To anyone familiar with the British beat scene of the early Sixties, The Mojos were one of the leading Merseybeat groups and, like The Beatles, were among the first wave of bands from Liverpool to storm the UK charts, in their case with the unforgettable “Everything’s Al’ Right”, a rock ‘n’ roll tour de force powered by singer Stu James’s (b. Stuart Leslie James Slater, 14 July 1945, Liverpool) powerful lead vocals and Terry O’Toole’s dynamic piano playing. Peaking at #9 on the UK charts, it was The Mojos’ biggest hit.
But the equally impressive “Until My Baby Comes Home”, a storming, mod-rocker was The Mojos in name only. Although Stuart James (who worked as Stuart Slater from early 1968) provided the superb, emotionally charged lead vocal, the group was miles away from the Merseyside band that cut a cache of singles for Decca between 1963 and 1967, both in style and sound.
In fact, by the time The Mojos signed with Liberty Records, the group was largely comprised of musicians from Southampton on England’s south coast. It should have been a positive new dawn after years of struggling for recognition, but tragically the group’s potential was cut short.
To find out how Stu James re-launched The Mojos in the early months of 1968, it helps to go back to the very start and September 1962 when the singer/pianist signed up with Anfield, Liverpool group, The Nomads, after nearly joining The Undertakers.
Formed earlier that year as a duo by lead guitarist Roy Woods and bass player Keith Karlson (b. Keith Alcock, 14 August 1944, Liverpool), The Nomads were a blues-based rock group, who briefly featured future Easybeats’ drummer Snowy Fleet from The Four Musketeers before he emigrated to Australia, his place taken by Jon “Bob” Conrad (sometimes spelt Konrad, b. 3 October 1944, Liverpool).
Shortly before Stu James’s arrival, the band added rhythm guitarist and singer Adrian Lord (real name: Adrian Wilkinson), who took over from Roy Woods. Then, in August 1963, on George Harrison’s recommendation, they added pianist Terry O’Toole and recorded the track, “My Whole Life Through”, which was picked up by Oriole Records for the This is Merseybeat compilation LP.
When they found out that another group called The Nomads from Southend-on-Sea had registered the name, the musicians renamed the group The Mojos, taking the name from a popular Muddy Waters song in their set-list, “I Got My Mojo Working”.
The Mojos won a song-writing competition soon afterwards, the fruits of which were a production and publishing contract with Aberback Music. The musicians were soon whisked into the studio to cut their debut single “They Say” c/w “Forever”, which was erroneously released on Decca as The Mojo’s but to limited interest on 30 August 1963.
In September, Adrian Wilkinson left and former Faron’s Flamingos lead guitarist Nicky Crouch (b. 9 February 1943, Aintree, Liverpool) joined what would become the definitive early line-up.
Like many Merseyside bands, The Mojos headed to Hamburg in what was then West Germany for a six-week residency at the famous Star Club. While there, the group cut the single that would come to define its career.
“We recorded ‘Everything’s Al’ Right’ in a church in Hamburg,” recalls James. “I’ve always thought it was plucked from the heavens and it really sounded different on the radio.”
Released on 6 March 1964 and backed by the superb “Give Your Lovin’ To Me”, the single stormed up the UK charts and peaked at #9. However, follow ups, “Why Not Tonight” c/w “Don’t Do It Anymore”, issued on 5 June 1964 (UK #25) and “Seven Daffodils” c/w “Nothin’ At All”, released on 28 August 1964 (UK #30) failed to match the commercial success of the band’s breakthrough single.
James admits the group had poorly chosen material foisted on to musicians by their production company, which also had a label deal that went through Decca Records.
“All with a benefit of hindsight, you slam your foot on the brake and say, ‘Right, what have we really got for a follow up?” ‘Why Not Tonight’ was ‘Everything’s Al’ Right’ written sideways. It really was… It was completely contrived.”
As for “Seven Daffodils”, James recalls that the song “stormed it every night on stage”. Unfortunately, the single’s release was poorly timed.
“We were really pleased with our version and the day ours came out, blow me down, this group called The Cherokees from Leeds put it out as well,” he remembers.
In October 1964, The Mojos faced a mass exodus as Terry O’Toole, Keith Karlson and Bob Conrad all departed to form The Epics; O’Toole later put together a rival Mojos in Liverpool.
James and Crouch relaunched The Mojos bringing in ace drummer Aynsley Dunbar (b. 10 January 1946, Liverpool), who went on to play with a who’s who of rock royalty, including Jeff Beck and Jefferson Starship to name a few, and future actor and half of the Professionals, bass player Lewis Collins (b. 26 May 1946, Bidston, Birkenhead, d. 27 November 2013), son of the band’s road manager Bill Collins. Both were seasoned musicians from the local scene.
“Aynsley was an incredible drummer and an absolute natural,” says James. “Unlike Lewis I had no surprise at all that he made it because he was so good on the drums. There were nights when we’d go on and we wouldn’t get a lot of clapping until he came in on his drum solo.”
