Back when ‘beat scene’ dominated

Original photo of Leslie beat group - The Dominators in 1962 (L-R) Bob Craig, Davie Mitchell, James Craig, Zander Walker and Alec Campbell (who had the stage name of Garry Storm)
Original photo of Leslie beat group - The Dominators in 1962 (L-R) Bob Craig, Davie Mitchell, James Craig, Zander Walker and Alec Campbell (who had the stage name of Garry Storm)
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It’s SUNDAY afternoon in November 1962 and the buzz of excitement and the chatter of young voices can be clearly heard several streets away.

The sounds are that of hundreds of Glenrothes teenagers as they wait to pay their ‘tanner’ at the door of the CISWO club.

A payment that will not only gain them entry to the hottest club in town - The Cafe Continental, but also guarantee them a performance from the best band in town, their town...The Dominators.

“We had a great sound and we looked the part” laughs lead guitarist and founder of The Dominators, James Craig as he hands me a faded photograph that was taken more than five decades ago.

It’s clear from his smile that the passage of time certainly hasn’t diminished the memories of a youth long since lost to the mists of time.

“We came up with the name when I bought a Watkins Dominator amplifier,” recalls James, “It was an eight watt, eight inch speaker that sounded like a beehive when you turned it on, but hey, that was the height of technology back then.”

James, a regular at the Trinity Church in Leslie formed the group around 1960 under the original guise of The Trinity Saints with Alec Mitchell on vocals, Ian Gibson, rhythm guitar, himself on lead guitar, younger brother Bob on tea box bass, and Norman Briggs on drums.

Everyone at that time had been influenced by the Skiffle sound and in particular Lonnie Donegan and for James and his pals it was no different.

It was the logical step for a keen musician who had already impressed as a piper.

James explains: “I had an advantage over the rest as I was previously a piper with the Kinglassie Pipe Band and was the only one who could actually read music.

“I also had an excellent ear for tuning guitars, I actually performed with the band for 10 years and was runner up in the under-18 age category at a competition at Pittencrieff Park in Dunfermline.

“As the band changed to the Dominators we had several singers including vocals from David Ferguson and Alec Campbell who was with the Dominators when we when they finally disbanded.

“Later still we went from being simply The Dominators to performing as Garry Storm and the Dominators, that was Alec Campbell on vocals.

The emerging teenage market was a lucrative one with dances and clubs catering for the musical tastes of this new market and for young hopeful bands such as the Dominators it provided a great opportunity to play to enthusiastic audiences.

James continued: “Frank West, a CISWO Committee member heard us playing and came up with the idea of ‘The Open Door’ where teenagers could come and listen to us on Sunday’s and that soon become the ‘Cafe Continental’.

“It really took off and Frank was delighted, the band didn’t drink and there was only soft drinks available for the teenagers, and we proved to be a real hit with the youngsters that had made the Cafe Continental their own.”

James’s sister, Pat was in no doubt that the teenage meeting place went hand in hand with the bands rise in popularity.

She remembers: “In those days there was no drink or drugs or any trouble, it was just good fun for the teenagers and the Cafe Continental was something we could all look forward too.

“The first week the band played there was 100, the next week it was 200 and by the third week it was over 300 teenagers packing into the ballroom, it really blossomed very quickly.”

The band personnel eventually settled with Dave Mitchell -rhythm and vocals, Alec Campbell -vocals, Bob Craig on bass, Zander Walker on drums and James Craig on lead guitar, incorporating lot of Shadows tunes and popular tracks from the likes of Del Shannon.

Pat added: “The group used to practice in my Mum’s living room, and they were only allowed to practice on a Sunday afternoon before they went on to the Cafe Continental to perform, so as not to annoy the neighbours.

“So you can imagine with all these guitars and a drum kit in a small living room in Anderson Drive, Leslie was horrendous for my mother.

“She even made all the suits in the photo, the band wore silver satin suits and the singer’s was bright red, they were home made but the lads really looked the part.

“I even remember when they changed singers from one six-foot lad to another who was a lot shorter and my mother had to reduce the suit by about three sizes to make it fit!”

The group established themselves on the Fife club scene and were asked to even perform further afield.

Remembered James: “The Dominators worked through an agent mostly and we played venues across the region such as the Burma Ballroom and sometimes ventured south of the border to places like Seahouses.

“There were some really great bands around at the same time as us, The Fabulous Red Hawks from Dunfermline were great, Jack Taylor was a fabulous singer, also, The Sapphires, The Crestas and Ronnie Ryan and the Raiders were brilliant.”

And there were always girls on the scene as Pat remembers: “The Dominators were really starting to get a name for themselves and a following, they were also a good looking band, so they got plenty of interest from the girls.

“They even backed Danny Williams when he came to Fife he was a good singer, he’d had a hit with Moon River.”

As the group became more and more popular and started attracting the interests of bigger promoters and agents, life changing decisions were also looming.

Pat said: “ My mother wouldn’t let Jim quit Art College because in those days you didn’t know that the sixties bands and the beat boom was about to take off.

“She was adamant that he had to study to get a job and so the decision was made to leave the band. I pleaded with her to let him continue but she wouldn’t change her mind, I think years later she did regret her decision but you just don’t know at the time do you.”

Despite the setback, James has continued to his interest in music and is philosophical about teenage years and not having seen many of his fellow band members for over forty years.

“We had the time of our young lives, there’s been a lot of water under the bridge in those fifty years since and I’ve not seen most of those band members since that time, I would be nice to know what they got up to.

“We dominated for a brief time” he laughed, “happy days, indeed.”

neil.henderson@fifetoday.co.uk