The Vikings 1964 and early incarnation...
L to R: John Lunn (lead guitar), Steve Carpenter (bass and lead vocals), Bernard Bruyneels (drums) and Ian Woolnough (rhythm guitar)
The Vikings (Harrogate) Potted history
The Viking invasion of Harrogate and district started in 1963 when four friends - well, mainly friends of friends - got together to form a ‘beat group’. With not a long-haired head complete with horned helmet in sight, the first gig was played at Harrogate Rugby Club in October ’63 and the rest - as they say - is now history.
Little did the four teens know that playing with a cobbled together drum kit (including an ex-Salvation Army bass drum), a string double bass and single amplifier which serviced the two guitars and a mic, would lead to much greater things.
From this humble beginning the Harrogate fab four – now complete with a manager, road manager and two fan club secretaries, began to make a name on the local ‘scene’. The line-up had settled as: John Lunn – lead guitar, Steve Carpenter - bass guitar and lead vocalist, Ian Woolnough – rhythm guitar and Bernard Bruyneels on drums and the material was, as usual (for this era) mixture of instrumentals, ‘pop’ and take-offs of the likes of Cliff and Elvis. Heady stuff, indeed as they played in a variety of venues of youth clubs and pubs. However, things moved on swiftly and soon the strains of The Beatles, Gerry and the Pacemakers were coming from The Vikings.
They entered various prestigious competitions and recorded some of their own compositions. This tape was sent to George Martin of Beatles fame and they got a very nice ‘turn-down’ - they needed to be ‘more distinctive’. The band even got to the national finals of the Melody Maker Beat Competition, ending in a respectable fifth place.
The group progressed and it was not long before they were ‘invited’ to play alongside the ‘Big Boys’ - as a support band for the hit parade bands that dropped in on the Royal Hall as part of their gruelling one-night stand diary.
It was during this formative period that John Lunn (RIP) left the group to take up a place at Art College and he was replaced by Stewart Gilbert on lead guitar – ‘poached’ from another local outfit – The Nomads. This did not change the Vikings standard play-list, but it was thought that they had become more ‘bluesy’ with a few Chuck Berry and James Brown numbers slipping into the repertoire.
It was during this busy period of the band’s life that they performed at the Royal Hall in Harrogate and other venues as support to a number of top UK acts, including:
The Kinks, Manfred Mann, The Small Faces (twice),
The Hollies, The Fortunes, Walker Brothers, John Walker, Spencer Davies Group, Pinkertons Assorted Colours, The Move, The Tremeloes, And more…
Steve Carpenter takes up the tale with his memories of a spectacular night supporting The Who: “An amazing set before smashing up all their expensive equipment. It was brutal and went on for several minutes - guitars, amplifiers and a complete drum kit were completely destroyed. The air was filled with dust as well as a cacophony of sound; the audience fell silent and seemed to slink away in a state of bewilderment."
Those gigs were fantastic - A thousand teenagers would fill the venue for 8/6 or upwards (depending on the headline act) and cemented The Vikings reputation in the Harrogate area and further afield, leading to many more top line bookings.
Stewart Gilbert remembers supporting the Small Faces at a Cheshire gig. "They had just had their first hit and Marshall Amplification had given them tons of new kit. I asked Steve Marriot if we could borrow some, it seemed silly to set up twice, said I! 'No problem, mate', said Steve, so we did. Some months and some more hits later, we were again their backing band at The Royal Hall. I asked Steve if we could borrow the kit again… 'F*** off son' was the updated reply!"
Somewhere along the line, The Vikings were offered a residency in a hotel in Majorca. The day jobs were packed in arrangements were made, only to find out at the last minute that Ian Woolnough couldn’t get a work permit as he was too young to be employed abroad. Shock and horror! The van was unloaded.
Hamburg (post-Beatles) also beckoned and another residency was offered. Unfortunately both Stewart and Steve, for various reasons, could not take up the offer. Ian and Bernard (sadly, like John, no longer with us - RIP) remained keen to go and linked up with a keyboard player to take up the contract.