Besides working with a few local Liverpool bands, Lewis Collins had previously worked as a hairdresser with Paul McCartney’s brother Mike McGear. His father Bill would soon discover Welsh beat group, The Iveys, who shared a bill with The Mojos in spring 1966, and would take them under his managerial wing, later introducing them to Paul McCartney, who signed the band to Apple where they subsequently found success as Badfinger.
Unfortunately, the single, and its follow up, “Wait A Minute” c/w “Wonder If She Knows”, issued on 10 September 1965 as Stu James & The Mojos, both failed to crack the charts.
Decca began to lose faith in the band and wouldn’t sanction another single. In September 1966, with the band now based in London, Dunbar saw the writing on the wall and jumped ship to join John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, briefly replaced by Stan Bennett. Lewis Collins also departed soon afterwards, working with Robb Storme & The Whispers.
“The problem was we didn’t have anyone guiding us to say, ‘Look, just stick to what you do best’,” says James looking back. “We were all over the shop [stylistically]. On stage, we played ‘Spoonful’ and a lot of genuine blues. Maybe we should have stuck to that.”
James and Crouch rebuilt the band again from scratch bringing in bass player Deke Vernon from Birmingham and Southampton drummer Martin “Cuddles” Smith (aka Steve Snake). The new formation recorded one final single for Decca, “Good-Bye Dolly Grey” c/w “I Just Can’t Let Her Go”, issued on 3 February 1967, before the label dropped the band. Allegedly, the musicians briefly backed Paul and Barry Ryan during this period.
The new-look Mojos struggled through the rest of 1967, which included a bizarre extended engagement at a luxury hotel in the Ivory Coast in West Africa.
The Mojos continued to gig incessantly throughout 1969 during which time local Southampton drum legend Danny Barbour, who’d played with Ricky Brown & The Hi-Lites and The Time among others, took over from Tony House.
Then, as the year turned, The Mojos’ fortunes appeared to have turned. “[Canham] dragged Simon Napier-Bell and Ray Singer along to see us at a gig and they were quite impressed and things moved quite fast with those two guys,” says Campbell.
“It was still The Mojos but it was decided, [we needed a] name change, and the band became, much to my disgust as Natural Birth. It was all out of our hands.”
Produced by Napier-Bell and Singer, the single “Life Is What You Make It To Be” (credited to Rock Horse) c/w Slater’s “Day To Remember” had the commercial potential to be a sizeable hit but success would continue to elude the band.
When the group splintered in the 1970, Harnett briefly joined local legends Fleur De Lys before moving on to a succession of groups.
As for Slater, he would revert to his Stu James stage name and cut two singles with Bradley Records in 1974. He then released a one-off single for United Artists Records in 1977 as Stuart Slater before a final lone release as Stu James two years later for Philips.
During this period, he lived with singer Stephanie De Sykes and together they wrote two UK Eurovision Song Contest entries Co-Co’s “The Bad Old Days” and Prima Donna’s “Love Enough for Two”. Their son Toby was lead singer in 1990s pop band, Catch. Slater ran Chrysalis Music during the 1980s and currently lives in southwest London.
by Nick Warburton
1. My Whole Life Through (Stu James) - 3:00
2. They Say You Found A New Baby (Joy Byers) - 2:28
3. Forever (Adrian Wilkinson) - 2:34
4. Everything's Alright (John Konrad, Keith Karlson, Nick Crouch, Simon Stavely, Stu James) - 2:22
5. Give Your Lovin' To Me (Keith Karlson, Simon Stavely, Stu James) - 2:35
6. Why Not Tonight (Simon Stavely, Stu James) - 2:29
7. Don't Do It Anymore (Stu James) - 1:56
8. Seven Daffodils (Fran Moseley, Lee Hays) - 3:11
9. Nothin' At All (Nick Crouch, Stu James) - 2:46
10.I Got My Mojo Working (Preston Foster) - 3:34
11.The One Who Really Loves You (Smokey Robinson) - 2:34
12.Nobody But Me (O'Kelly Isley, Ronald Isley, Rudolph Isley) - 2:00
13.Comin' On To Cry (Nick Crouch, Stu James) - 3:31
14.That's The Way It Goes (Nick Crouch, Stu James) - 2:39
15.Wait A Minute (Kenny Lynch, Mort Shuman) - 2:54
16.Wonder If She Knows (Nick Crouch, Stu James) - 2:53
17.Goodbye Dolly Gray (Paul Barnes, Will D. Cobb) - 3:02
18.I Just Can't Let Her Go (Jeanette Ross) - 1:57
19.Until My Baby Comes Home (Stu James) - 3:23
20.Seven Park Avenue (Stu James) - 3:05
Track 1 as The Nomads
Tracks 15-16 as Stu James And The Mojos
*Nick Crouch - Lead Guitar, Vocals
*Keith Karlson - Bass Guitar
*Stu James - Vocals
*Terry O’Tool - Piano
*John Konrad - Drums
Stu James And the Mojos
*Stu James - Vocals
*Nick Crouch - Lead Guitar, Vocals
*Lewis Collins - Bass
*Aynsley Dunbar - Drums
1968-69 The Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation - The Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation / Doctor Dunbar's Prescription (2006 two disc set remaster)