Fat Grapple

Fat Grapple
File:Eddie Jobson 1973.jpg In my daily blogging I have tended to write about gigs of major bands that I have attended, in most cases including a scan of a ticket or a programme or both. Well in the case of this band, I am afraid that I don’t have either a ticket or a programme. I also found it very difficult to find any image relating to the band that I could use. I guess most people will not have heard of Fat Grapple, but I just couldn’t move from letter F to G without mentioning them. Fat Grapple came from the North East of England (Billingham to be precise) and featured a young Eddie Jobson before he moved on to Curved Air, Rozy Music and prog rock fame. The picture I have here is of violinist Eddie Jobson in his days with Roxy music.I saw them a few times at local gigs in Sunderland Locarno, and they were just amazing, and it was very clear that Eddie was a virtuoso musician and a star in the making. The first time I saw Fat Grapple was at one of the regular Friday night gigs at the Locarno. All we knew was that they were a local band, and none of us had heard of them before. There was only a small crowd that night but they just blew us away with a blend of prog rock, and a great violin player that they introduced as “the beautiful Edwin”. This was the young Eddie Jobson of course, who was totally unknown at the time. He was great, playing covers of Jig a Jig, Curved Air’s interpretation of Vivaldi, and Hava Nagila, and stole the show. We all went crazy and called them back for encore after encore. They got such a great reception that they were booked again for the following week, and the place was packed this time; the word had clearly got around just how good this band were. It wasn’t long before Eddie had joined Curved Air. Fat Grapple continued to gig up and down the country into the mid 70s, by which time Eddie Jobson had left the band. They also produced a single in 1975, called Happy in the Lord. I remember that they had a song Skinhead Sandy which I thought was particularly catchy and was a live favourite. It had lyrics something like: I-I-I-I-I-I said, I’ve Got no hair on top of my head, So I-I-I-I-I’ll be a Skinhead said Sandy. I wish I could find a recording of it, or even better some video footage of the band, but I have searched and I suspect nothing exists.

19 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Steve on April 10, 2014 at 4:40 pm

    Thanks for posting about Fat Grapple. I have been searching for any references to them on the web for a very long time.
    I remember seeing them a few times at Cheltenham Town Hall in 1973/74. They were excellent. I think they supported Back Door (who were The Nice without Keith Emerson and with Patrick Moraz instead.) I remember the Whaling Song. I’d love to get hold of any mp3s by Fat Grapple!


    • Posted by vintagerock on April 10, 2014 at 4:46 pm

      Yes Fat Grapple were great Steve. I think the band you refer to were Refugee (the Nice with Patrick Moraz). I saw them at Newcastle City Hall and they were pretty good. Back Door were a jazzy rock band featuring Colin Hodgkinson on (amazing) bass. I remember seeing them support the Groundhogs once (I think). I’ll be writing about Refugee one day very soon Cheers and thanks for your interest Peter


  2. Posted by Steve on April 15, 2014 at 2:22 pm

    Thanks Peter, you are absolutely correct, it was Refugee, of course. I definitely saw Fat Grapple twice so maybe they supported Back Door on the other occasion. Keep up the good work.

    All the best


  3. Posted by philwelton on November 1, 2014 at 10:09 am

    Hi there VWL and thank you for your very kind comments about Fat Grapple, of which I was a member (lead singer, guitar and penny whistle on Whaling Song. We actually formed in Newcastle in July 71. Lionel Gibson (lead guitar), Nick Liddell (bass), Rob Wilkinson (drums) and John Saxby ( vocals) had been in a school band – The Warriors , Barnard Castle School – and were reforming at the end of University. I was in a band with Nick at Dundee University – Childhood’s End – and we were writing songs together. He brought me along and I was allowed in. We all felt we needed keyboards/ strings to complete the sound and advertised, no kidding, in the Northern Echo. I was sitting on the wall outside our house one day when a lad in a school Mac arrived and asked if this was where Fat Grapple lived. This was Eddie. We were amused and a little patronising until we heard him play, at which point we were determined to get him into the band. We all went to meet his parents and they accepted we would look after him and allowed him to come and live with us. We played covers in working men’s clubs all summer while developing our own material. Our first real gig as us was supporting Curved Air, Eddie was beside himself and trotted round to play ‘Vivaldi’ for Darryl Way. His talent was not lost on the rest of Curved Air and about a year later they phoned him at Newcastle City Hall just before we were going on and offered him Darryl’s job. The rest is history. We replaced him with a great man, John Prior, violin, keyboards , flute and brilliant arranger. We had a great manager by then, Barrie Marshall, who got us a deal with United Artists, but it didn’t work out as we were too much of a variety act at a time when boogie and punk were coming along. We made an album which UA didn’t like and a single they didn’t ‘t release ( though Beeb records lined it and put it out in 1975 – Happy In The Lord with My Friends and I on B side) and we wanted to ‘take a break’ in about Oct 73 and cond back together after Christmas. Barrie felt we had reached end of road and very gently disbanded us. But it was an absolutely fantastic couple of years. I retired a couple of years ago and am now in three bands in a musical hotbed – Deal, Kent – and am still in touch with Nick and Lionel and recently got back in touch with Rob. Trent Sound, an on- line radio station in Nottingham recently played ‘Happy In The Lord’ and ‘My Friends and I’ on their Monday evening show ‘A World Of Difference’ (20.10.2014) and followed up by playing ‘The Whaling Song’ the following Monday 27th. All now on YouTube. Still sounds good. Thanks again for your very kind comments.


