Exclusive: Harrogate's Top Ten All Time Music Acts revealed

Some of the musicians' names in this, the first-ever survey of the Top Ten Music Acts of All Time From Harrogate, will be names readers will have heard of, others not.

Thursday, 2nd June 2016, 12:33 pm
Updated Thursday, 2nd June 2016, 2:13 pm
Number one! Ripon's Brian Dunn, back, far right, with Joe Brown and the Bruvvers in the 1960s.

Some are famous in their own right. Others are more obscure figures who’ve played a major part in million-selling songs, albums or video games.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had to defend the idea of Harrogate having any sort of rock n roll tradition, such is the grip of tradition and tearooms over the town's reputation.

Not only to outsiders but people who live in the Harrogate area themselves.

From Harrogate or not? Mercury Prize winners Alt-J.

But names such as Snake Davis, Utah Saints, Alt-J and Zoot and the Roots all prove that Harrogate is, in more ways than one, a bit of a rock n roll town.

Harrogate's Top Ten All Time Music Acts

1 60s legend Brian Dunn (guitarist for Joe Brown/Marty Wilde)

Such was late Ripon/Harrogate musician Brian Dunn’s stature in wider British rock n roll history that when he died last year in Harrogate tributes were paid to him by the likes of Joe Brown, Marty Wilde and The Searchers.

From Harrogate or not? Mercury Prize winners Alt-J.

As a member of Joe Brown and the the Bruvvers he appeared on some of Brown’s seminal recordings such as A Picture of You (a UK number 2) and It Only Took A Minute (a UK number 6) on Piccadilly Records.

Brian knew The Beatles and The Rolling Stones personally and he was baby-sitter to a very young Kim Wilde.

2 70s prog rockers Wally (produced by Bob Harris & Rick Wakeman)

Signed by manager, the legendary music broadcaster Bob Harris to big-time record label Atlantic Records in the days of long-hair and flares in the early 1970s, Harrogate-based Wally have, perhaps, come the closest of any true Harrogate band to achieving national success with their two classic albums Wally and Valley Gardens.

They reformed successfully six years ago for an acclaimed new album Montpellier and two reunion shows in Harrogate.

This folky-country-esque prog band's story is told in a new, large-size, glossy book by Harrogate author and photographer Stuart Rhodes.

3 Living sax legend Snake Davis (played with all the greats)

Once described as one of the world’s best-kept secrets, this fantastically-talented musician (he also plays Japanese flute!) lived in Harrogate as a teenager and played with local band Zoot & The Roots before playing on hits like Take That’s A Million Love Songs, as well as People’s Moving On Up.

The list of top musicians his sax sound has blessed is incredible - from George Michael to Paul McCartney.

4 Alt-indie art rock kings Alt-J (currently big in America)

The music press may describe them as being a “Leeds band” but the quirky and ultra intelligent Alt-J who won the Mercury Prize in 2012 with their debut album An Awesome Wave have strong Harrogate roots.

At least one member, drummer Thom Green hails from the town, having gone to Woodfield Primary School in Bilton.

5 90s Rave duo Utah Saints kings of dance music)

Famous for hits like What Can You Do For Me (number ten) and the Kate Bush-sampling Something Good (number four), ‘Rave’ era electronic dance duo Tim Garbutt and Jez Willis originally met each other while as music promoters and DJ’s at the now long-gone Mix nightclub in Harrogate in the early 1990s.

6 Lo fi legend Bill Callahan (cult US singer-songwriter)

Enigmatic and famously gloomy Bill Callahan first found indie fame with his band Smog having spent several years as a youngster at primary school in Knaresborough.

7 Smurfs godfather Barry Corbett (and he supported The Beatles)

As well as his band Barry Corbett and His Mustangs appearing as a support act to The Beatles at Harrogate’s Royal Hall in 1963 along with Bob Mason and his Apaches, Barry has been the long-time writer of songs for world-wide phenomenon the mulit-million-selling children’s favourites The Smurfs who enjoyed a number one hit in 16 countries in 1978 with The Smurf Song led by Father Abraham, (aka Pierre Kartner).

8 Current tribute kings UK Foo Fighters (biggest in UK)

Having played with the real Dave Grohl, the Harrogate and Nidderdale-based band UK Foo Fighters are now the UK's number one Foos tribute band, headlining their own tours of O2 Academies round the UK. Formed by Jay Apperley, the line-up also includes fellow local lads Jamie Valentine (lead guitar), Arron Warner (bass), Nick Wight (keyboards) and Alex Bailey (drums).

9 80s soul masters Zoot & The Roots (Harrogate’s best-ever live band)

One of Harrogate’s greatest-ever live bandsthat put sax player Snake Davis on the road to fame, this seven-piece Blues Brothers-esque soul revue band got so big in the late 1980s they even appeared on Ben Elton’s Saturday Night Live show on ITV.

10 Video games composter Grant Kirkhope (international award winner)

Little known outside his own industry where is a bit of a legend, after the demise of soul revue band Zoot and the Roots in the late 1980s, Grant Kirkhope switched from trumpet to guitar to form metal band Creed in Harrogate with local musicians including lead singer Paul Kettley.

Brought up in Knaresborough, Grant is now a BAFTA-nominated soundtrack composer, mainly for hit video games.

Are they from Harrogate or not?

1. Magna Carta. This massively succcessful folk-tinged progressive rock group formed in London in the 1960s and enjoyed million sellers in the early 1970s with albums such as Seasons and Lord of the Ages. Their sole original member now is founder Chris Simpson who was born in Harrogate with family connections to Hampsthwaite, Pateley Bridge and Ripley.

2. Kaiser Chiefs. Technically a Leeds band (!), they were first reviewed in print as Runston Parva in 1998 in Harrogate Advertiser reporter Graham Chalmers' Harrogate-Leeds-York-based music mag. Plus in 2008 the parents of lead singer Ricky Wilson sold his family home. Where was it located? The Anchorage on Leeds Road, Harrogate.

Bubbling under

1. America*.

The songwriter and lead singer of easy listening band America was born at Menwith Hill. This mainly acoustic act were particularly big in America in the 1970s where A Horse with No Name was a huge hit and was later used in cult TV show Breaking Bad. *Thanks to reader Jonathan Peasgood for the tip-off.

2. Sulk.

Featuring Jon Sutcliffe, a charismatic Harrogate Stone Roses fan on lead vocals, this London-Swedish indie-psychedelic guitar band's debut album Graceless won them a UK tour with The Charlatans.

3. Wilma.

Led by the multi-talented Dan Webster who these days heads-up acclaimed alt-pop band The Birdman Rallies, this teenage power-pop trio featuring bassist John Davey and drummer Craig Lee won York Battle of the Bands at Fibbers in 1996 a year or two after Shed Seven finished third. Danny and Wilma remain the only Harrogate band to this day to have won such a major competition.