Sixties Edinburgh: Meet the Broughton High boys who supported The Who and The Troggs and are still going strong today
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On the corner of Waterloo Place and Leith Street, outside a club that was once a top-floor jazz bar called The Abano, a queue was forming. Inside five aspiring teenage musicians were setting up. As they did, the queue began to grow, eventually stretching the length of Leith Street, down past Rutherford's Bar to Calton Road.
That the queue comprised mostly of pupils from Broughton High came as no surprise. The quintet they were queuing to see were their school pals who, according to word on the street, had made their regular Saturday night covers session, at which they performed songs by the likes of The Rolling Stones, The Animals and Chuck Berry, the only place to be. Hipple People were becoming hot property.
Dave Valentine, lead singer then and now, remembers, “We played two one and a half hour sets and I’d go for a walk up Calton Hill in the half-hour break in between. You didn't think anything of playing three hours in those days.
“Bill Naylor, ran the club. I remember he kept a couple of Alsatians in the lift we had to use to get our equipment up to this tiny little dance hall that would become crammed on a Saturday night… and it just grew and grew. We were on a percentage and every week he would joke the door money was down, before excitedly declaring, ‘£17!’ Back in 1965 that was a lot of money - we got half the takings.”
Lunch times spent rehearsing around an old upright piano in the English department of Broughton High was where the boys - David Valentine, lead guitarist Jim Marshall, Sandy Lax on rhythm guitar, drummer Raymond James and the late John Cross on bass - had first got together to hone their musical talents.
“We were all in the same year. It was probably my idea to form the band as two of my older cousins were in a band called The Zodiax. I saw them playing the Ross Bandstand, my cousin Billy was a real extrovert, out front singing, and I thought, ‘That's what I want to do’.”
The band's name came from a call for suggestions from classmates, although Hipple People was originally at the bottom of the list.
Dave recalls, “We compiled a list. Now, back then, you had bands like Cliff and the Shadows and Gerry and the Pacemakers, so top of the list was Tino and the Tremors, from my name Valentine, I was nicknamed, Tino.
“Then a chap called Norman McCloud, who eventually became an STV announcer, shouted out from the back, ‘Hipple People’. We said, ‘The Hipple People?’ And he said, ‘No. Hipple People’. It went to the bottom of the list... and the rest is history. I still don't know how we chose it. It was so off the wall and way before 1969 and the arrival of the hippies. I don't know where he pulled it from.”
Practising while aspiring to be like other local bands of the time - The Athenians, The Embers and The Crusaders - Hipple People got their first booking in June 1963, at Portobello Youth Club.
“We were also the first band to play at a Broughton High School dance,” says Dave, taking up the story, again. “In fact we were playing gigs Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday in youth clubs and church halls every week while we were still at school.”
Quickly becoming one of the hardest working bands around, when Hipple People won the prestigious Evening News Beat Competition in both 1965 and 1966, demand for their music grew even more and saw booked for venues like The International (known as The Nash) on Princes Street, The Place, Victoria Street, McGoos on the High Street and The Top Storey, Leith Street. However, singing so much “raw blues” took its toll on former choirboy Dave’s vocals.
“When my voice started to crumble a bit we brought in a second singer, Ian Nicol. Two singers was unique for an Edinburgh band and we we became known as Edinburgh's Walker Brothers.”
In 1967, having supported the likes of The Troggs and The Who, the band split, although Dave continued to work using the name until 1969.“When we supported The Who, at McGoo's on the High Street, they were late and we had to play for two hours. We thought they weren't going to appear so we decided to end with one of their numbers, I Can't Explain. When we came off, they were standing at the side of the stage discussing what they were going to open with.”
It was a full 40 years before Dave would be reunited on stage with the original Hipple People.
“They’d come to see me when I was resident pianist at Ryan's Bar,” he explains. “In 2009 I asked if they fancied coming out for a jam session, for old times sake.”
That session became a weekly thing.
Dave says, “When Raymond's daughter was turning 40, she asked if we’d play her birthday party - the very first number we did was Get Ready, it's on YouTube. That was the first time the four of us had played together since 1967. It was fantastic and from there it escalated.
“The same people who came to see us aged 17 and 18 are still coming to see us now, we're playing the same numbers and I'm sure they just marvel that we are still alive. This year we all turn 75.”With 300 years of experience between them… “Don't you dare write that,” he laughs, reflecting, “We thought Hipple People would fizzle out after a couple of years, second time around we've now been playing together twice as long as we did the first time and as long as the people keep coming to see us, we'll keep playing.”
Check out Hipple People’s forthcoming gigs here.