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About The Fivepenny Piece

Who are The Fivepenny Piece?

January 1969 photoThe 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.]

The original band members were:

  • John Meeks (guitar, vocals)
  • Lynda Meeks (vocals) - John's sister
  • Eddie Crotty (guitar, vocals)
  • George Radcliffe (bass, vocals)
  • Colin Radcliffe (guitar, vocals) - George's brother

The Fivepenny Piece's Music

The 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.

The 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.

Recordings & Appearances

The 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.

The 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.

The 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 King Cotton, 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.

Their 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.

Where Are They Now?

In 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.

The 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.

The 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.

 


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