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With thanks to Roger Head

Memories of the Rockabeats

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Site Note: Our menu includes an article on Whitstable's most celebrated pop group of the 1960s... The Rock-a-Beats (click here to view) . Since publishing that item, we have received a very welcome message from Rock-a.Beats drummer, Roger Head - giving an inside view of the group. We would like to thank Roger for taking the time to share these memories with our readership. We would also like to thank all four of the Rock-a-Beats for all the entertainment that they have provided over the years.  

Dear Dave,

I was delighted to see that your site was to include a Rock-A-Beat page as a permanent feature!  I thought it might be of interest to know what being in a “Rock Group” was like from the inside.

As a merchant seaman, my friends all had naked women pinned up in their lockers but I had pages torn from the 1958 Premier drum catalogue in mine!  By plying the resident drummer with beers, I have played the drums in many dockside bars around the world, and while on leave, I went to Chatham with Bert Butler and his mate Charlie to sit in with traditional Jazz bands who played there.  

As an ex-Whitstable Sea Cadet, I knew Lou Lawson who introduced me to “Pip” Hadler.  Pip and Dave Harvey came round to my house in Woodlawn Street to see me, and (I’m sure it was just because I had a real drum kit!) asked me to join their Band, called “The Black Cats”.  We used to practice in a shed behind Dave’s house (near the Lantern Café), and I trundled my drum kit up Sydenham Street , along Stream Walk, and down Cromwell Road on a builders hand cart and back each time.

We started to be asked to play for parties and then, later, along came “proper” work for the band.  I remember we agonized for hours over a name change as we wanted a name that reflected more the style of what we were now playing “Rock and Roll”!  Hence, “Rock-a-Beats". 

We met Tony McCowan, who became our manager, and his persistence got the band work every Wednesday night at “Dreamland Ballroom” in Margate, a gig we did for years!  To hold on to this work, we had to play new songs each time.  If a record was released on the weekend – we were playing it on the Wednesday night.  We were by now either playing or practicing 7 nights a week, and adding on average, 3 new songs each week

With this pressure cooker type of schedule the lads went from just talented to brilliant!  On a good night (and most of them were) I would look up from the drums and be spellbound by the three guys in front of me!  Ray Page – the fastest, cleanest chord changes in the world; Dave Harvey – playing a pounding, intricate bass line and improvising a sax solo on a Kazoo at the same time!; Pip Hadler – for my money, the best guitarist ever – bar none.  Their talent and the “tight” feel of the music made them one of the most exciting bands I have ever worked with.  


The Rock-a-Beats: Roger Head (drums), Ray Page (rhythm guitar), Dave Harvey (base guitar), Phil 'Pip' Hadler (lead guitar) (Photo kindly supplied by Roger Head)


On many a Saturday night at Dreamland, I saw top-of-the-bill artists like “The Tremeloes” and “Sounds Incorporated” out in the audience watching US!  Our fan club in Folkestone even included a certain Noel Redding, soon to become the bass player with Jimmy Hendrix. 

Despite the fact that people seemed to like us, there was never any display of ego within the band.  We all basically liked each other, and respected each others skills, but knew that the band was bigger than any one of us.  We each paid for our own personal instruments but group equipment was funded from any money earned, divided up before we were paid! Dave Harvey was in charge of finance, and we always had the best when it came to equipment. Right from the “Black Cat” days, the money was always shared equally. 

Eventually, Ray Page said he wanted to stop.  The stress of working all day and then playing without pause all evening was taking its toll on all of us, but once Ray had gone, the magic went soon after. Carol and I were married in 1963 and, as we were living in Margate, I soon lost touch with the others and started to change direction musically.  


After the Rock-a-Beats.... Roger (second left) with 'Style'
 - a band  formed for cabaret work in Denmark and for cruise work 


I still played “Rock and Roll” with “The Triple Tones” and did “Opportunity Knocks” as a duo with Gerry Impett on keyboards.... 


Above: Duo with Gerry Impett 


..... but, if you went out to a dinner-dance at this time, you would have seen me playing with “the Derek Day Band”, “the Dave Port band”, “The Ron Groves Orchestra”, playing an original 20’s drum kit with 30’s style close harmony group “St. Valentines Day Orchestra” and guesting with many local Jazz bands including “Les Herberts”, “Bill Barnacle’s Band” and “Bert Butler”. 



Above: St Valentine's Day Orchestra
Below: With the Derek Day band at The Winter Gardens


After many years in Road Haulage, I now own Southern Storage Ltd., a self storage company in Broadstairs and the only music in my life now comes via a walkman while cycling along the bank of the River Cher, in the Loire valley of France with Carol on our twice yearly breaks. 

I did drop in to see Ray Page recently, and he was still keen to play again, as was I, but the terminal illness of a close friend deprived me of the time to call round again, otherwise you may have had the “Creak-a-Beats” on the road. 

Like your many friends all over the world I want to thank you for “our” site, Dave,

With kindest regards,

Roger Head


 The Simply Whitstable Web Site