Golden career of the Barron Knights

Emma LeeThe Barron Knights mark 50 years in show business next year. Founder member Pete Langford shares the highlights of a golden career with EMMA LEE ahead of a show at the Maddermarket Theatre in Norwich.Emma Lee

It was the 1960s, and the Barron Knights were in the EMI studios in London, hard at work trying to lay down new tracks in just three hours.

With 20 minutes of the session left to go, a member of the band in the studio next door popped in and asked if they would like to hear a new song they'd written.

The band was the Beatles. And the new track was Hey Jude.

'It was such a thrill,' says Barron Knights founder member Pete Langford.

Talking to him, ahead of a show at the Maddermarket Theatre in Norwich, really brings home what an exciting time the 1960s were to be in the music business.

Also present on that day was a young session piano player called Reg Dwight, who, of course, went on to international stardom himself as Elton John.

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'On the BBC last year he said that one of his highlights was being introduced to John Lennon and Paul McCartney by the Barron Knights,' Pete says proudly.

The Barron Knights formed in Leighton Buzzard in 1960 - they were originally known as the Knights of the Round Table. In the early years they toured not only with the Beatles but the Rolling Stones too.

'The Beatles were really good fun. We toured at the time when Love Me Do and Please Please Me were out,' he says.

They started out as a straight pop group, and in the early 1960s played in Hamburg as well as all over the UK.

Their big break came in 1964, with the song Call Up the Groups, which parodied some of the top pop groups of the time, including the Searchers, Freddie and the Dreamers, the Beatles and the Stones and reached number three in the charts.

That became the template for the band's sound and as well as enjoying 14 chart hits, they became immensely popular on the seaside variety circuit, doing summer seasons on the pier in Yarmouth with the likes of Frank Ifield, Ted Rogers and Jimmy Tarbuck.

Pete has all the statistics memorised.

'We started in 1960, we've done three royal shows, 330 shows at the London Palladium, have toured Australia 30 times, have toured South Africa, New Zealand, America.

'We thank God for giving us the luck,' he says.

Still touring and playing to packed houses, the Barron Knights do about 40 UK shows a year, as well as dates in Australia and New Zealand.

The only original member of the group, Pete's mission is what is always was - to have the audience leave with a smile on their face.

It seems to work - one critic has suggested that the Barron Knights should be prescribed on the NHS.

So what does the audience in Norwich have in store?

'We will be doing the hits, parodies of very famous songs, we'll be doing those because that's what people would like to hear.

'We've got a song about Charles and Camilla. And one about Viagra. It's not rude or crude, just a bit of fun,' Pete quickly adds.

'Also we've got a song about what happens to your body when you get older. Also we do different styles of music, try to sing them in the Barron Knights way, three or four part harmony songs, and songs that will bring back happy memories.

'We always want to get the atmosphere of being in your front room and having a lot of fun, especially in these trying times,' Pete says.

'You have to try and get the atmosphere going in the first 60 seconds of the show'.

t The Barron Knights are at the Maddermarket Theatre, Norwich, on Tuesday, March 3. Tickets cost �13. Box office 01603 620917.

t Later this year they will appear at Pontin's at Pakefield, near Lowestoft (May 30), the Gunton Hall, Lowestoft (June 6), Diss Town Hall (July 25), Princess Theatre, Hunstanton (August 2), Pavilion Theatre, Cromer (August 16).