DANDO SHAFT (Dando Shaft on My Space (run by Dave Cooper) Listen to some of the tracks
circa 1968 -72 - also one-off reunions
Dando Shaft are one of Coventry's foremost groups and excellent musicians and songwriters.
Lineup: Martin Jenkins (mandola/ Mandolin / Flute / fiddle / Vocals / Songwriter), Dave Cooper (guitar/ Songwriter), Kev Dempsey (lead guitar), Roger Bullen (Upright bass), 'Bongo' Ted Kay (tabla / percussion), joined by Polly Boulton (vocals) after first album.
Popular band made 3 albums during lifetime plus 'reunion' album in 1978. Jenkins later played with Bert Jansch. One Day Thomas / WhipperSnapper (with Dave Swarbrick), Hedgehog Pie, Mathew's Southern Comfort.
An Evening With ... (Youngblood 1970 SSYB006)
Dando Shaft S/T (Neon 1971 NE6)
Lantaloon (Neon 1972 SF8256)
Kingdom (Rubber 1978 RUB034 )
Sun Clog Dance (RCA 1972 2246)
From the Dando Shaft Compilation album - Reaping the Harvest.
Darrell Viner (Dave Cooper alerted me to the interesting story of innovative artist / sculptor / lightshow designer before Pink Floyds- Darell Viner - a long-time friend of Dando Shaft - click to view this post on the Hobo site)
“Some may be disappointed that Dando Shaft is not some exotic sexual appliance…The name, according to Kevin Dempsey, who was ever present during the group’s 5 year lifespan, was taken from a character in a novel, who advertised in the national press to become a ‘people’s millionaire’, which he achieved.” However “Fellow Shafter Martin Jenkins reckons ‘that it was a bawdy American comedy novel, which wasn’t at all profound.’ Written, he thinks by someone with a name like Guy Calhoun. One of the few surviving press cuttings about the band suggests ‘The name is misleading – cribbed from the title of a pornographic thriller, it suggests an abundance of well oiled sex” “The bottom line is the group chose the name because it had a nice ring to it rather than because they felt any connection with the novel or its characters and a number of bands were naming themselves after a book at the time.
The group formed in Coventry during 1968. One
intersting aspect of Dando Shaft's direction was that they were keen on traditional folk. Jenkins having launched his musical career as a guitarist in a ceilidh band, but rather than selecting material from the traditional repertoire and modernising or rearranging it, they resolved to to write their own material in the style of traditional folk musch, much as did Fairport Convention did during the same era. Apart from stylistic orgininalty, the group's major weapon was the stunning interplay between Dempsey and Jenkins, which continued in Whippersnapper (the quartet formed by Dave Swarbrick when he left Fairport Convention. Perhaps surprising in view of his remarkable prowess as a guitarist, Dempsey started his musical career as a drummer, following in his father's footsteps, and in fact was a drummer in several bands in the 60's - Dando was the first band in which he played guitar. Jenkins also took up fresh instruments upon Dando's formation - previously a guitarist around Solihull, he toured Germany with a band in 1963, but returned to Britain broke, at which point he sold his equipment to pay his debts and bought an acoustic guitar, because he felt a greater affinity with folk and blues, than with what was then called 'beat music. During the mid 60's, he led a traditional folk group - The Cockade - by which time he had moved to Coventry where he met Kev Dempsey, who was also a prominent local musician'. Kevin Demsey was friends with Dave Cooper, and after jamming together, they got on so well that they decided to form Dando Shaft, which was when Jenkins took up Mandolin and Violin. At this point the band began to be influenced by Bulgarian music - although it was evident on their first album 'we were at John Martyn's house and he played un Music of Bulgaria' - it took our breath away!' said Jenkins 2 I had a big old house without electricity for nine or ten months and that was where Dando rehearsed - we would play solidly for hours on a tune. Dave Cooper was a great songwriter, which inspired us all, and because the house didn't have electricity, we couldn't even listen to the radio during the band's formative period.
The first stab of at recording came when they went down to Pye Studios in London to cut a single. As Dempsey
remebers, 'The session had been booked for Johnny Silvo' (a long-time staple of the UK folk scene) So our manager, Sandy Glennon, suggested using Silvo's studio time to record a demo for a possible single - which was how they started working with Miki Dallon, who produced all three albums. Dallon was impressed and immediately suggested making a complete album. We all sat in a semi-circle and recorded the album live and because he was an old rocker, he found us interesting and unusual. So we made our first album in two four hour sessions on a Sunday - An Evening with Dando Shaft - which was released on Youngbood in 1970, a small label which also released such hits as In a Broken Dream - by Python Lee Jackson (with Rod Stewart as lead vocalist) and Don Fardon's Indian Reservation and according to Dempsey, the record was favourably reviewed by NME and MM, and in America, where it was released on US Decca, in Cashbox and Billboard.
