John Dominic and Gary Thomas started out playing in a jazz combo, Group Indigo, based in Harrow, Northwest London, before forming a spin-off R&B group called The Roadrunners in 1963. By the summer of that year they¢d settled into a regular gig at the Railway Hotel in Harrow with a line-up that consisted of John on vocals and harp,
Gary on guitar, Dick Connor on bass (replaced later that year by Dave Cameron), Bob O¢Brien on keyboards and Nigel “Hutch” Hutchinson on drums. After discovering there were already other Roadrunners on the scene, they made a clever adjustment, taking the name of London¢s first police force, the Bow Street Runners, and giving it a Bo Diddley twist – hence: the Bo Street Runners. They celebrated this splendid new moniker with an equally splendid theme song, ¡Bo Street Runner¢. In early 1964 the group went into RG Jones¢ facility in Morden to record a four-song EP, which was issued soon afterwards on the studio¢s Oak label in an edition of just 99 copies.
Meanwhile, Dave Cameron¢s mother surprised the Runners by entering them in Ready Steady Win, a beat group competition organized by the producers of the Ready Steady Go! TV show. The group took part in the televised competition through the summer and were declared the winners. The array of prizes included £1,000 worth of musical instruments, booking agency and publishing contracts, and a Decca record deal. The label released the group¢s debut single later that month, an energized new version of ¡Bo Street Runner¢ backed with another band original, ¡Tell Me¢.
With the band now turning professional, a line-up shake-up ensued. Bob O¢Brien and Hutch Hutchinson dropped out, and Roy “Fingers” Fry and Glyn Helson Thomas stepped in on keyboards and drums respectively. Fry was an exceptional musician with a jazzy touch, inspired by Jimmy Smith, and as ¡64 turned into ¡65 the Runners shifted in a soul and jazz-inspired direction, adding a sax player, Dave Quincy.
Although their debut single had sold an estimated 20,000 copies, Decca elected not to renew their contract and the group moved to Columbia for their next 45. Produced by Mickie Most, and released in February 1965, the disc paired Georgie Fame-flavored arrangements of two James Brown numbers, ¡Tell Me What You¢re Gonna Do¢ b/w ¡And I Do Just What I Want¢. The single flopped and all three newer members – Quincy, Fry and Thomas – exited in rapid succession. Tom Hinckley became the band¢s new organist, and shortly afterwards they located a new drummer, a teenage beanpole by the name of Mick Fleetwood, who up until then had been playing with The Cheynes.
The first single with that line-up was a catchy number with a tight, soulful groove titled ¡Baby Never Say Goodbye¢. Released in June 1965, it got a lot of pirate radio
airplay but was doomed by a pressing plant strike that interrupted distribution. Disappointed by the single¢s fate, Fleetwood returned to The Cheynes. He was replaced by Alan Turner. More worryingly, singer John Dominic also decided to quit.
Fortunately the Runners were able to find a very capable replacement in Mike Patto, who they¢d spotted singing for a support band in Norfolk. Patto also brought along a
new drummer, Barry Wilson. It was this line-up that recorded what would be the Bo Street Runners¢ final single in the spring of 1966. The Beatles¢ ¡Drive My Car¢ was a good fit for the group¢s sound, backed with the mellow, jazz-inflected ¡So Very Woman¢. The record failed to click and in October the group disbanded. However, later that year, Patto called on members of the Bo Street Runners to back him in the studio on ¡Love¢, a superb, driving soul-flavored number, which was released in December as the flipside to his solo single, ¡Can¢t Stop Talking About My Baby¢.
Mike Patto would go on to a storied career that included stints with Timebox, Patto, Spooky Tooth and Boxer before dying too soon in 1979. Tim Hinkley made a name for himself with prog rockers Jody Grind, while many of the other Bo Street Runners have continued play music on various levels, including, needless to say, their one-time drummer Mick Fleetwood.
Here, though, we celebrate their early years and the 1964-66 heyday of British R&B heroes the Bo Street Runners.