Saturday, February 07, 2015

Nero and the Gladiators - Nero and the Gladiators (1961-64)

This short-lived UK instrumental pop group was formed by guitarist Mike O’Neill who, having been informed that he resembled a Roman emperor, dubbed himself Nero and took to wearing a toga. 

Mike O'Neill (Nero) - lead vocals, keyboards
Colin Green - lead guitar
Rod Slade  "Boots" - bass, vocals
Laurence Joseph "Laurie Jay" - drums

Don (The Yank) Adams - lead guitar
Keith Charles - lead guitar
Joe Moretti - lead guitar
Tony Harvey - lead guitar
Diz Disley - lead guitar
Buddy Monroe - lead guitar
Tommy Brown - drums
Tommy Frost - drums
John Urquhart - lead guitar
James Tomkins "Big Jim Sullivan" - lead guitar
Jim Cannon - bass
Mick Jones - lead guitar
Ralph Danks - lead guitar
Alan Bugby - bass
Chris Gillies - bass
Richard Walsh - drums
Bobby Woodman "Bobby Clarke" - drums
John Barber - lead guitar
Ray Smith - bass
Dave Gibbson - tenor saxophone

Nero (Mike O'Neill) had previously played keyboards as a member of 'The 'Cabin Boys', the backing group of Tommy Steele's less famous brother- Colin Hicks. He and bassist 'Boots' Slade had formed the Gladiators originally with Laurie Jay on drums and Colin Green on lead guitar in January 1960. Green was then the lead with Billy Fury's backing musicians the 'Beat Boys' who would later become 'Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames'. It was this Gladiator's line up that recorded the classic guitar led instrumental, 'Entry Of The Gladiators'. The follow up - 'In The Hall Of The Mountain King', with its wonderful vocal intro- "Ah, say there Brutus, like, where is this King's pad?", featured the guitar work of Joe Moretti and drums of Tommy Brown, as did 'Bleak House'. Apart from these sessions, Joe also spent several months on the road in the band's ever changing personnel.
Despite the minor success of the first singles, the original line-up didn't last long and Green moved off to take care of what he presumably saw as a more secure future with the 'Blue Flames' shortly after recording their third offering 'Czardas'. A lot of personnel changes followed and the group managed to record only one further single, 'Tovaritch' which no longer credited 'Nero' in the roll call.
'Boots' Slade ultimately became a member of 'The Alan Price Set' and Mike O'Neil transferred his piano playing to 'The Ivy League', before joining 'Heads, Hands and Feet'.
The first phase of the band lasted from January 1960 through to April 1964 when they split only to reform in 1991 until 2005. During these 18/19 active years they went through seven distinct line-ups and twenty four musicians with O'Neill as the only constant.  They released four 45s and two French EPs
They originally played in bright orange suits however, as a 'get noticed' gimmick, they donned Roman Gladiators costumes 'acquired' from the movie set where 'Quo Vadis' had been filmed while 'Nero' himself wore a toga & laurel wreath!
The BBC banned the group from performing 'In The Hall Of The Mountain King' because pop acts could not be allowed to perform versions of classical pieces!
Mick Jones ended up in 'Foreigner' and Mike O'Neill was originally planned to be a keyboard player for Jimi Hendrix!

Nero and the Gladiators - Nero and the Gladiators

1. Nero And The Gladiators - Entry Of The Gladiators
2. Nero And The Gladiators - Boots
3. Nero And The Gladiators - In The Hall Of The Mountain King
4. Nero And The Gladiators - The Trek To Rome
5. Nero And The Gladiators - Czardas
6. Nero And The Gladiators - That's A Long Time Ago
7. Nero And The Gladiators - Tovaritch
8. Nero And The Gladiators - Bleak House
9. Nero And The Gladiators - More
10. Nero And The Gladiators - Wigwam
11. Nero And The Gladiators - Jumpin'
12. Nero And The Gladiators - Tram

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