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Letter from
Ken Houghton

The following letter (edited in parts) from Ken Houghton in October 2007 gives extra detail on:

The Kingsmen (close harmony group)
Clitheroe Bandstand (22 May 1965, bookings page)
Melbourne Street Christian Institute, Oswaldtwistle (1 Nov 1969, bookings page)
The Southport Project (22-24 Aug 1964, bookings page)

October 2007

Hello Eddie

I hope that you don't mind me contacting you, I have been idly surfing the net, and have have discovered your web site.

You will not have heard of me, but I was part of a close harmony quartet that was active around the same time as The Crossbeats. We were called The Kingsmen, and hailed from Blackburn. We sang a lot in Liverpool at St George's Hall on a couple of Easter Sundays, and at places like Crete hall, Gordon Hall, and Newsham Park Chapel. As you will have deduced, we belonged to the Brethren, (Gospel Hall) and, as gospel beat groups were frowned upon by them, we were just about tolerated and asked to sing at their functions.

I did hear you at Clitheroe, in the castle grounds (bandstand), and at Melbourne St Christian institute Oswaldtwistle were I ran a youth group. I think that Mike Flemming was the speaker, or it could have been John Dyer, who used us a lot at that time. I couldn't find any record of your booking there but I think it must have been around 1968, after our quartet had broken up (date was 1 Nov 1969). I think the reason I missed your appearances in Blackburn must have been because we were out singing somewhere else.

But we sang at the Ken Terhoven Southport Project, and at the Coffee bar next to the swimming baths. One of our members Brian Ainsworth, had moved to Southport in 1963, and thus became involved with the Southport Project. I seem to recall singing in a tent, and at Parbold. We signed a contract to make a record for the organisation, but apart from Brian hearing us over the PA system at an open air gathering once on Lord Street in Southport, nothing became of it.

We had some wonderful times, at places like Capernwray Hall and Witherslack Hall with the NYLC. Many of the names that appear as speakers on your list of engagements are familiar to me, indeed, one or two of them I classed as friends.

One of your songs that I liked a lot, and stuck in my memory, had a Christmas message, and although I can't remember much about it, some of it has stuck (this could be 'Only God's Son').

I was at a church in Manchester some time ago, to hear some lads from Scotland who were excellent, but who charged £500 a gig; how things have changed. Many was the time that we didn't get owt', but we didn't mind, we just loved the work, and I miss it still. Thankfully all we had to buy was music, unlike you lads, having to buy amps and everything, that must have been hard work.

Anyway, I have enjoyed visiting your web site, thank you very much for the privilege, and I would love to hear from you should you get a minute. Incidentally, could the surname of the chap "Norman?" (16 Nov 1963 - bookings page) have been Dean? I think he was from Stoke on Trent.

Best Wishes

Ken Houghton from Blackburn Lancs

And later, Ken wrote the following:

The Kingsmen started in about 1958 under the splendidly ostentatious title of, 'The pilgrims for Jesus Quartet'.  I'm afraid that the quality of the singing, was not compatible with such an impressive name.  Founder members were, Brian Ainsworth, Frank Harwood, bass, JIm Balderstone, first tenor and myself, second tenor.  We must have had a strange sound, because Brian's voice hadn't broken then.  On reflection, that is probably the reason that we didn't get any bookings.  But we didn't allow anything trivial as a serious dearth of talent to put us off, and we subjected whoever we could corner, like sick folk domiciled in hospital and unable to escape, to listen, without the slightest compunction or embarrassment.

The big talent in our line up was Frank Harwood who had a tremendous bass voice, without him in our midst, we would never have reached the heights of mediocrity that we attained.  Unfortunately, Frank died last year of leukaemia, such a tragic loss of a great lad, and class one crackpot, and one whose loss, I still find hard to get my head around

After I had completed my National Service in 1961, we reformed, and became,The Kingsmen, our inspiration coming from 'The Crystal River Quartet' from Belfast (who I heard sing when Eric Hutchings held his campaign in Preston in the early fifties), and also from 'The Evangelaires', who hailed from Preston, and who were frequent visitors to the churches, in and around Blackburn.

We were taken under the wing of a rather severe, and serious minded gentleman named Les Grimshaw, who forbad us to sing anything that he didn't approve of.  Somehow, he instilled some musical discipline into us, and so, hiding behind Frank's bass, we sang together until he emigrated to Canada around 1966.  By this time the line up had changed by one, Peter Houghton coming in, for Jim Balderstone.  We were quite well received in your neck of the woods (Liverpool), and enjoyed some marvellous times of fellowship there.

We also sang in Sheffield quite a bit,and did a week's campaign in a place called Gleadless in Sheffield with John Dyer, and Don Hinchcliffe, where we lived in a caravan on the field next to the marquee in which the meetings were held.

You made reference to the young folk doing the outreach work in Southport (Southport project), I believe that they were known as 'delegates', and had been trained in the weeks and months leading up to the actual project.  As a matter of fact I am almost sure that Brian from our group, was one of them, along with his future wife Sara; Brian had moved to Southport, a year or so previously.  This meant, of course that either he had to travel to Blackburn sometimes twice a week to practice, or the three of us to Southport.

Happy days.


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