In 1970, after the first album was released, the group expanded to include Poly Boulton, a dynamic and criminally unrecognised singer from Leamington Spa, who later appeared on albums by Ashley Hutchings - By Glouster Docks I Sat Down and Wept and a live album by the Albion band as well as recording a solo album in 1988. Dempsey said - We always wanted a female singer, especially for my songs - Martin and Dave both sang the songs they wrote but I didn't and I wanted someone else to sing the songs I wrote.. we also knew who we wanted -we'd heard Polly because she used to sing with June Tabor nad Roger the bass player and I went down to the Sidmout folk festival and invited her here to audition. We also auditioned Linda Peters (who became Linda Thompson and turned her down - mostly on stylistic grounds rather than ability. Polly sand Riverboat, a song I'd written but couldn't sing.
Polly Boulton tells a slightly different story - I wasn't aware of them wanting me until I joined. As far as I know they
had only heard me sing choruses from a bar in a folk club in Coventry - and I had no ambition to become a singer. I joined the band in 1970 when I was still at Swansea University doing a Zooology degree (I wanted to live in the Jungle - well the music business is quite a jungle I suppose! We all lived in a big overcrowded house in Ealing.
The group moved to London after a change of mangement, which came about after they opened for Mathew's Southern Comfort, who were overseen by a notable managerial duo Howard and Blaikley, best known for the long run of hits they produced for Dave Dee Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich. Ian Mathews was sufficiently impressed with Jenkins to use him on the second Mathew Southern Comfort album - Second Spring.
It was perhaps Howard and Blaikley's successful track record which partially convinced the short lived (and nowadays incredibly collectible) Neon Label (an RCA subsidary) to sign Dando Shaft in 1971. (Another top Coventry band - Indian Summer were also signed to RCA Neon in the same year). The groups's eponymous second album (and the first with Polly Boulton) was unleased and despite even greater critical acclaim, commercially vanished, probably due to large extent to the Neon Label folding. Even so it was the band's biggest selling album of their first three. "We'd developed as songwriters, we had Polly and we were on a bigger label. We toured a lot at that time, working with acts like matheew's Southern Comfort, Status Quo, Brian Auger and Osibisa, who we supported at the
Lyceum, and we also played a lot at the Roundhouse.
Jenkins also feels that Dando Shaft was a signicficant improvement, although we always had a problem with the way
our albums were mixed - for example Kevin and Dave played these fine guitar patterns but the engineer just didnt seem to understand what we were trying to do, and Miki Dallon didn't really have enough knowledge of our kind of music. We moved to being managed by Howard and Blaikley soon after making the Youngblood album, and in retrospect, its hard to know whether things could have gone any better than they did, but we were nver their highest priority, because apart from Mathew's Southern Comfort and Dave Dee Dozy etc, they also looked after The Herd and Flaming Youth. Peter Framton and Phil Collins!.
After Neon was extinguished (by the departure of its founder, one seems to recall) the group transferred to the main RCA label for what turned out to be a final album before going thier separate ways. Lantaloon was less successful than Dando Shaft and it's not regarded by Dando Shaft as the album for which they'd like to be remembered.
Jenkins reckons the group split up before the third album was released. Polly felt that she wasn't contributing much singing despite all the travelling and nobody seemed interested in her problems - she felt she'd abandoned her career in Zooology for this music which she wasn't getting much from - To be fair 'I felt I didn't share their 'missionary zeal' as I wasn't with them from the very start of the band. Polly ws the first to leave 'I got a job in apub' - Kevin and Polly moved to the States until1976, working as a duo and part of Blue Aquarius, an immense 26 person group with Jazzy inclinations. On their return to Britain, the duo played in a Coventry rock band ABOUT TIME
with sax player Paul Dunmall who has also played with both Johnny Guitar Watson and Danny Thompson. Martin Jenkins joined The noted Newcastle folk group Hedgehog Pie, appearing on their Green Lady album before becoming involved for around five years with Bert Jansch on whoose album Avocet he also appears as part of Bert Jansch's Conundrum. It was Martin who was approached in 1984 by Dave Swarbrick to join Whippersnapper, and it was Martin who suggested that Kevin Demsey should also join the group. On Kevin's return to Blighty, he joined a jazz/funk outfit known as Pzazz, from where he rejoined Martin in Whippersnapper, while Polly moved to Shropshire (where she still lives) and gave up singing for six years while resetabilishing her own horticultural business after returning to college to take a teaching diploma - until Ashley Hutchings asked her to perform on Gloucester Docks. Dave Cooper became a sculptor after taking a fine art degree and left Britain for a year in Australia at the start of 1990. Ted Kay's now a photographer and Roger Bullen is a folk singing instructor!
