From the Land of Band Box Records

Pre-British Invasion: The Tornados – First Beat Group on the Scene!

May 22, 2011

The Tornadoes and Telstar

The Tornadoes (sometimes spelled “Tornados” in the US) didn’t launch the Invasion – and predated it by nearly a year.  They couldn’t evcr really be considered an Invasion group but they were definitely a “Beat Group”.  But their sudden US chart success owed nothing to their Brit status – but instead to the July 1962 launching of Telstar 1 – a joint US and UK private industry initiative towards establishing satellite communications.

First Beat Group Number 1

The successful launch was a real big deal in the early 1960’s with millions of Americans and Earth citizens scanning the skies at night time to see the distant traveller crawl across the sky.  The song Telstar was penned by Beat and Pop group producer Joe Meek.  It hit the US charts in November, 1962 and enjoyed a long 15 week run – and peaking at number 1 for three straight weeks and then two weeks at number 2 – making the Tornados the very first Beat Group to reach the top!  None of us were much aware that this instrumental group were from Great Britain – and didn’t care much.  The song owed much to the slick and techy production – probably more so than to the band members and featured a distinct “European sound”.

The Tornadoes would chart only two additional times in the US with “Ridin the Wind” in February 1963 (number 63) and one more time with “Like Locomotion” entering the charts in December of 1963 a mere one week ahead of the Beatles’ big debut US debut.

Definitely “Beat”

The original Tornadoes consisted of Heniz Burt (bass), Norman Hale (organ), George Bellamy (rhythm guitar), Clem Cattini (drums) and Alan Caddy (guitar).  When “Telestar” was released, Roger La Vern on organ had replaced Norman Hale.  Many Tornadoes would pass through the ranks from their origins until their breakup in 1964 (just when the Invasion was under a full head of steam).  Members passed through scores of UK Beat groups including Johnny Kidd and The Pirates, Mike Berry & the Outlaws, Colin Hicks and the Cabin Boys, Carl Wayne and the Vikings, Andy Cavell and the Saints, Screaming Lord Sutch and the Savages and more.

The Tornadoes London LP shown above was released first pumping up the title song – and then again later during the hit’s run with the group name taking center stage.

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