It had to be one of the oddest encounters of the 1960s…
Wacky Manchester pop group Freddie and the Dreamers rolled up at Longleat House in August 1965 to a play a gig for the aristocratic Marquess of Bath.
Lead singer Freddie Garrity, all five foot three of him, went rowing on the lake at Lord Bath’s ancestral home, toured the estate on a child’s scooter and even tried his hand at archery.
The Dreamers, unperturbed by their regal surroundings, played along with Freddie’s antics for the cameras and got on with setting up their gig.
The band were well-known for their energetic stage routines and willingness to try the unusual. Showmanship was their forte – and they’d starred in a number of films and TV shows.
They’d dressed up as scouts, pretended to be coolies in Singapore and posed more than once in their swimming trunks – so Longleat held no fears for them.
As Garrity once said: ‘The Dreamers and I have always been daft. You couldn’t call me a sex idol, could you? Collectively we’re no glamour boys.’
The group arrived in their sharp Mod suits and winkle-pickers to go straight into a series of photo-shoots. One saw Lord Bath strumming his guitar while the band looked on with mock disdain.
Another showed Freddie singing to Lord Bath and his family on a balcony in a parody of Romeo and Juliet.
As was always case with Dreamers, it was all in good fun. One photograph shows the butler in the background armed with copious amounts of liquid refreshment!
The band came to Longleat with a string of hit records under their belt. The line-up was Garrity on vocals, Ray Crewdson on guitar, Derek Quinn on guitar and harmonica, Peter Birrell on bass guitar and Bernie Dwyer on drums.
Freddie and the Dreamers were often grouped as part of the Merseybeat which followed in the wake of the Beatles, but they were all from Manchester. Former milkman Garrity was born in Crumpsall.
Their first Top Ten UK single was a cover of the James Ray hit You Gotta Make a Fool of Somebody which reached Number Three in mid-1963.
They quickly followed up with I’m Telling You Now, which also reached Number Three in August, and You Were Made For Me, which climbed to Number Two in November.
Their fourth Top Ten UK hit was a cover of I Understand by The G-Clefs, which peaked at Number Five in November 1964.
The band’s success hinged on their carefully choreographed stage routines and Garrity’s energetic dancing. He’d jump about the set, arms and legs flailing, in his horned-rim glasses with manic zest.
The group even released a single, Do the Freddie, trying to start a dance craze based on their stage routines. The 1965 album of the same name included instructions on how to perform the moves from dance instructor Arthur Murray.
Unlike many British bands of the time, the Dreamers failed to take off in the USA. Their singles I’m Telling You Now and You Were Made for Me both flopped and record label Capitol dropped the group.
There was a brief resurgence in 1965 when the band re-released a number of singles on different labels. I’m Telling You Now, co-written by Garrity and Mitch Murray, went to Number One in the US Billboard Hot 100.
Freddie and the Dreamers were the first of three consecutive groups from Manchester to achieve Number One hits in America in the spring of 1965. The others were Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders and Herman’s Hermits.
The Dreamers appeared in four films including What a Crazy World with Joe Brown and the musical comedy The Cuckoo Patrol with Kenneth Connor, John Le Mesurier and Victor Maddern.
Reviews for the movie, which saw the group dress up as scouts, were mixed. The Independent described it as ‘terrifying.’
Garrity and Birrell were back on TV from 1970 to 1973 in the ITV children’s show Little Big Time. Garrity also made a solo appearance on the first episode of Granada’s Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club in April 1974.
Many more unmissable pictures and memories of the past can be found in Clive Hardy’s brilliant book Around Manchester in the 1970s – on sale at a reduced price for M.E.N. readers.
Clive’s two companion books, Around Manchester in the 1950s and 1960s, are on offer at a reduced price too!
Just check out our online shop for more details or ring 01928 503777 to place your order.