The Nashville Teens are a British pop band formed in Weybridge, Surrey, in summer 1962. They are perhaps best known for the 1964 single "Tobacco Road," a top 10 UK hit and a top 20 hit in the United States.
Art Sharp (born Arthur Sharp, 26 May 1941, Woking, Surrey), began his career in music as the manager of Aerco Records in Woking, Surrey. The group's line-up eventually comprised singers Sharp and Ray Phillips (born Ramon John Philips, 16 January 1939, Tiger Bay, Cardiff, South Wales), with former Cruisers Rock Combo members John Hawken (piano), Mick Dunford (lead guitar) (born Michael Dunford, 8 July 1944, Addlestone, Surrey died November 20, 2012, Surrey), Pete Shannon (born Peter Shannon Harris, August 23, 1941, Antrim, County Antrim, Northern Ireland) (bass) and Dave Maine (drums). Roger Groome replaced Maine shortly afterwards but was in turn replaced by Barry Jenkins in 1963, in which year a third vocalist, Terry Crowe (born Terence Crowe, 1941, Woking, Surrey died), joined briefly and Dunford left, to be replaced by John Allen (born John Samuel Allen, 23 April 1945, St Albans, Hertfordshire). (Crowe and Dunford formed 'The Plebs' with Danny McCulloch and were re-united with Hawken in Renaissance in 1970). There was also another member, Derek Gentle (vocals), who was diagnosed with cancer in the summer of 1962 and had to leave the band. He subsequently died in June 1963.
While playing in Hamburg (as several British bands of the era did) the Teens backed Jerry Lee Lewis for his Live at the Star Club, Hamburg album, widely considered one of the greatest live rock and roll albums ever. Music critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine writes, "Live at the Star Club is extraordinary, the purest, hardest rock & roll ever committed to record."
They later backed Carl Perkins on his hit single "Big Bad Blues" (May 1964), and also played with Chuck Berry when he toured Britain. One concert was attended by Mickie Most, who subsequently produced their June 1964 debut single, an interpretation of the John D. Loudermilk penned song, "Tobacco Road", which reached number 6 in the UK Singles Chart and number 14 in the U.S.Billboard Hot 100 chart. Big Jim Sullivan and Jimmy Page played guitars on the studio cut of "Tobacco Road". The follow-up, another Loudermilk song, "Google Eye", reached number 10 in the UK in October 1964. The Nashville Teens' record producers also included Andrew Loog Oldham and Shel Talmy.
A further three top fifty singles, "Find My Way Back Home" and "This Little Bird", followed in February and May 1965 and "The Hard Way" made a brief appearance the following year but three subsequent records ("I Know How It Feels To Be Loved", "Forbidden Fruit" and "That's My Woman") all failed to chart. Jenkins left in 1966 to join The Animals, and was replaced by his predecessor Roger Groome. Reportedly Ray Phillips got an offer to join Cream in 1966. He refused.
Although musically as competent as any of their contemporaries, the group's lack of distinctive personality contributed to their lack of long-term success, as did Decca's poor promotion. (By 1970, Decca's only remaining rock acts were The Rolling Stones and The Moody Blues, both of whom handled their own promotion.) In the late Sixties the group returned to its old craft: backing other artists like Carl Perkins, Chuck Berry and Gene Vincent. In 1971 they released a single, "Ella James", a Roy Wood-penned song originally recorded by The Move, on the Parlophone label, again without success.
Arthur Sharp left in 1972 to join their one-time manager Don Arden, and Trevor Williams joined. Despite Phillips's efforts the Nashville Teens split in 1973. They reformed in 1980, however, with Phillips as the only original member, joined by Peter Agate (guitar), Len Surtees (bass) and Adrian Metcalfe (drums). The band is still working. Phillips joined The British Invasion All-Stars in the 1990s and made three albums with the group, consisting of members of The Yardbirds, Procol Harum, The Pretty Things, Downliners Sect and other groups. They did a cover of "Tobacco Road" that still receives airplay on XM Satellite Radio. The current line-up is Phillips, Metcalfe, Colin Pattenden (bass and vocals), Simon Spratley (keyboards and vocals) and Ken Osborn (guitar).
A 1993 EMI label compilation, Best of the Nashville Teens, contained a re-recording of their "Tobacco Road" hit which is the only version available on iTunes.
Dunford died of a cerebral hemorrhage on 20 November 2012 in Surrey, England.
Appearances in films:
The Nashville Teens appeared in three films in 1965;
In Pop Gear by Frederic Goode a long series of pop artists play one or two songs; The Beatles live before an audience while a.o. The Animals, The Honeycombs, Peter & Gordon and Herman's Hermits mime in a studio. The Nashville Teens mime "Tobacco Road" and "Google Eye". In the United States the film was brought out as Go Go Mania.
In Be My Guest, a family has inherited a hotel in Brighton. Their son works at a local paper and tries to set up a pop group of which one member is played by Steve Marriott. A talent scout scene is a pretext to present a few artists, among them The Nashville Teens who also back Jerry Lee Lewis.
Gonks Go Beat by Robert Hartford-Davis is set in the distant future. An alien from the planet Gonk comes to Earth to establish peace between the two remaining nations,one of which prefers rock and roll and the other ballads and his task involves listening to The Teens, Lulu and The Graham Bond Organisation.
In 2010, The Nashville Teens hit "Tobacco Road" was featured on the 4th season premiere of the hit AMC TV show Mad Men.