The Fivepenny Piece
Fivepenny Piece are a five-piece band formed originally
in 1967 in Stalybridge in Lancashire in northern England
- all members of the band were from Stalybridge or
nearby Ashton-under-Lyne. Originally called The
Wednesday Folk, they used to meet up at Ashton's
Broadoak Hotel on Wednesday evenings to entertain
the locals. This is an early publicity photo of the
band from January 1969 looking seriously folky! [Click
on the small picture to see the full-size version.]
original band members were:
Meeks (guitar, vocals)
Meeks (vocals) - John's sister
Crotty (guitar, vocals)
Radcliffe (bass, vocals)
Radcliffe (guitar, vocals) - George's
Fivepenny Piece's Music
Fivepenny Piece's music can be categorised as "Lancashire
folk". This though is misleading, as they rarely
played traditional folk music (whatever that is);
rather they played mainly original material covering
a broad spectrum of styles which makes them difficult
to pigeon-hole. The music ranges from what might be
described as 'pop-folk' (typified by The Seekers),
to Easy Listening/Pop, to 'Lancashire' music - songs
in the Lancashire idiom reflecting their roots.
apparent simplicity of the songs and the accompaniment
is belied by the complexity of many of the lyrics
which are by turns meaningful (as in folk protest
songs); humorous (Lancashire humour, of course!);
surreal (occasionally verging on being nonsensical);
and romantic (love songs) - but even that doesn't
cover the full spectrum of their work. The variety
of material nearly always makes for interesting listening.
Particular strengths of the original band were the
Lancashire humour illustrated best by Eddie Crotty's
vocal contributions; the strong songwriting partnership
of Colin Radcliffe and John Meeks; Lynda
Meek's pleasantly agreeable - oh, go on then -
gorgeous voice; and George Radcliffe's excellent
bass playing at the heart of the rhythm section -
not to mention his lugubrious expression and famous
floppy hat! The excellent harmony singing of the whole
band on many of their songs should also not be overlooked.
Fivepenny Piece are best known and remembered in their
home territory of Lancashire and nearby areas of the
North West of England, but they were widely known
across the UK during their heyday in the 1970s, thanks
to their many TV appearances in those days. Their
big break came in 1968 when they won the popular TV
talent show New Faces, still
under their original name The Wednesday Folk. As well
as getting a new name, they were signed up by the
prestigious Noel Gay Agency and given
a recording contract with EMI Records.
Fivepenny Piece made more than a dozen albums throughout
the 1970s and early 1980s, as well as a number of
singles. Their first single was issued in 1969 on
EMI's UK Columbia label. Their EMI records were initially
produced by Bob Barratt, who seems
to have specialised in regional acts - which is what
The Fivepenny Piece were - such as the West Country's
favourite sons The Wurzels.
Fivepenny Piece's chart career was brief - none of
their singles got into the national charts, but they
did make the Top Ten UK albums with their magnum opus
and an earlier album Makin'
Tracks both made the top forty album charts.
However in the early- and mid-1970s their records
sold in large enough numbers to satisfy EMI, especially
in their home area of the North-West, where the locals
were happy to buy recordings of songs with titles
like Stalybridge Wakes, I'm
Powfagged and Ashton Mashers.
See the Fivepenny Piece Discography
for a list of all their records, with full track listings,
release dates, etc.
public profile was further enhanced by a residency
on Esther Rantzen's weekly BBC-TV programme That's
Life, which was watched by huge numbers
at its peak. They also had their own BBC TV series,
following one they shared with fellow "Lanky"
funny man and singer Mike Harding. For more details
of their TV appearances, see the 5PP
on TV page.
Are They Now?
the late 1970s - with changes occurring across the
whole of the music industry - the group's popularity
outside their home area tailed off. The
Fivepenny Piece left EMI and signed a contract with
Philips Records; releasing two albums on the label.
The band continued with the original line-up
until 1981, when founder member and main songwriter
John Meeks departed. He was replaced by Trevor
Chance. A year or two later Lynda left and was
replaced by Andrea Mullins (a former member
of The Caravelles). Following the departure
of Lynda Meeks, the album Here
We Are Again was issued on a small
independent label. This consisted of some new songs,
some covers and reworkings of some of their previous
records, such as Big Jim.
band broke up in 1985, but it was subsequently reformed,
although without Colin Radcliffe - and by now there
is little in common with the original band. By 1996
the line-up still included original members Eddie
and George, together with Andrea, Pete
Brew (guitars) and the famous Lancastrian singer,
actor and comedian Bernard Wrigley.
Sadly, George Radcliffe passed away in December 2002,
leaving Eddie as the only member of the original band
in the line-up. Even Eddie has had health problems
and for a while Norman Prince (formerly of
the Houghton Weavers) stood in for him at gigs.
The Fivepenny Piece continued to perform for a while
with the last recorded line-up being Eddie and
Andrea, with Alan Taylor, John Eatock
and George's replacement Paul Johnstone.
Although the other three original band members Colin,
Lynda and John had retired from the
music business; in 2004 came the great news that John
Meeks had returned to the studio and recorded
a new CD, with some old favourites from the Fivepenny
Piece days, plus some brand new songs.
band may not be quite so well known these days, but
they have still got plenty of loyal fans all over
the world, who remember the Fivepenny Piece's music
and Lancashire humour with great affection.