Abridged form John Tabler on the sleeve of Reaping the Harvest - a Dando Shaft Compilation from the three albums
published in 1990”
And here's a review off the net -
‘Starting as a five piece folk band, Dando Shaft initiated a completely unique mixture of acoustic folk (none of the instruments were electrically amplified!) with driving rhythms and impeccable inventive musicianship. The lyrics are largely concerned with the relationship between man and nature, resulting in titles such as Rain / Cold Wind / September Wine. As the first three tracks on their first album. They marvel in complicated structures and textures and are able to weave very intricate patterns, especially between mandolin (played in a highly original manner) guitar and violin. Very characteristic is also the combination of hand-beaten percussion and double bass. After a change of label they acquired the services of a female singer, Polly Bolton, who had a pure and very expressive voice. Their second album brings in some elements of Bulgarian folk music (asymmetrical time-measures) but is very stamped by Polly’s vocals and superb original compositions such as Whispering Ned, a rather funny drug song and above all the achingly beautiful Riverboat. Preoccupation with travelling becomes discernible in Railway (a live favourite) and Kalyope Driver. After Neon folded, they made another album on RCA, very much continuing in the same direction, although not as good as their previous effort. Road Song is another pulsating travel-song and Black Prince of Paradise equals any track on the second album. Rumour has it, that another album was recorded at RCA, but due to lack of commercial
Personal Recollections from Trevor - My first knowledge of Dando Shaft came from former school friend turned hippy Mick Burns slightly before I was involved with the Covnetry Music scene in 1969 - I saw the poster here on his wall and he gave it to me - I had to see this band and indeed I saw them many timesin Covnetry at the Umbrella club, Lanch Poly, Warwick University, The Walsgrave (One of Pete Waterman's Venue), The Mercers Arms, The City Arms, the Plough Club and who knows where else. I met the band on a few ocassions mostly in the light of trying to book them for the Umbrella Club or to talking to Martin about his post Dando Shaft bands in 1973 /4. The last time I spoke to Martin was at the Fletch in 1981 where he was playing with Bert Jansch - Martin came over and spoke. I had moved to Teesside by then and was just visiting home. Whispering Ned and Waves Across the Ether were some of our favourite songs along with some of Dave Cooper's early songs - Pass it on etc. Here are some pieces from Hobo magazine in 1974 about the re-formed Dando and some of Martin's other bands.
Personal Recollections from Trevor -
My first knowledge of Dando Shaft came from former school friend turned hippy Mick Burns slightly before I was involved with the Covnetry Music scene in 1969 - I saw the poster here on his wall and he gave it to me - I had to see this band and indeed I saw them many timesin Covnetry at the Umbrella club, Lanch Poly, Warwick University, The Walsgrave (One of Pete Waterman's Venue), The Mercers Arms, The City Arms, the Plough Club and who knows where else. I met the band on a few ocassions mostly in the light of trying to book them for the Umbrella Club or to talking to Martin about his post Dando Shaft bands in 1973 /4. The last time I spoke to Martin was at the Fletch in 1981 where he was playing with Bert Jansch - Martin came over and spoke. I had moved to Teesside by then and was just visiting home. Whispering Ned and Waves Across the Ether were some of our favourite songs along with some of Dave Cooper's early songs - Pass it on etc. Here are some pieces from Hobo magazine in 1974 about the re-formed Dando and some of Martin's other bands.
From Hobo Magazine -
ONE DAY THOMAS is the name of Martin Jenkin's new band (formerly of Dando Shaft)
The new band features other established personalities such as Barry Skinner on guitar and vocals / John Mckintosh on double bass and John Astle on drums. Martin plays guitar, fiddle, mandolin and flute. They are of course an electric band and most of the material is far removed from that of Dando Shaft. They play mostly jigs and reels and electrified folk songs.
DANDO - NEW PHASE (Reformed with Rod Felton for a Play on the Car industry - You Must be Joking at the Belgrade Theatre 1974
Dando Shaft may be reformed in the near future with original members Martin Jenkins on fiddle and mandolins, Ted Kaye on congos and other percussion and joined by Rod Felton on guitar and Baz Andruszko on bass and accordian. But at the moment they are fulfilling other commitments. Martin, who recently wrote and played the music for the Belgrade's production Little Red Riding Hood has another production in London. Rod is due for a tour of Germany, I believe.
Mathew's SOUTHERN COMFORT
Southern Comfort has, I'm told, been graced with the talents of Coventry's Martin Jenkins, late of the Coventry band Dando Shaft. Martin, who writers some incredible songs (Whispering Ned, Waves Across the Ether) and plays Mandolin, flute and fiddle (etc.), has been featured as a guest on a previous Southern Comfort album.