    • Posted by vintagerock on November 1, 2014 at 10:21 am

      Many thanks indeed Phil. I have great memories of incredible gigs by Fat Grapple, particularly those gigs at Sunderland Locarno Best wishes Peter


      • Posted by philwelton on November 1, 2014 at 10:25 am

        You are very welcome, Peter. I am mindbogglingly impressed with your ability to remember all this stuff and now have most of what you have produced in a ‘Vintage Weblog ‘ email folder which I can dip into when the mood takes me. Were you a Sunderland lad?

      • Posted by vintagerock on November 1, 2014 at 10:49 am

        Thanks Phil Yes I am born and bred Sunderland and live there still. My memory is not so good these days, I am afraid 🙂 Thanks for your support Best wishes Peter

    • Posted by Michael A. Sadava on January 27, 2020 at 6:55 pm

      Hey Phil: For some reason I was thinking of your song Happy in the Lord (no,I’m not born again) and I remember hanging out with you a bit in Edinburgh around 1974 or so. We jammed a couple of times. I don’t know if you remember a skinny Canadian hippy student with a beat-up telecaster, which I still own. Anyhow, hope the royalties are still pouring in.


      • Posted by philwelton on January 27, 2020 at 7:48 pm

        Hi there, Mike, I do remember you so well, my friend! How lovely to hear from you! I do hope you are well and happy and, I hope, still playing music. My email is philipwelton@btinternet.com (and I clearly don’t care who knows it.) Please contact me for longer discussion and update.

  4. Posted by Clive Carr on August 23, 2015 at 8:45 am

    Fat Grapple were probably the best band ever to play at Bellingham Town Hall!

    Really in the early 70s they were the best local band in the North East.

    I was speaking with Ray Laidlaw from Lindisfarne fame trying to remember the fiddle player – he but me onto this blog. Brings back so many good meories.


    • Posted by vintagerock on August 23, 2015 at 9:06 am

      Hi Clive Yes I agree Fat Grapple were in a class of their own. Happy days Peter


    • Posted by philwelton on August 23, 2015 at 6:46 pm

      Hi Clive thanks for your very kind words about Fat Grapple for whom I was lead singer. As Pete says, happy days. We were actually based in Newcastle and recruited the young and brilliant Eddie Jobson through an advert in the Northern Echo. Glad to know our efforts are still remembered. Cheers. Phil Welton.


  5. For a long time (no longer, alas) I had a cassette I’d made of an edition of the Pete Drummond Show which featured Fat Grapple and Jake Thackray in specially recorded sessions. Looking at the genome Radio Times website, I’m guessing this was the edition of the show:


    One of the songs featured were Happy In the Lord (which I think I prefer to the Beeb Records version as it was marginally more tongue in cheek, if I recall). Unfortunately I wasn’t allowed to stay up to record the second hour so I never had a recording of Skinhead Sandy, though it made me laugh as I listened to it on the radio. There was a song called Let’s Roll, though I can’t recall for certain if it was Fat Grapple. Naughty Pete Drummond introduced by saying: “Now, if you’ve got your papers …”

    The show kicked off with Ronnie Hawkins’ cover of Maybelline from the album Rock’n’Roll Resurrection and Jake Thackray sang songs from his Bantam Cock album including The Jolly Captain, Brother Gorilla and Sister Josephine.

    Incidentally the cassette was a good quality VHF recording which I didn’t chuck – but I left a lot of stuff in the family home which was eventually thrown out without my knowledge.


  6. Posted by Steve W on July 21, 2017 at 10:50 pm

    Loved Fat Grapple and saw them a number of times at Cheltenham Town Hall as well as an outdoor concert at Cheltenham Town FC. A cassette recording exists of this cracking gig which is a fine testament to a great band.


  7. Posted by ettrick on August 16, 2018 at 8:33 pm

    I ‘worked’ for Fat Grapple’s Lionel in Newcastle’s (in)famous Grott* Guitars in the late 80s. He was an amazing player. He used to punt loads of Spanish guitars to parents for their kids at Xmas just by demo-ing them for 20 seconds or so. It was great to watch. Top bloke!

    *He ‘borrowed’ the name Grott from Reggie Perrin, who opened a chain of mad shops selling total useless crap and called Grot, in the second series of the TV show. Eee the stories I could tell about Grott Guitars. But won’t.


  8. Here’s another ‘ I worked for Fat Grapple’s Lionel Gibson’. He had his house just off St Thomas’s Sq in the town centre. When I stopped working at Paul Garvey Music- a shady outfit, I went to work for Lionel making drums in his back yard. Frozen to the bone most of the time. I really enjoyed working for Lionel. Great sense of fun and a true one off. A pleasure to know him. If anyone sees this and knows Lionel please pass on my regards. Richard Miller. Worked foŕ Lionel around December 1981/82 a few years before he opened Grot.


  9. I was there and totally agree they blew up a storm. I thought “these people are going places ” and came back to see them again. I never found out what happened to them until I discovered Google. Nevertheless happy days. The memories remain (unless I get dementia)


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