The Blue Cat Trio – Tony n Tennessee Rebels 1978-1980
Teenagers Carlo Edwards and Stef Edwards had been members of The Blue Cat Trio. In 1979 The Blue Cat Trio recorded their first E.P. for Tony Martins “Red Hot” record label and in the summer of 1980 recorded their first album for the Dutch label Rockhouse. But before the record was released everything came to an abrupt halt, when Dave Phillips left the band and the Blue Cat Trio came to an end.
In 1979 teenagers Clint Bradley and Mitch Caws who were members of Southampton Rockabilly band “Tony n Tennessee Rebels” also recorded an E. P. for Red Hot Records, thereby meeting Tony Martin who in a few short months would introduce Clint and Mitch to Carlo and Stef after the Blue Cat Trio had split up.
The Blue Cats – 1980 Onwards
And so in September 1980 the long affray began, a group of teenagers met in South London to begin their journey onto the great wide open plains of creativity. Clint Bradley, Carlo and Stef Edwards, Mitch Caws, along with guest saxophonist Clive Osbourne, had their first rehearsal together in Carshalton and began a quest that continues to this day. From the outset it was clear to all of them that they wanted to begin creating their own identity and not repeat what any of them had done previously. Right from the start they set about crafting their own sound. The Blue Cats would not be a sound-alike band, that time was past for all of them! They would take all the musical influences that they had collectively as a band, and create something entirely new. This was far from plain sailing and they had to deal with a lot of opposition in the beginning and still do to this day, but it was their way or nothing. They played their first gig together in Holland in October 1980.
It was during this weekend that a much overlooked part of the bands history occurred. The first album featuring Carlo, Stef, Dave Phillips and Clive had already been recorded and was originally planned to be released as “The Blue Cat Trio” but as that unit had now disbanded there was a problem. Bert Rockhouse was of course keen to see the album released and therefore for promotional purposes he wanted the identity of the new line up to still have an attachment to the label and the first album. The band themselves however were discussing the possibility of changing the name entirely, as they were already embarking on an entirely new direction. But Rockhouse blocked them from doing this, so a compromise of simply calling the band “The Blue Cats” was reached.
As soon as they returned to the UK they dived headfirst into new and uncharted seas. They wanted to take Rockabilly onto another plain, to pay homage to everything about it that they loved but also add the energy and vitality of their own contemporary musical surroundings. The early eighties was an exciting time to be forming a band regardless of what music you were into. The whole post punk thing was happening and new clubs were springing up all over the place. Within months they had started to build up a new kind of following that had not been seen before, one of a lot more colour and diversity. Remember at that time there was no real established Neo-Rockabilly/Psychobilly scene, what they were doing was completely unheard of. Clive Osbourne departed as the sound became more radical and original songs began replacing the 50’s cover versions. And thus the classic Neo-Rockabilly combo was born.
Many of the songs that would become the bedrock of the “Fightback” album were by now already in the live set including “Wild Night” which had already been featured on a BBC Radio 1 session before it appeared on the Rockhouse recording. Clint and Mitch had reluctantly agreed to sign a contact with Rockhouse so that band could move forward, as Carlo and Stef were already under contact there seemed little choice. Though had they all be a bit older and wiser things could have been very different. Another important thing to remember at this point is that when they began recording the “Fightback” album their new and progressive sound was not altogether welcomed by Rockhouse, to be precise it scared them as it was so different. Carlo’s guitar style had by now developed into something completely of his own invention, he was determined to create his own platform and not to follow usual limitations of the scene. Clint meanwhile was moving vocally to a more melodic and independent approach and writing songs that were departing from the traditional Rockabilly subject matter. The raw low growl and speed of Mitch’s double bass playing (that would come to influence a great many in later years) coupled with Stef’s unique and tastefully inventive drum patterns made for a completely original approach to the rhythm section. The band was determined to leave the traditional sound-a-like style behind. On the day of the “Wild Night” recording session there was a lot of tension in the studio. For instance when Carlo laid down his guitar, Rockhouse pleaded with him to return to a more traditional Rockabilly approach for the recording, but Carlo’s answer was NO BOLLOCKS! This is me!
The release of “Fightback” in 1981’ finally established “The Blue Cats” as an independent force and they started to get support gigs with bands like The Clash which in turn brought them to the attention of the main stream music press. “Wild Night” was made single of the week by Gary Bushell, who wrote for ‘Sounds’ at the time, front page articles followed and the media started to use the term Neo- Rockabilly to describe their style. They signed to a major London agent and by the end of 1981 were headlining their own sell out gigs all over Europe. Then as the whole Neo-Rockabilly bubble burst into the mainstream they started to get interest from major record companies. They could not however consider any of the label offers because they were still contracted to Rockhouse/Charley records.
By early 1982 their new and diverse following had grown, especially around the alternative London club circuit. Their style and sound was evolving at a rapid pace, with new songs appearing in the set every week. It was around this time that they recorded “The G MEN” E.P. and played a few low key gigs around London to try things out.
