Guide to British Music of the 1960s


The Downliners Sect

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Don Craine - guitar/vocals/tambourine/maracas/autoharp, Keith Grant - bass/vocals, Terry Gibson - guitar, Johnny Sutton - drums, Ray Sone - mouth organ

Don Craine (real name Don O'Donnell) and Sutton had previously been in a Twickenham band called the Downliners. The name came from a Jerry Lee Lewis b-side that had been written by Roy Orbison. Following the end of this band, Grant (real name Keith Evans) and Gibson were recruited and the band renamed the Downliners Sect. The band soon gained a following at Eel Pie Island in Twickenham and made an EP called A Nite In Newport Street. The R&B direction of the band had been decided after seeing the Rolling Stones at the Station hotel in Richmond. Previously, the group played more rock & roll classics. The EP was recorded live and featured four R&B classics including Booker T's Green Onions. This EP is available on the See for Miles collection called The Definitive Downliners Sect Singles As and Bs. This contained the band's interpretations of R&B classics such as Green Onions and helped the Downliners Sect to secure a recording deal with EMI.

The group had initial success in Sweden where they toured and had a number one record. However, this may have meant that they neglected the UK.

Ray Sone joined the group on harmonica, apparently beating Rod Stewart and Steve Marriott for the role. The group signed to Colombia Records and, shortly after this, the first single, Baby What's Wrong was released. This failed to make the chart but did receive some attention in Europe. The group also toured with the writer of the single, Jimmy Reed. The follow-up single was a cover version of the Coasters' Little Egypt. This showed the humorous, irreverent side of the Downliners. This was also captured on the debut album which was released in 1963. The Sect is a superb collection of British R&B which, nevertheless, did not endear the band to many fans of the music as it was seen to deviate from the pure R&B. The album consisted mostly of covers but with a few original tracks written by members of the Sect. Don Craine had become quite distinctive with his trademark deerstalker hat. He had worn the hat at a gig at Studio 51 and it subsequently become part of his and the band's image.

1965's The Country Sect saw the band bringing in wider influences from folk and country music. The humour was even more evident on the 1965 EP release, The Sect Sings Sick Songs. This featured songs about death including the Shangri-Las spoof Leader of the Sect. However, the nature of the EP led to the almost-inevitable ban from the BBC and this applied to future Downliners Sect recordings. This meant that later singles such as Glendora and The Cost of Living did not receive the acclaim that they richly deserved. The latter was written by supreme songwriter Graham Gouldman of the Mockingbirds who was later in 10CC.

Ray Sone left in 1965 to be replaced by Pip Harvey who played guitar and banjo.

1966's The Rock Sects In featured a song While Don't You Smile Now which had been written by the US group the Primitives. However, after the continued commercial failure, Terry Gibson and Johnny Sutton left to be replaced by Bob Taylor and Kevin Flanagan while Mathew Fisher joined on keyboards. He had previously been one of Screaming Lord Sutch's Savages.

The group was renamed Don Crane's Downliners Sect but Crane himself left in 1967 after the single I Can't Get Away From You. He joined Finnegan's Wheel and later a duo called Loose End. Mathew Fisher went on to become a member of Procol Harem.

Don Crane and Keith Grant reformed the Downliners Sect in 1976 and issued a single called Show Biz.

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