Hatchetmen (the)

When the Stargazers disbanded, Ricky Lee Brawn briefly joined the Chevalier Brothers (with Ray Gelato and Anders Janes). He was then invited to join the Tempo Toppers. The Tempo Toppers consisted of Dot on guitar, Tony Hilton on double bass, both from The Lone Stars who appeared on the James Dean of the Dole Queue compilation album. Tony also played with the Rimshots, not the Rockabilly/Hillbilly Bop band that features John Lewis. Ben (Morris?) was on vocals.

They rehearsed (at least once) with Lee Thompson (Madness sax player). Brawn left after a few months, and the band changed its name to the Hatchetmen. It then featured a bloke called Roy on drums, John Wallace (ex-Stargazers) on baritone and tenor saxophone and William Gibbs on tenor.
The sextet eventually recorded a mini-lp for Big Beat Records in 1985. Vic Keary produced it. His producers credits included Big Jay McNeely and Little Willie Littlefield’s Happy Pay Day (featuring John Wallace and Tony Hilton).

Strangely, the band’s high potential and the musicians’ quality didn’t show up in the final product. The repertoire is borrowed from Chuck Higgins, Amos Milburn, Peggy Lee, Louis Jordan and Good Lewis. But the songs lack vigour and energy and don’t swing much, which is a shame for this kind of music. In addition, the singer tends to do too much, and his interpretation is not very natural.
Vick Keary’s production doesn’t help, either. This brand of music begs for a warm sound, but the sound here is very modern, close to Joe Jackson’s Jumpin’ Jive, where a juicy brand of Rhythm‘n’Blues would be needed.
Nevertheless, it contains excellent and exciting moments, particularly some beautiful saxophone parts. Keary is also a saxophonist; you can hear it in how he puts the instrument forward. Dot is, as usual perfect, but her guitar is too buried in the mix to appreciate it fully.
After the band disbanded John Wallace kept on playing with numerous bands and eventually rejoined the Stargazers. Dot and Tony joined forces with James Hunter to form Howlin’ Wilf and the Vee-Jays in January 1986. Gibbs wrote a successful saxophone method for Mel Bay and now lives in Dubaï.
We’d be more than happy to hear from you, if you have more infos about Ben and Roy.

the Hatchetmen

Choppin’ Around
Big Beat Records NED 11 [1985]
Real Gone Hound Dog – Johnson’s Rag – Right Now – Why Don’t You Do Right – Pelican Jump – Deacon Jones

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