The beginning of 1983 saw them starting to play gigs as “Beltane Fire”. It was at this stage that Tim and Phil Polecat, along with Tim’s Dad Barry came on board as their managers. The “Beltane Fire” set list consisted of completely new and original songs, their sound was by then unlike anything anyone had ever heard before. Though Rockabilly was still its base and the foundation on which they built the house, the sound of “Beltane Fire” was 100% English and unique!
By now they were playing regular gigs at places like Dingwalls and the Rock Garden, the buzz surrounding the band was building and before long they started to get major label offers. By the summer of 1984 a bidding war for “Beltane Fire” was underway. Whether or not signing to a label the size of Sony was a good thing for a band as individual as Beltane Fire is debatable. You have to remember that this was the first time they’d ever had the prospect of any real money to finance the band. During all their efforts with the ‘Blue Cats ‘they’d earned very little, even buying simple bits of equipment to keep the band on the road was a struggle. Now all of a sudden people were throwing a lot of money at them. What this gave them was the chance to concentrate full time on their music.
Once they had recorded the “Different Breed” album they went back on the road, and started to build a following and a solid base for the future. Support slots with the likes of Ian Dury & the Blockheads, Marrillion, Adam Ant and others followed. Always at their best live, it was the only way for them to really introduce people to what they were trying to do. But Sony was impatient and wanted their investment back quickly, they weren’t given the time needed to build their following. Beltane Fire was the kind of band that needed a slow build; if they had been given the time to develop into serious force things would have been a lot different today.
The years from 1986 to 89 were a time of reflection and going back to the drawing board. In 1989 the band decided to relocate to America, Mitch decided at this point that he wanted to settle down and therefore elected not to go with them, so sadly that part of their history came to an end.
Flame of the West
During that year in the USA some of the momentum returned. They were now a three piece called ”Flame of The West” Clint was on electric bass and strangely enough they became a unit again. Once more they were on their own without any interference from outside influences. They started to play around Connecticut and then New York; they got a gig at CBGB’s after playing a demo to an A&R man at Geffen records and things began to look promising. He liked what he heard and saw and gave them some money for demo time. Things were looking up until Carlo cracked some of the discs in his spine in an accident and had to return to England for an operation. Back home they played some gigs around London but just couldn’t seem to get back the momentum that they’d had in New York.
In 1992 the opportunity to make a new Blue Cats album for Nervous Records arose. The Rockabilly scene had by then evolved, and become a lot more accepting of the more original and progressive approach of bands like The Blue Cats. It was at this time that they were introduced to the superb bass playing talents of Paul Diffin, and low they were a quartet again. The writing and recording of “The Tunnel” was one of the easiest projects the band ever undertook, everything seemed to come together without any effort. They were simply having fun again; Clint and Carlo were working on the songs together; without any directive other than their own.
After they’d finished ‘The Tunnel’ and it was released to critical acclaim, they did a couple more very successful tours together, then in 1993 they shook hands and went off to pursue their own separate projects. Clint returned to the North West U.S. to peruse his interest in western music. While Carlo and Stef became involved in theatre work and running their business’s, while Paul relocated to Atlanta, Georgia permanently.
The Blue Cats return
So now we fast forward 15 years and a strange set of circumstances that see the four of them walk on stage together at Hemsby in May 2008. Without going into too much detail, a good deal of soul searching went on before that gig took place. It was a very emotional reunion for all of them, remember they had not seen or spoken with each other in all that time. But from the first chord at the rehearsal the magic just filled the room, it was as if they had just stepped out for a break in 1993 and walked back into 2008. That very successful Hemsby gig really launched them back onto the scene whole sale, and within a few short months they had amassed a full diary of festival dates around Europe and Scandinavia, and so began The Blue Cats 3rd stage.
The cost and time of Paul traveling back and forth from Atlanta was proving to be a problem, so he elected to remain in Atlanta and concentrate on more local projects. Early in 2011 Steve Whitehouse was recruited to take over on Double Bass. Steve had the musicality and power they needed to fill the gap, as well as being a long-time fan of the band and consequently knew all their songs note for note! So after one exciting rehearsal they hit the road for yet another string of dates. In 2012 they released the much lauded album “Best Dawn Yet” featuring the acclaimed single “Billy Ruffians” and follow up E.P. “The Norton Spirit” and in 2013 their first ever live album “On a Live Mission”
Since then they have toured continuously taking their own brand of original and progressive Neo- Rockabilly to all those who invite them to perform. Their reputation as the original Neo Rockabilly masters is now universally set in stone.
2019 finds them working on brand new material for their next studio album, which may possibly go into production in 2020. Whatever the future holds you can be sure it will be something different from what has gone before. They‘ve travelled their own road and done it their own way since September 1980! They have never compromised and never will, the music they make is their message to all those who would try and put them down and wipe away what they have accomplished. The Blue Cats will always strive to create and push forward; when that magic ends they will end, until that day let the journey continue…..