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Madeley, Newcastle-under-Lyme,
May 23rd and 24th 1970.

Titus Groan 

     Named after the well known character created by the late great Mervyn Peake , this band  performed on the early Saturday afternoon between Family and Mike Cooper. Anyone know their history after this gig?
Music Now Review

    Next on stage were Titus Groan , one of the lesser known bands., They played a very nice,  tight set which delighted the audience. The emphasis was mainly on their instrumental work , which proved to be pleasantly inventive. This gig done will have fen them a lot of good . You should try and catch them when you can . 


You asked if anyone knew what happened to the Titus Groan - well, here ya go... although I'm afraid it does tend to focus on one member of the band    my mate Stuart Cowell,  a superb “journeyman” musician has been responsible for a number of excellent recordings and productions  - spreading over many genres for nearly 50 years. There's a mention of Jim Toomey from the band's subsequent career too.

Whilst working with the B.B.C. in the sixties, Stuart Cowell ’s  first band was The Rockhouse Band. They were purely a gigging band; there were no recording sessions, and split in 1967 when vocalist and guitarist Ralph Denyer, after answering  an advert in “Melody Maker” magazine, left to join  Blonde On Blonde, a psychedelic band formed in Newport, South Wales .  Blonde On Blonde were formed by drummer Les Hicks, bass guitarist &  keyboard player Richard Hopkins, and guitarist, sitar and lute player Gareth Johnson. The band also recruited  Simon Lawrence to play  12-string guitar.  Blonde On Blonde  relocated to London in 1968, and were signed to Pye records that same year.  They will be remembered as appearing at the 1969 Isle Of Wight Festival. Ralph Denyer left in 1970 to form the band  Aquila.

Stuart  played the ‘60’s London club circuit, sometimes jamming with people such as Richie Havens and Jimi Hendrix at the Soho clubs The Speakeasy and  The  Flamingo, where he would often work up to three gigs a night, back to back with the likes of Albert Lee and Eric Clapton - sometimes until six in the morning. 

In 1969 he joined the blues band Sweet Pain, who made one eponymous (in the U.K.) album,  which was released in U.S.A under the title  “England’s Heavy Blues Super Session”. The band featured three members of  The Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation . Keith Tillman, a founder member , had also played with John Mayall's Bluesbreakers.  Aynsley Dunbar  himself appears credited as “Junior  Dunn”, whilst  Victor Brox appears as “Sam Crozier” as they were both signed to the Liberty label at the time. They were joined by  John O'Leary (from Savoy Brown Blues Band),  Dick Heckstall-Smith (Alexis Korner's Blues Inc., Graham Bond Organization, John Mayall's Bluesbreakers and Colosseum),  Alan Greed  (from Harsh Reality, a little known band formed  in 1968 from  the remnants of The Freightliner Blues Band - formerly The Revolution), Victor Brox’s wife Anette Brox,  and of course, Stuart Cowell.

1970 saw Stuart joining  the prog rock band Titus Groan, who signed to the Dawn label, the newly formed “progressive wing” of Pye records. The band first came to prominence at the Hollywood Pop Festival held  near Newcastle Under Lyme, over the weekend beginning May 23rd 1970. The bill included Ginger Baker's Airforce and the British concert debut of The Grateful Dead. It was also the launching pad for Mungo Jerry.

The band’s agency - The Red Bus Company - promoted not only the "Titus Groan" album but the other corresponding Dawn releases, by Demon Fuzz, Heron and Comus . in a series of gigs they named  “A Penny Concert” - admission was just one penny. In November 1970 the bands played  at ten venues, including The Marquee.  

Jim Toomey, Titus Groan’s drummer, later joined The Tourists, featuring Dave Stewart and Annie Lennox,  before they formed The Eurythmics

However, by 1971 Stuart Cowell was recording with the country folk rock band Paul Brett's Sage. Paul Brett had been a guitarist with Elmer Gantry's Velvet Opera, and was later in Fire with future Strawbs member Dave Lambert. In 1970 he formed Paul Brett's Sage with former Fire members Dick Dufall and Bob Voice, but after three albums  went solo. Stuart  appeared on the first two Paul Brett's Sage albums.

