The Nashville Teens were one of a brace of British acts competing for attention in the booming days of the early British Invasion and its early purely English phenomenon, the British beat boom. They were distinguished from most of the others by scoring a memorable and serious hit, "Tobacco Road." This put them on the map internationally (even getting them into an American jukebox movie, Beach Ball, that also featured the Supremes) before they gradually faded away in popularity. The sextet first got together in Weybridge, Surrey, in 1962 with Art Sharp and Ray Phillips on vocals, John Hawken on piano, Pete Shannon on bass, Michael Dunford on guitar, and Roger Groom on drums. In those days, they played basic American rock & roll with perhaps a bit more abandon even then than their competition.
Dunford exited along with Groom in 1963 to be replaced by John Allen and Barry Jenkins, respectively, and a seventh member, vocalist Terry Crow, joined during the group's extended stay in Hamburg, West Germany, in 1963. (Crow and Dunford later co-founded the Plebs, who recorded for Deram Records, and Dunford subsequently became a key member of the second lineup of Renaissance). During their Hamburg engagement, the group got pegged to play as backup band to visiting American rock & roll superstar Jerry Lee Lewis, which resulted in the recording of one of the great live albums of the era, Jerry Lee Lewis Live at the Star Club; they later played gigs backing Bo Diddley, and it was at one of those shows that they were spotted by Mickie Most (then still a performer). After the band was signed to English Decca in 1964, Most became their producer for their debut single, "Tobacco Road," released in the summer of 1964, which charted high on both sides of the Atlantic.
The group's rock & roll credentials were as solid as that of any English band, as was demonstrated by the number of gigs that they played backing visiting American stars. What they lacked, however (apart from solid in-house songwriting talent), was one (or more) interesting personalities in their ranks that could be put before the public and a collective personality that could be defined, musically or any other way. Neither Sharp nor Phillips was as compelling or interesting a singer as, say, Denny Laine of their Decca Records rivals the Moody Blues, much less Mick Jagger, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Eric Burdon, or Roger Daltrey. Additionally, they were musically flexible to a fault, literally, capable of playing boogie-style rock & roll in the best Jerry Lee Lewis style or slightly bluesier and more folk-influenced songs, and even dabbled in doo-wop, but they never had a sound, beyond the crunching attack on "Tobacco Road," that could be identified. In this regard, they were a lot like the Downliners Sect; they loved American rock & roll, but they couldn't do more than pound away at it, and they didn't even have the Sect's offbeat eccentricity to mark them in people's memories.
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