|Northamptonshire Advertiser, 16th September 1966, By Linda Hutchins, transcribed by Kay Collins
No Gimmicks for the Unassuming Sapphires Trio
IN these days of the big band sound and Georgie Fame-type combos, you may not believe that good three-piece groupsall the rage of the fiftiesstill exist.
But believe me they do and there is one right on the doorstep at Rushden.
They are three modest and singularly unassuming ladsChris Frost (25), a solicitor's clerk who plays lead and rhythm guitar: John Keys (24), a machine tool fitter who plays bass guitar: and Bruce Smith (24), a packer who plays drums called the Sapphires.
The group started five years ago and it was one of the first three-piece line-ups around here, although it had a rocky beginning.
Originally John played rhythm guitar and Chris stuck to lead, with Bruce on drums and another enthusiast on bass. At this time Barry Noble, the swinging male model from Isham was singing for them.
Then the bass player left and it looked as though the Sapphire sparkle had somewhat tarnished, never to shine again.
But Bruce and John had seen visiting London groups with only a three-piece line-up and they persuaded Chris and Barry they could make a go of it.
John learned to play bass and with a reputation already established, they just carried on and they have never looked back.
Life had its hitches, mind you. There was the time that Bruce fulfilled an ambition to turn professional and joined the Jimmy Justice backing group on a tour of Denmark, Sweden, Germany and Finland.
They were a great success and scored a hit wherever they went. But coming back to this country it was quite a different story.
While he was away the Beatles had released their first disc heralding the era of a different type of musiccompletely contrary to the Jimmy Justice sound.
During the time that Bruce was away, dance band drummer Terry Mitchell filled in. But when he got a break to join a big dance band Bruce turned semi-pro again and rejoined the Sapphires.
John, too, had itchy feet, and in September '64 he swopped places with the bass guitarist of The Worryin' Kind from Bedford. He did it in a week's holiday and that was enough. Back to the job meant back to the Sapphires.
When Barry started modelling they were left high-and dry without a singer and although they still backed him at dance hall bookings, they began to play primarily for their own amusement.
A couple of months ago Gidianthe singing Scot from Corby with one successful disc behind himapproached them and now when they do bookings, they back him.
The group have no gimmick. They rarely play rousing top-tenners, but prefer to select their type of music from Lee Dorsey, Wilson Pickett, Otis Reading and James Brown albums.
Occasionally, if one of these artists brings out a successful single which makes its presence felt on top ten territorylike Lee Dorsey's "Working in a coal-mine"they play it. But this is the exception rather than the rule.
And what of the future? No demo-discs in sleek secluded studios for them.
John and Bruce would both turn pro again, given the chance, but Chris scorns the idea.
"It's not my idea of a job", he told me. "The market is too temperamental. I'm quite satisfied just carrying on as we do".
But it would be a loss to the sophisticated school of music if the group split up. And it would be a great pity if three such complimentary personalities went to work.