Mungo Jerry  also played the Hollywood Pop Festival, and Stuart Cowell appeared on one track of the four track Mungo Jerry maxi single “Lady Rose”. Paul King, a founder member of Mungo Jerry, who played banjo and jug on their massive hit  “In The Summertime”, left the band  in 1972, releasing  his solo album “Been In The Pen Too Long” the same year.  Stuart Cowell played  electric guitar on three tracks. Dave Lambert, who later joined The Strawbs, was also on the album.

For a few years Stuart  was  a freelance musician, doing studio work and  touring with Al Stewart, Alexis Korner, Ralph MacTell, Del Shannon, Bobby Vee, Val Doonican and others.

In 1972 Stuart  produced Jaki Whitren’s debut album, “Raw But Tender” and also appeared on guitar. The album also featured  such luminaries as Albert Lee, Gerry Conway and Pat Donaldson.

After a tour of Australia and New Zealand with Val Doonican in 1980 Stuart  emigrated Australia. A privately shot video of Stuart’s farewell gig at The Half Moon in Putney in 1980 exists, and the vast array of guests who joined Stuart on stage is testimony to the high regard in which he was held, including contributions from Steve Tilston (on electric guitar), Ralph McTell, Julian Dawson,  Maddy Prior, Rick Kemp, Cliff Aungier, Richard Digance , Dave Pegg , Earl Okin (who had toured with Wings just before this performance),Nigel Portman-Smith on bass guitar (Nigel had worked with Bert Jansch and Ralph McTell), ‘Loose’ Langrish on drums, and Gus York (who played with Pick Withers before he joined Dire Straits) on pedal steel. The whole evening finished with a rendition of “Goodnight Irene” - featuring all the guest performers..  

After settling in Sydney, Stuart  worked with many performers including Di Trask, Mike McLellan, John Williamson, Allen Caswell,  Reg Lindsay and  John Rowles . He was the house guitarist for the Reg Lindsay TV show as well as playing on several film soundtracks.

He also presented folk concerts in the Blue Mountains including Martin Carthy, Dave Swarbrick, Albert Lee, Andy Irvine, and Dolores Keane & John Faulkner.

In 1994, John Faulkner  invited  Stuart to  travel to Ireland to tour, and  he soon made his home in  Kinvara, County Galway. Stuart also  toured  the U.SA. and Australia with John Faulkner, and did studio work with him. . Stuart  became the house guitarist for TnaG‘s T.V. show “Sibin”.  He  then toured with Sean Keane, worked in a duo with Maria Tecce after she moved to Galway from her native Boston in 1998. 

Stuart also worked  the Brendan Hearty Band, with accordionist, Andrew McNamara He also toured with the folk circuit in New England with Scottish vocalist/song writer Judi McKeon, and after working together, Judi  and Stuart recorded an album of original music, “The Age Of Reason”. . Although Stuart played most of the instruments on the album, he enlisted the help of piper Tommy Keane, banjoist Lena Ullman, saxophonist Steve Hanks and drummer Bruno Staehelin. 

Stuart  recorded with many people at the late Bill Carson’s Kinvara Studio, including Frankie Gavin and Alec Finn (of the legendary Irish band De Danaan), Brendan Larrissey, Don Stiff, and Maria Tecce, He also worked with The Higglers and recorded with John Beag, and Deidre Cunningham.  

Stuart played with the Jim McKee for two years, until February  2011,  and then joined local  trad trio Sonas with Fred Rogers (bouzouki,guitar & vocals) and Eamonn Croke (uillean pipes, whistles).

When he first arrived in Ireland, Stuart helped Tony Moylan to start Kinvara’s annual Cuckoo Fleadh. He became  the co-owner of Absolute Music Studio with John Faulkner and Paul Mulligan, and  the owner of Kinvara’s Fretboards Plus music shop which has now closed.  Stuart Cowell still lives in Kinvara,  and still plays and sings  to the same high standard we have come to expect of him.

John Roberts, September 2015.


Hollywood festival menu

Many thanks go to Garry Marsh for his fantastic archival material which has enabled us to construct most of the site. Also to Martin Williams for his oral history and colour photo of the stage and site ,Simon Phillips for all the Grateful Dead archival material and Bob Colover for the film footage .

    We have been endeavoring to collect audience or sbd tapes of the performances at this festival , so we can effectively review the performances, provide set lists and band line-ups. The intention is to also display as many personal histories of the festival as possible.

  If you can contribute in any way, with tapes, reviews from the music press, photos or personal histories, please Contact us.

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