THE NASHVILLE TEENS
Formed in 1962, The Nashville Teens were the product of the merger of two local bands in the Weybridge, Surrey, area. The band were unusual in that hey retained two lead singers - Ray Phillips and Arthur Sharp. The name was derived from the Everly Brothers song "Nashville Blues".
After some experimentation during their "apprenticeship" in The Storyville Clubs of Cologne and Frankfurt in 1963 (where they worked with Terry Crow on vocals) and the Star Club in Hamburg in 1964 the band settled down and there were relatively few further changes of personnel during the early sixties. In 1966 drummer Barrie Jenkins left to join The Animals, and pianist John Hawken joined Keith Relf of The Yardbirds to form Renaissance.
Art Sharp moved on in the early 1970's to follow a career in record producing, and today Ray Phillips is the sole "original" band member.
Like The Beatles some years earlier, the band with their most famous line-up worked in 1964 as residents at the famous Star Club in Hamburg, where they played alongside other up-and-coming acts like The Spencer Davis Group. This scene led them to cut their first record as the backing band for Jerry Lee Lewis on "Live At The Star Club", they later backed Carl Perkins on his classic hit single "Big Bad Blues".
Of course, The Teens vocalists and pianist did not participate in the Jerry Lee Lewis recording and had to be content watching from the wings (The record was recorded live at the Star Club), The record features some interesting tracks where Barrie Jenkins, the drummer, clearly drove the pace. Jerry has a reputation for not always being easy to work with, and you may wonder whether the speeding up of the beat is entirely accidental from a drummer who had a reputation for being rock steady ?
This year, 2012, marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Star Club opening. A celebratory two day concert was held in Hamburg on Thursday and Friday 12th and 13th April 2012; The Nashville Teens were part of the celebration, with a forty minute slot on the Thursday night. Other artists appearing included Kingsize Taylor & The Dominoes; Chris Farlowe ; Mike Harrison (Spooky Tooth); Beryl Marsden; The FRattles; The Lords; The Blackbirds; Roy Young; and Cliff Bennett. See the "Now Pictures" tab for photographs of this event.
The bands big break came when they added John D Loudermilk's country song, "Tobacco Road", to their repertoire - except they gave it a full pulsebeat and pounding rhythm which transformed it from country music into one of the decades best known R&B standards. Although some sources have suggested that The Teens version of this song drove singer Mickie Most to quit singing and take up producing, Arthur Sharp has confirmed that Most had already given up singing before he produced "Tobacco Road".
The Teens R&B version of "Tobacco Road" has become a staple item in the repertoire of many bands, and there have been several extremely high quality covers - but there is still nothing to beat the original. Today when Ken Osborn on lead guitar hits those first chords and Ray bursts into "I was born..." the audience knows they are getting the first, the original and the best !
The Nashville Teens produced many records during the sixties and seventies and were produced at various times by almost every big name producer in the UK. As well as Mickie Most, they utilised the talents of Don Arden, Andrew Loog Oldham, and Shel Tammy to manage and produce the band. The band continued to make records through the eighties and nineties, but remain committed to their first love of live entertainment.
Eventually Art Sharp left to join Don Arden in the management side of the business, where his first assignments were to work with Roy Woods Wizzard and E.L.O. He also worked closely with many others, including Lynsey De Paul and Ozzy Osbourne.
As well as their work with Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins they also worked briefly in the States and appeared on the "Murrey the K" Brooklyn Fox shows with Ben E King and The Shangri-Las. On this show Peter Harris drove Mary of The Shangri-Las onto the stage on a motorbike, revving the engine loudly as he rode off to trigger their performance of "Leader of the Pack" ! The US tour was sadly a bit of a damp squib - the management had not organised union clearance so the band were restricted to a few jobs in New York before they flew back to the UK.
The band have also toured the UK, Europe and Eastern Europe extensively. On one UK tour their musical talents were put to use backing Chuck Berry. The Nashville Teens and The Spencer Davis Group were just about the only British bands to regularly visit the "iron curtain" countries (they weren't profitable, but were loads of fun); consequently The Teens are still very popular in Hungary and still manage to visit that country every few years. Ray Phillips has had independent chart successes in Hungary with "This Little Bird", both as a single with The Teens and as a duet with Zalatnay Sarolta. Most recently he was asked to sing it à capela in a church in the town of Pacs during the 2010 GastroBlues Festival.
Some lasting friendships and close relationships grew up between the touring bands in the sixties. The link between The Teens and The Animals was, and remains, strong. Barrie Jenkins eventually moved from The Teens to join The Animals as their drummer, and Ray Phillips has recently appeared as a guest singer with the touring Animals & Friends. The link with The Yardbirds was also strengthened over the years when the two bands appear together nowadays the dressing room is always full of anecdotes and good memories. John Hawken - The Teens original pianist left to join Keith Relf when he formed Renaissance. John later moved on to form Third World War, and then spent many years with The Strawbs. whom he left in 2010. He currently plays with with his own Rock'n'Roll band in his home in New Jersey USA, and guests with The Yardbirds when they tour the USA. Art Sharp probably made the best move - into management - when he left the band in 1972 he went to become Don Arden's assistant.
