Home town: Southern Rhodesia/Northern Rhodesia/Belgium
This Rhodesian outfit – who were living in Belgium in the early sixties – recorded some amazing beat & rock singles. Both Belgian rock archives ‘ Rock over Belgium’ and ‘Witlof from Belgium’ have rather good discographies on the band’s recordings, including solo recordings of Brian and Gene Latter. Apart from the discographies the Shake Spears only earn a brief mention once or twice in both publications. On top of that, their one and only LP was originally released in…The Netherlands! Other Dutch connections were a couple of TV shows in Belgium where the ‘Spears’ were playing together with Cuby & the Blizzards of which they were much impressed by the guitar sound. In 1968, when the band was playing the most popular club in Brussels, ‘Les Cousins’, the singer from another Dutch beat group, The Shoes, joined them on stage for a few numbers. Well, reason enough to take a look in to the band’s “live” line-up:
- Chris Kritzinger – Keyboard, guitar & vocals
- Perry Jordaan – Guitar & vocals
- Johnny Kreuger – Drums & vocals
- Calvin Coleman – Bass
- Alan Escombe-Wolhuter – Bass
- Gene Latter – Vocals
- Ron Patton – Saxophone
Some of the members of this line-up originated from the ranks of the Bulawayo band, the PHANTOMS.
The Shake Spears arrived in Belgium in December 1964 from Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia). Before that happened they were successful in their own country, playing as the Dynamics. In 1963 they established their own night club ‘The Club Dynamique”, which quickly became the favourite haunt of television and theatrical personalities. At this time fans, friends and well-wishers advised the group that the rest of the world was entitled to an opportunity to enjoy their musical skills, too.
It was on this basis that the Dynamics (as they were at that time) finally decided to accept a sponsorship offered to them by the Belgian Newspaper ‘Het Laatste Nieuws” and appeared on the popular show ‘De Gouden Micro’. After that, impressarios throughout Europe indicated an interest in booking them immediately. The Belgian entertainment personality, Albert van Hoogten, became their manager and prevailed upon them to change their name from The Dynamics to The Shake Spears; he thought this was a good play on words for guys from Africa, and was also a reflection of their song writing ability. Besides that, Albert, being extremely astute, knew that the Belgian public loved artists from outside the country, looking up to them. In that way he more or less ‘adopted’ The Shake Spears, just like he did with the Canadian band Les Têtes Blanches.
They signed to the independent Ronnex label (owned by their manager) which was housed on the Rue de Flandre 179, Brussels and released two singles, Shake It Over and Don’t Play Funny Games which both had success at the top of the Belgian Hit Parade between February and April 1965.
In February 1965 the group moved to England to record. Calvin Coleman, the bass player left the group and was replaced by Alan Escombe. The new line up released one single on the EMI-label This Is The End, under the name Teeny & Tony and the Bushbabies, but due to disputes with their music publishing company they returned to Belgium. During their time in England, they added singer Gene Latter to the group and saxophone player Ron Patton who had just completed a world tour with Roy Orbison and met The Shake Spears in London.
Between July and August 1965 they released the hit single Do The Shake Spear.
During this period they were running their own club ‘The Cave’ in Blankenberg (at the seaside) during the holiday season. One month later the single Stop Playing That Song was released and was followed in October with the highly successful, The Saint, a rock instrumental version (recorded live at the Sportspaleis Antwerp) of the theme music from the very popular TV show starring Roger Moore. They toured Belgium extensively for six months playing in virtually every town with a popular following. Although, at the time, English was not as widely spoken as it is today, they still had no problem in communicating through their music. They appeared regularly in TV on both the Flemish and French channels and toured Holland, Germany and France.
In February 1966 they were approached to tour Australia, just at the same time that they released the single Summertime. Even though they were unable to plug the single with live appearances it went straight into the charts. They went to Australia on Tour and stayed for 9 months, taking over a residency at the Chevron Skyline Lounge in Surfers’ Paradise from another Rhodesian group, breaking all crowd records for the duration of their stay. During this period the album, The Shake Spears, was released on the Philips label, containing all their singles and a few extra tracks. Gene Latter did not want to go to Australia and preferred to return to England so he left the group to pursue a solo career. In Australia, Gene Latter was replaced by “Doc” Jones on vocals. In November 1966 the group returned to Belgium as they were still under contract to Ronnex Records. “Doc” Jones had become successful with the Shake Spears and wished to stay in Australia to pursue a solo career, and as a last minute replacement Brain Bastow – who had been heard by the group doing cover versions of Roy Orbison and P.J.Proby – was asked if he would like to try out with the band.
Immediately on return the band were back in the Belgian charts with the double “A” side Jerk/Candle with Brian on vocals. Unfortunately it did not work out with Brian as he found it difficult to sing original material although he was good at cover versions. As a result he was replaced in the group by Martin Piggott on vocals, although the Shake Spears did the backing on two singles for Brian under the name The High Five. (Appearing on the record cover with their backs to the camera as this was not their favoured style of music)!
In February 1967 Perry Jordaan felt really home-sick for Africa, so he left and was replaced by Chris Stone. The new line up released the single Wouldn’t It Be Nice and shortly after this their contract with Ronnex Records expired. They then signed to RCA Records. In June 1967 they released another double “A” side –Something To Believe In/Burning My Fingers. The record was released in France at the same time as Belgium and Burning My Fingers was an immediate hit, becoming ‘record of the week’ on National Radio and Disque Rouge on the most popular TV Rock show in France on the new colour TV programme ‘Bouton Rouge’.
