Seaside Rock – The Rockers of Great Yarmouth

Great Yarmouth is a coastal town in England, a seaside resort for the past couple hundred years.* It is roughly 200km northeast of London and – according to Wikipedia – has a beach, two piers and is the gateway from the Norfolk Broads to the North Sea. In other words, one of those seaside towns ripe for teenagers and rock ‘n roll. Charles Dickens in David Copperfield referred to it as the “finest place in the universe.”

I tell you all this because I recently got a note from a bloke named Joseph Harlow, a drummer in Great Yarmouth. He explained to me that he had been in bands in that area in the early ’60’s. It turns out a short 15-minute documentary had been made of that time, in part featuring Joe. I watched it and found it pretty interesting. It’s a slice of rock ‘n roll life I hadn’t heard. Here’s Joe’s note to me, followed by the documentary Seaside Rock:

“From Joseph Harlow (DRUMMER) in Great Yarmouth

I have enjoyed your blog very much.

I spent many years working as a professional musician and had the pleasure of backing many well-known names over the years including Ronnie Carroll Skiffle legend Chas McDevitt and Ray Lewis and the legendary American vocal group THE DRIFTERS.

A couple of years ago I took part in a documentary for the BBC called SEASIDE ROCK along with Peter Jay drummer with 1960’s band Peter Jay and the Jaywalkers about the Great Yarmouth music scene of the 1960’s. I have enclosed below a review of the documentary by Derek James for the Let’s Talk magazine with a link at the bottom for you to view the documentary SEASIDE ROCK which I hope you will all enjoy



Beating the East Coast drum

Lets Talk Magazine, Post on 26th August 2015

It was only the big names who hit the headlines. From the Shadows to the Beatles, but now a new documentary film turns the spotlight on the East Coast Rockers. Derek James reports.

Almost every place of any size across Norfolk and Suffolk had at least one. They shared the stage with many musicians who went on to be the best in the world. . . and what great times they had. So did we. The fans who jived and twisted to the exciting sounds of the ‘60s.

While we handed over our money, usually about five bob, to see the likes of Gerry & The Pacemakers, the Shadows and even the Beatles, there were usually “local boys” who got the crowd warmed up. They were the groups formed by lads from all backgrounds, not just in Norwich or Ipswich, but in towns and villages across our region. There were dozens of them and they gave us so much pleasure.

In fact, some were just as good as the headliners but they came from an unfashionable part of the country and didn’t have the luck. And it often came down to luck – getting the right break at the right time and getting one big hit that all groups needed.

One did. Peter Jay & The Jaywalkers, formed at Norwich City College, had a top twenty hit with Can Can 62. Today the much-loved Peter is “Mr. Yarmouth”, running the wonderful Hippodrome Circus, and he is one of those featured in a charming short documentary called Seaside Rock.

It is a little beauty, mixing old footage with new, taking a look at the music scene in Great Yarmouth during the swinging ‘60s and chatting to members of local bands – the likes of Charlie Marsden, David McDermott, Peter Pease, Bron Parker, John George and members of a new band, Destination Mars.

Along with The Jaywalkers, there were several other good rock bands in Yarmouth – the Strangers, the Ramblers, the Mi££ionaires, the E-Types, and others. Don’t you love those names!

Being in a big holiday destination they had the opportunity of playing with the biggest bands and artists in the land.

One of the music makers starring in the film is Joseph Harlow, who was born in Yarmouth 60 years ago. He loved playing the drums as a boy and was taken on by Trevor Copeman – remember that great band leader?

He was resident at the Tower Ballroom. A talented musician. He was also at the Samson in Norwich and most of the other venues across East Anglia. Joe then went to London where he studied under renowned drum teacher George Fierstone and Martin Drew. He played with many famous names and also worked with top Norwich jazz pianist the late great Mike Capocci. Another rare talent and a lovely man.

“Over the years I had the pleasure of playing with some wonderful musicians and backed many well-known names,” said Joe. From Ronnie Carroll to The Drifters, Joe beat the drum for the best.

That is what comes over in this film. The pure joy and fun these Yarmouth musicians got from entertaining locals and visitors alike at venues such as The Tower, the Garbaldi, Goodes Hotel, the Floral Hall, (Ocean Rooms), on the piers, the holiday camps, the clubs, and pubs.

Seaside Rock was created and made by students on a filmmaking course led by course leader Brian Gardner, run by the Workers Educational Association and supported by BBC Voices and the Time and Tide Museum at Yarmouth. All those involved are to be congratulated on, at last, making some of the original East Coast rockers film stars.”

*The Beatles played Great Yarmouth a couple of times in 1963 after they’d reached fame in Britain and prior to becoming a worldwide phenomenon.

8 thoughts on “Seaside Rock – The Rockers of Great Yarmouth

    1. Yeah, I kinda thought so too. I was originally going to post this as one of my occasional “random thoughts” posts. But I watched the documentary and thought, “Well if we’re going to celebrate the big stars, shouldn’t we do the same for the foot soldiers?” A nice little slice of rock ‘n roll life. Thanks.


  1. Enjoyed that. Cool that Joseph got in touch with you. What’s with these beach resorts? They always have these groups of musicians. I used to go across the border to your country to this little seaside place and catch all sorts of great music.


    1. Yeah, it’s cool that he reached out. I told him I was going to feature it so I hope he gets to see it. As to the beach, boy you can’t beat it. Sun, fun, boys and girls, everybody’s in a good mood, partying, music. Think Bruce at Asbury, Duane and Gregg at Daytona, Beach Boys.

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