The band have made many TV and film appearances. They featured in Fred Goodes film "Pop Gear" (1964) along with The Beatles and others. The Teens appeared on one of the very first "live performance" versions of Ready Steady Go, and have also graced the TV screen in the Southbank Show, OTT, Saturday Superstore, Unforgettable and a live recording at the Dominion Theatre. The most recent appearance was Ray Phillips on Never Mind The Buzzcocks in 2000. The Teens were also recently represented on radio when Colin Pattenden - bass guitar - was interviewed by Keith Skues on Radio London in August 2001. The radio station played Tobacco Road, Biggest Night Of her Life and a rare 1972 recording of Ray solo on Little Bird.
If you check on "The Music" section of this website you will find some video clips, two of which are videos of TV interviews being undertaken in 2003 in Hungary.
There are several good min-biographies of the band on the web. Like many Rock'n'Roll stories, there are different versions depending on the authors particular point of view - but the following are not dissimilar to Ray Phillip's view of life with the Teens.
Allmusics biography page at
Borderline Books page at
Then Now and
Rare British Beat 1960-1969; by Terry Rawlings
Ray was a founder member of the Nashville Teens in 1962, Born in Tiger Bay, Cardiff - Ray grew up in the Addlestone/Woking area of Surrey, where he still lives with his partner Mel, and their four children. Ray's original musical inspirations grew from skiffle and after completing his National Service, which included being stationed in Cyprus, he and some friends set up a local band. Very quickly his group merged with another local group, and what had once been rivalry became a solid team with the then unusual format of TWO lead singers.
Their musical tastes quickly evolved from Skiffle towards Rhythm and Blues - this was the era - and the locality - where R&B was born in Britain. Other local bands forming in this part of South West London at the time included the Rolling Stones and The Yardbirds. Members of all these bands still meet occasionally at the Eel Pie Club , home of the Richmond Rhythm and Blues Club, which still regularly meets at the Cabbage Patch pub in Richmond.
The Teens served their apprenticeship in the Star Club in Hamburg - along with many other famous bands, including The Spencer Davis Group and The Beatles. They even got their first proper recording contract in Hamburg, as backing group to Jerry Lee Lewis for his album "Live At The Star Club". Unfortunately Jerry didn't require the vocalists or keyboards, so Ray, Art and John had to sit and watch.
Rays career with the Nashville Teens is unbroken - he has been tempted by other bands (he reminisces that he turned down an offer from Jack Bruce to become vocalist for Cream when it was being formed) but he has always remained loyal to The Teens. This doesn't mean he doesn't work with other stars - but his priority is to his own band, and you only have to watch his face while he is singing Tobacco Road to know that he still loves every note of the song, even after more than forty years performing it !
In 1990 he recorded a stunning CD called "Regression" with The British Invasion All-Stars. In addition to Ray these were Jim McCarty of The Yardbirds, Eddie Phillips (no relation) of The Creation, and Don Craine and Keith Grant, both of The Downliners Sect. Unfortunately the disc is no longer available, but there is an excerpt of "House Of The Rising Sun" from that recording session available on this website in the section entitled THE MUSIC.
Ray is unquestionably a great singer and he loves both Rock'n'Roll and slow blues. Hearing his renditions of Red House and Put A Spell On You can send shivers up anyone's spine. He loves singing so much that many of the bands playing in local pubs around the Woking and Weybridge areas of South West London will often invite him up to do a few guest numbers if they spot him in the audience.
The Nashville Teens continue to perform, although most performances today seem to be corporate entertainment, and therefore not open to the public. However we try to ensure that the band get at least half a dozen public outings each year - to keep them in touch with their audience. The leather jacket and biker crowds of the seventies still hold a special appeal for the band and while the lads certainly enjoy the vibes of the huge audiences who attend 1960's weekends at Butlins, Pontins and the like; they have also been known to play to very small local audiences just for the "buzz".
Ray's daughter Vanessa has inherited her fathers wonderful singing voice, and she sometimes joins in during rehearsals. Their duets are wonderful, and with numbers such as Little Bird and Black Velvet, they hark back to the ballad singing which Ray enjoys so much. Vanessa has not appeared publicly with the Teens yet, but most of us think it is just a matter of time.
Ray loves the outdoor life, and is one of the nicest and most straightforward guys you could ever hope to meet. When he's not on stage he is happiest out of doors - and he's a real "twitcher" when it comes to spotting wildlife. Like many sixties bands, the demand for performances from The Teens, while still respectable, is no longer enough to pay all the bills, and Ray like many of his friends from the sixties now has a "day job" as well as leading his band evenings and weekends. When off-stage Ray is proud to be a member of the McLaren Racing Team . Consequently the whole band have to stop rehearsals or whatever else they may be doing to watch F1 Grand Prix races - and there is only one team to shout for !
last validation 16/02/2014