In September 1967, due to musical differences, the group split but the band’s name of the Shake Spears was kept by Alan Escombe, Chris Stone and Martin Piggott who added English guitarist George Wood and drummer Mick Carter. (Mick Carter had been playing with French pop star Michel Polnareff when he first heard the Shake Spears and saw them on French TV ).
In November 1967 the single How Does She Look was released. The song was very popular among American students at the American College in Brussels, and through this and performances at the American College and SHAPE military base, they were approached by an American Agency interested in moving the group to the U.S.A. Before the US tour the group moved to Majorca in February 1968, to rehearse for six months and write new material. Unfortunately during this time their American manager had a heart attack and the tour was postponed indefinitely. The Shake Spears returned to England and after another split in the group decided to change their name to FYNN McCOOL. They signed to RCA England and recorded their first album in June 1968 – but then, the history of FYNN McCOOL is a new story.
Eventually Kris Kritzinger returned to South Africa where his company became one of the top music publishers. He has now (2001) moved to Australia and has his own record company TRANSISTOR RECORDS.
Chris Stone joined the promotions department of DECCA Records, then moved as head of Promotions to APPLE Records, the Beatles Record Company. Eventually he became a Director of Promotions and video for BMG in England.
Alan Escombe opened a company handling world wide airfreight and oceanfreight for groups on tour. The company ROCK-IT CARGO see (www.rockitcargo.com ) & (www.rock-itcargo.com) became the biggest company in the world handling tours for hundreds of artists including U 2, Rolling Stones, Michael Jackson, Eagles, Madonna etc.
BELGIUM / THE SHAKE SPEARS
|1965||Shake it over/Cry for your loving||Ronnex 1336||E 20|
|1965||Midsummernight’s dream/Brussels bound||Ronnex 1339||E 20|
|1965||Do that again/Don’t play funny games||Ronnex 1347||E 20|
|1965||Garden of Eden/Nossi dan||Ronnex 1352||E 20|
|1965||I can’t tell/I know||Ronnex 1356||E 20|
|1965||The shake spear/Give it to me||Ronnex 1360||E 20|
|1965||I’ll go crazy/Stop playing that song||Ronnex 1365||E 25|
|1966||Summertime/What happened||Philips 319763||E 20|
|1966||The saint/Lucifer||Ronnex 1366||E 20|
|1966||Candle/jerk||Ronnex 1372||E 20|
|1968||Our life/Ma-pah||Ronnex 1377||E 20|
|1968||Burning my fingers/Something to believe in||RCA 54 4025||E 15|
|1977||How does she look/Treasure of a woman’s love||RCA 54 4036||E 15|
|1977||Summertime/What happened||Ronnex 1450||E 8|
|1977||LP- Summertime||Tornado 501||E 15|
BELGIUM / GENE LATTER
|1968||A little piece of leather/Funny face girl||CBS 2843||E 7|
|1971||Catch my soul/ Happiness||Ronnex 1430||E 7|
|1972||Rock’n roll is here again/Come on home||Ronnex 1437||E 7|
|1974||Sweet little r &r/Auntie Annie’s place||Vogue 351||E 7|
|1975||Groove it/Red indians don’t cry||BASF 19242||E 7|
|1978||John Travolta, you are/ Touch me||Disco 110||E 6|
|1978||Rock your boat/Funk and hustle||Ronnex 1452||E 5|
|1978||Boogie woogie baby/Geronimo||Ronnex 1454||E 5|
|1979||Rock baby rock/Only you||Ronnex 1458||E 5|
|1984||You’re so sympatico/Melancholy baby||Ronnex 1501||E 4|
|198?||LP – Gene Latter & the Shakespeares||EMI Supersound 4m62069||E 15|
BELGIUM / BRIAN
|1968||& the High Five- Poinciana/Do-dum dum||Ronnex 1378||E 15|
|1968||Look at me/I’m gonna love you||Ronnex 1382||E 8|
|1968||Give and take/And I love her||Ronnex 1385||E 8|
|1968||Come back girl/If I had my way||Ronnex 1388||E 8|
|1969||Too late for tears/I will stay||Ronnex 1395||E 6|
|1969||Cara-lin/Time||Ronnex 1398||E 6|
|1970||The rainmaker/World of evergreen||MCA 2028||E 6|
|1970||The girl who plays the bass/Half hearted||Ronnex 1406||E 6|
|1970||Money and love/Just a little more||Ronnex 1415||E 6|
|1978||I’m gonna love you/Give and take||Ronnex 1453||E 5|
|?||LP Brian||Ronnex LP 011||E 10|
|?||LP Brian||Ronnex LP 012||E 10|
FRANCE/THE SHAKE SPEARS
|1966||Summertime/What happenend||Philips 319763||E 25|
|196?||EP – Summertime/Give it to me/What happened/The shake||Barclay 071036||E 25|
DENMARK/THE SHAKE SPEARS
|1966||The Saint/Lucifer||Ronnex Stu 42551||E 25|
THE NETHERLANDS/THE SHAKE SPEARS
|1966||LP – The Shake Speares||Philips QL 625 276||E 75|
UNITED KINGDOM/TEENY & TONI AND THE BUSHBABIES
|1965||This is the end||EMI|
UNITED KINGDOM/FYNN McCOOL
|1970||U.S.Thumbstyle/Diamond lil||RCA 1956||E 10|
|1970||LP – Fynn McCool (gatefold sleeve)||RCA SF 8112||E 70|