Leighton Buzzard band The Barron Knights announce last-ever tour

'It takes time to realise how important certain things in your life were'

By Joanna Gravett
Monday, 14th March 2022, 11:27 am
Updated Monday, 14th March 2022, 11:28 am

Leighton Buzzard comedy kings The Barron Knights are charging into their "final joust" as they embark on their last musical tour.

Formed in 1960, the band has supported both The Rolling Stones and The Beatles and shot to fame in 1964 with their album Call Up The Groups.

The musicians will be performing at the Stevenage Gordon Craig Theatre this Wednesday (March 16) and will be touring the country until their final show at The Stables, Wavendon, on November 19.

The Barron Knights - Len, Peter, Dave and Mick.

Original member Peter Langford (vocals, guitar and keyboard) said: "It was my decision to pack up the travelling. It was getting really, really tough.

"We decided that last year was going to be the finale, but because of Covid the shows in 2021 got cancelled as the theatres closed down.

"Performing has never been a problem, it's the travelling, so this year will be the Barron Knight's final joust!"

The Knights' tale starts back in 1960 when Peter was singing Everly Brothers covers in Leighton Buzzard pubs and was head-hunted by a military man called Tony Osmond.

The Barron Knights during the 1960s.

Tony had just returned from his RAF duties in Singapore, where he'd also launched a band, and now living with his parents in Leighton Buzzard, hoped to have similar success.

Peter said: "I didn't know him when he arrived but he had heard that I could play guitar and not many people in the late 50s and early 60s could do that.

"But I bought a guitar when I was 15 and it changed my life...

"I was determined to be a good player. I didn't just want to play chords, I wanted to play solos, and I used to sit in my bedroom playing by ear - there was no-one around to teach me."

Peter and his fellow musicians, Barron Antony, Duke D'Mond, Butch Baker, and Dave Ballinger, originally performed in dance halls and it would be member Butch who sparked the band's comedy genius.

Butch bought Tony an LP of The Four Preps, a Californian band who had recorded an album in one take, talking to the audience, singing songs and telling stories, which inspired Peter to take a comedy stance.

He told the LBO: "I wrote some lyrics on my mum's kitchen table, and changed [songs by] The Rolling Stones, Beatles, The Searchers, Dave Clark Five...and a couple of them [his fellow band members] sat down and fiddled around with them.

"When we were doing the dance halls the whole audience just stopped and gathered round the stage and shouted out, 'Do it again!'

"I thought, 'I think 'we've got something here!'"

And indeed they had.

The Rolling Stones's publicist Les Perrin urged The Barron Knights to record the songs, which were a comedy take on what would happen if famous pop groups joined the army, and the demo was sent to EMI.

The record producer "loved it", and before they knew it, the band were touring the world and had sold one million records in one month (July 1964).

EMI then requested another hit - Pop Go The Workers - and the musicians were making impressions on some of the biggest stars of the 60s.

Peter said: "Bill Wyman the bass player for The Rolling Stones has a lovely sister, who said to Bill in 1961, 'You have to come and see this band at Aylesbury Grovesnor Ballroom'.

"In his book he wrote that we influenced him to become a musician; I went to his house a couple of years ago, and he went: 'Hello Pete, you changed my bl**dy life!'

"It takes time to realise how important certain things in your life were."

Not only that but The Barron Knights met all four members of The Beatles - Ringo who was "always joking about"; John, who was "so funny" and made "sarcastic remarks", George who was "very very quiet, a lovely guy", and Paul who would "knock on your dressing room door" and was "one of the loveliest, kindest guys in the world."

Indeed, Peter credits Paul with not just being a talented musician, but "a genius", especially when it comes to songwriting - something he feels is missing in today's chart hits.

Peter explained: "I think it's changed big time. When we recorded in the 60s, they were quick, three minute singalong songs.

"But today's songs won't be played on the radio in one year's time. They are all dance type songs; you can't really hear what the words are.

"Don't get me wrong, it's lovely to switch on the radio and hear today's music - but Eleanor Rigby, Yesterday, Here There and Everywhere. These are great songs forever."

During their musical career The Barron Knights have had many highlights, including performing on Sunday Night at the London Palladium and even in Buckingham Palace.

They also boast the biggest record of any band for appearances at the Palladium - over 300 - and will never forget their tours with The Stones and The Beatles.

"They were biggest names in pop music and that really lifted our skills. It was so lovely for us and I will never forget it," Peter reflected.

However, it wasn't always plain sailing - or should we say - plain riding for The Barron Knights, as in 1972 EMI didn't renew their contract.

But undeterred - and sitting on a rock in Tenby on the day Elvis died - Butch and Peter penned some humorous lyrics to the latest pop songs.

Record company CBS loved it, and in 1977 the band sold another million records.

Peter said: "My advice to musicians? Work hard and don't give up; it will take time."

The Barron Knights would like to say thank you to their loyal fans old and new, and are looking forward to seeing familiar faces as they hit the road one last time.

Meanwhile, Peter is taking time to pen a song of support for his granddaughter's friend, a Ukrainian lady living in fear as Russia invades her country.

Remembering how powerful one song can be, he revealed one final memory:

"In the mid 60s we were recording at Abbey Road Studios and we had a pianist we used to hire - his name was Reg Dwight.

"We were singing away recording the songs when Paul [McCartney] came and said - 'do you want to hear what we're recording?'

"He sat on a great big black piano and sang 'Hey Jude', and we were the first people in the whole world to hear it."

> As well as Peter, The Barron Knights's line up now features Len Crawley (keyboards), Mick Groome (bass guitar), and Dave Wilkes (drums).

To find out more, visit: www.barronknights.com