.

The majority of the album comes from the pen of Adge Cutler - six songs including some of his best loved songs - The Shepton Mallet Matador, Easton-In-Gordano and The Somerset Space Race. However Adge offered the other band members a chance to bring their own songs to the table. As a result we get Drunk Again by John Macey and Reg Quantrill, John's own song Sniff Up Thy Snuff - as well as two parody/adaptations The Wild West Show and Freak-Out In Somerset by producer Bob Barrett, Sweet Violets - an music halll classic redone in the Wurzels style; and the brilliant Sheriff of Midsomer Norton by the mysterious Dwaine Detroit (a pseudonym if you've ever heard one!). We have no record as to when this album was released - and how the releases of the two single in July and October (and the band personnel changes) fitted around it. The album failed to chart, but remains a popular release with fans.

There were several more line-up changes in 1967 - and we have very few dates for these comings and goings; suffice to say they all took place after the recording of Family Album (although not neccessarily after its release). First was the arrival of Henry Davies who was drafted into the band as tuba player to fill the gap left by Brian. This brought the band back up to a five-piece - but only a few months later John Macey left the band, Henry added 'bass player' to his job description, and Adge Cutler & The Wurzels are back as a four-piece.

The summer of 1967 saw the release of the band's third single I Wish I Was Back On The Farm (7th July 1967). This song was originally sung by George Formby in his 1940 film Spare A Copper, and although it was not included on the Family Album it could well have been recorded at the same session; certainly the the b-side Easton-In-Gordano was. If it was recorded after the Family Album sessions, heaven only knows who plays on the track!

Reg Chant also left The Wurzels in 1967 (date unknown) after the recording of Family Album. Rumour has it that old Reg was very fond of his cider (indeed, anyone's cider!) and appears to have become rather a liability to the band. According to Tommy Banner when interviewed in 2007 for BBC Radio Somerset, "Former manager John Miles said Tommy joined the band after it was decided they needed a professional accordian player after their first one did not want to go on stage until the cider was delivered."

In the late-summer of 1967, Henry Davies was asked to join the latest pop sensation The New Vaudeville Band whose debut single Winchester Cathedral had topped the charts in USA. With a chance for fame and fortune - and perhaps hoping for more of a musical challenge than The Wurzels offered - Henry accepted the offer, but not before suggesting to Adge that he appoint his friend Melt Kingston as his replacement. Melt arrived in Bristol and had one day to learn to how to play the band's repertoire - and the upright bass; his memories of that time are rather hazy!

Amidst - or perhaps after - all these changes, Adge Cutler & The Wurzels's fourth single All Over Mendip was released. The single was released on 6th October 1967; and contained two new songs: another classic Adge Cutler song All Over Mendip backed by My Threshing Machine; an old folk song adapted again by the mysterious Dwaine Detroit. We have no records as to when these two news songs were recorded - and, of course, who was in the band at the time. Neither appear on Family Album; but it is anyone's guess as to whether they were recorded at the same time, or later that year. To further cloud the issue, when All Over Mendip was finally released on album (on the 1969 Carry On Cutler!), the copyright on that track's recording is 1967 although it is obvously a different version to the single; so two different versions, both recorded in 1967!

The year ended with the arrival of Tommy Banner (accordion, organ and piano) to replace the departed Reg Chant. Tommy arrived from Scotland on 5th November 1967; but I have it on good authority that Reg had left the band earlier than this, and that for a few months, Adge Cutler & The Wurzels' temporary accordion player was none other than Pete Shutler of Dorset Scrumpy & Western band The Yetties. Subject to confirmation, of course, this might be just a rural myth!

According to the notes in the Wurzels Songbook, Tommy claims that 'The Wurzels could not get a good accordionist in England so they went to Scotland and got a bad one!' He originally took a three months booking with Adge Cutler & The Wurzels prior to beginning a contract for a round-the-world trip playing in another band; and he has been in the West Country ever since. Tommy arrived in Somerset expecting to join a "trendy pop group", and was surprised to find he was renamed "Jock McSpreader" by his fellow band members and expected to wear old second hand clothes on stage while singing songs about such arcane subjects (to him, anyhow) as dung spreading, pigs, scrumpy, tractors and the Pill ferry. The culture shock and problems he experienced in having to get used to scrumpy instead of Scotch, not to mention the language difficulties, are documented in Tommy's autobiographical song Haggis Farewell on the Give Me England? album.

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1968

Although he loved working with Adge, and got on well with his band-mates, Melt Kingston's time with the band was limited to less than a year. Down in London, things hadn't worked out for Henry Davies and in March/April 1968, Melt and Henry did a job-swap; Henry returned to The Wurzels, while Melt caught the train back to London to take over tuba duties with the New Vaudeville Band.

Don't Tell I, Tell 'Ee single released (April)

Up The Clump single released (August)

Ferry To Glastonbury single released (September)

Adge Cutler & The Wurzels' third album Cutler Of The West album released with the Cutler, Quantrill, Banner, Davis line-up. Henry Davis is also the album's musical arranger and arranger. Cutler Of The West was, like its predecessors, recorded in front of a live audience. By this time, their huge local popularity required more space than the Royal Oak pub in Nailsea could provide, and the lucky venue selected for this historic occasion was the Webbington Country Club, Loxton in 'Zummerzet'. This album is currently the only one of Adge's albums to have been re-issued on CD.

As usual, the album included some of Adge's humour and banter between songs, to give listeners to the album the impression of being there at a live show. The album features more compositions by other writers but nonetheless includes some of Adge's classics, notably Thee's Got'n Where Thee Cassn't Back'n, Hassn't? and Adge's Rock 'n' Roll number Up The Clump. The addition of Tommy and Henry to the band's line-up added a new dimension to the band's sound. This is especially seen on In The Haymaking Time where we have Tommy on accordion and some nice tinkley piano (which I suspect was added in the studio later!), while Henry's upright bass is bowed for the sad finale. A Pub With No Beer sees Tommy on piano and Henry on violin; as there is no obvious guitar or banjo on this track, so maybe Reg was covering on bass (or outside watering the wurzel plant!).

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1969

In January, Henry Davies leaves The Wurzels again, this time for good (although he does reman a good friend of Adge and the band). He is replaced by another Londoner Tony 'Gaffer' Baylis (bass & sousaphone).

Carry On Cutler! album released with the Cutler, Quantrill, Banner, Bayliss line-up. Henry Davis continues in the role as album's musical arranger and arranger.

 

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1970

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1971

Poor, Poor Farmer single released (May)

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1972

Little Darlin' single released (May)

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1973

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1974

Reg Quantrill leaves The Wurzels. He is replaced by Pete Budd (guitar and banjo) on a "temporary basis".

Adge Cutler's career was sadly cut short by his untimely death on Sunday 5th May 1974. Returning home from a successful week long residency at the Crystal Rooms in Hereford, Adge crashed and overturned his MGB sports car at Newbridge roundabout near Chepstow. He had been complaining about a cold during the week, and had decided to drive home to catch up on lost sleep. According to Pete Budd's interview in the Wurzels World book, Pete was originally enlisted to chauffeur Adge from Hereford and collect him the following day to take him to a meeting with the John Miles to talk over a television series and the fifth album. Plans were changed, and Adge drove himself on that fatal journey. Adge Cutler is buried in Christchurch in Nailsea.

Drink Up Thy Zider single re-released (June)

Little Darlin' single re-released (July)

The Very Best Of Adge Cutler compilation album released.

Don't Tell I, Tell 'Ee compilation album released.

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