To all intents and purposes the only band in the Torbay area to play ‘true’ rock’n’roll (ie that which was popular in the period 1956-62) was Rocket 88.
Other bands may have included some rock’n’roll numbers in their repertoire, but Rocket 88’s programme consisted of only rock’n’roll. The band has proved to be remarkably resilient: formed in January 1975 it is still playing to this very day. It has never been without work, and the membership has been, on the whole, consistent.
While contemporary bands like The Oomigooli Band and The Riff Power Band were undoubtedly more popular in their heyday, both folded after two or three years, their short life marred by too many changes in personnel.
Rocket 88 made the sensible decision from the start to use an agent, Lionel Digby, the well-known Torquay entrepreneur, being their choice. Lionel Digby provided Rocket 88 with hundreds of gigs in their golden years (arguably 1975-9) and the band played at venues all over the South West of England.
Yet if those youngsters abroad in Torquay pubs in the mid seventies to early eighties were asked which of the bands was the most well-known, Rocket 88 would come bottom of their list. This may very well have been because Rocket 88 were prepared to travel to far-flung venues (ranging from Helston in Cornwall to Winterbourne Abbas in Dorset) to fulfil their manager’s contracts.
Even so, it is Rocket 88, more than any other band in the region, which has kept ‘true’ rock’n’roll alive.
Photographs which appear in this YouTube video record the band during its salad years (1975-6) and those taken in The Palk Arms, St. Marychurch, give some indication of the band’s popularity at that time, a time, incidentally, when the mid-seventies rock’n’roll revival was in full swing. Photographs of second generation teddy-boys taken at The Palk Arms attest to the resurgence of rock’n’roll and its attendant fashions at that time.
Important changes in personnel during the life-span of Rocket 88 included Henry Teardrop (bs), Curtis Toanee (pno), Duke Earl (bs, vcls) and Rock Ola (bs). Two members of the band, Del Ray (dms) and Buddy G (gtr, vcls) have been with the band since its inception.
A non-band member, but nevertheless an important figure in Torquay rock’n’roll is disk jockey Eddy Falcon (who may be seen on many band photographs) helping out with handclaps and vocals. Eddy, who still has a weekly programme on Riviera Radio to this day, and who still works throughout the South West has continued to promote ‘true’ rock’n’roll. Any history of Torquay rock’n’roll would not be complete without an acknowledgment of his promotional efforts.
Whether or not ‘true’ rock’n’roll will continued to be performed in future years, after the inevitable demise of Rocket 88, is open to question. Later generations will be interested in their own teenage music and not that of an earlier time. Thus anyone who has seen Rocket 88, The Oomigooli Band, or The Riff Power Band will have taken part in an important part of underground Torquay culture.