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The story of the Sect

Part 1 1962-1968

The story of the Sect starts in Twickenham, a London suburb back in 1962 when a young man named Mick O’Donnell started a band called the Downliners (after the Jerry Lee Lewis song "Down The Line". After some member changes and a disastrous tour to France, the band split in the beginning of 1963. Mick O’Donnell and the drummer Johnny Sutton decided to form a new band and put in an advertise in a music paper to get some new members. One person who saw the advertise was Keith Evans who was a drummer in another band. But Mick O’Donnell told him that he could join his band if he changed to bass instead of drums, which Keith Evans did. The name of the new band was also changed to Downliners Sect, a name which the band members found more exciting, with a touch of mystery.

At that time Mick O’Donnell and Keith Evans decided to change their names. Mick O’Donnell became Don Craine and Keith Evans changed to Keith Grant. Today they are known under these names which have caused some confusion during the years because the names Evans/O’Donnell are credited to some of the bands own compositions on the early albums.

The first line-up was: Don Craine (rhythm guitar, vocals), Keith Grant (bass, vocals), Johnny Sutton (drums) and a lead guitarist named Melvin (whose family name everybody seem to have forgotten). Then Melvin quit and was replaced by Terry Gibson who had been playing in a band called The Hoods, a band from Orpington, Kent. Don’s mother Joyce O’Donnell became the manager of the band, a job she had during the heydays of the band. She did a good job and saw that the band members always got their money and that’s something many managers didn’t care about.

The band started to play frequent gigs at the many rock clubs in London and soon got a reputation to be one of the best rhythm ’n’ blues bands in town, comparable with Rolling Stones and Yardbirds. Downliners Sect played (and still plays) tough no-compromising rhythm ’n’ blues but they also put in some humorous stints in their live-act. About that time Don Craine started to wear his famous Sherlock Holmes-hat which he still wears with pride.

Both Rod Stewart and Steve Marriott (who both later became famous) liked the Sect and wanted to be members of the band. But they were both known as lead singers and the Sect didn’t need a particular lead singer. After all, they already had Don and Keith who shared the vocals in the band and Rod Stewart was known to be a bit unreliable. He could miss gigs because he went to see a football game instead. Another rocker who would become famous who liked the band was van Morrison who made the statement: The Downliners Sect are it!

Downliners Sects first studio recordings were "Cadillac" and "Roll Over Beethoven", both recorded in 1963 but not released until in the 80:s when the bands early recordings had become collectors items. The first released Sect record was the live-EP "at Nite In Newport Street" which was recorded live at the rock club Studio 51 in central London. The band members financed the recording themselves and it only came out in 400 ex. But the record became popular and one ex found its way to the Swedish pirate radio station Radio Syd where it was played very often. Another ex was bought by the daughter of the EMI records boss in Sweden. That was the beginning of the Sects popularity in Sweden.

In the middle of 1964, the band got a new member, harmonica player Ray Sone. He came down to Studio 51 one night when the band was playing and started to back the band with his harmonica from the back of the hall where he was standing. That went on for some weeks until one night when Don Craine said: Whoever you are out there, get up here and play or shut up and piss off!. So Ray joined the band there and then. He was an excellent harmonica player and his harmonica gave the band that special sound which would make it famous.

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The Sect in 1964. From left to right: Don Craine, Johnny Sutton, Ray Sone, Keith Grant, Terry Gibson

In 1964 the band got a record contract with Columbia and the first record they made for Columbia was "Baby What’s Wrong". In the end of the year Downliners Sect went into the studio to record their first album which was released before Christmas. The album, "The Sect" is a masterpiece! A classic album which shows Downliners Sect at their best. 14 raunchy rhytm’n’ blues and rock songs, most of it taken from outside sources but also some own compositions like "Sect Appeal" and "Be A Sect Maniac". More than 30 years after its release, the album still sparks with energy and affection for the music.

At the same time Downliners Sect also recorded the song that gave them a big hit in Sweden, "Little Egypt". It was released in the UK in the end of 1964 and reached the charts in Sweden in the spring of 1965 where it was no. 2 at the Top ten list in April. They also had some success with "Little Egypt" in the UK but not so much as in Sweden.

In the spring of 1965 harmonica player Ray Sone was fired for being late for a gig. He was replaced by Pip Harvey. With the new line-up the band visited Sweden when they played at the Ice Stadium in Stockholm for more than 10 000 people. The band members still remember that gig as the high point in their career. The crowd was so enthusiastic that the police twice threatened to stop the concert if the audience didn’t calm down. In the end of that summer Downliners Sect toured in Scandinavia. They played in rock clubs and amusement parks for large crowds. They were also the top of the bill in a Swedish TV-show where they played four songs.

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The Downliners Sect in the Swedish TV rock program "Drop In" 11 September 1965

From left to right: Terry Gibson, Keith Grant, Johnny Sutton, Don Craine, Pip Harvey

At that point in their career when the band was heading for the big break, they made a mistake. They recorded an album with most country&western songs. If it was an attempt to do something really original or if they were persuaded by producer Mike Collier nobody really knows. There were also mixed opinions in the band about doing such an odd record and in retrospect it must be said that it was a mistake. Compared with the debut album, "The Country Sect" is rather weak. There are three-four excellent tracks but the rest is, in fact a bit embarrassing. It sold badly and neither Sect-fans nor country fans really liked it. The band rarely played any of the country songs live. Instead they stuck to the good old songs from the first album.

A lot more interesting was the record the band released before the country album, the four-track EP "The Sect Sing Sick Songs". And that is what it’s all about. The songs on the record are really "sick". The most debated song on the record was "I Want My Baby Back". It’s about a boy and a girl who have an accident with their car on the way home after a Downliners Sect-concert. The girl dies and the boy miss her so much that he dig up the coffin and sneak in to it. Keith Grant tells the story to the background sounds of howling wind, the sound of someone digging and a coffin lid that opens and closes. A classic song! The original was American but the Sect’s version is better than the original. Of course, it was banned by the BBC but it was frequently played on the Swedish Radio. In retrospect Don Craine has said that it would have been a better move to record an album with sick songs and an EP with country songs and he’s probably right.

Downliners Sect 1965. From left to right: Pip Harvey, Johnny Sutton, Don Craine, Terry Gibson, Keith Grant

Two singles were released from the country album. "I Got Mine" became another hit in Sweden, thanks to a TV performance. It reached no. 2 at the Top Ten List. "Bad Storm Coming", a rather gloomy ballad written by Don and Keith which was covered by some other bands failed to hit the charts in UK despite good reviews in the music press.

In the summer of 1966 the band released their probably best single. "Glendora" with lyrics about a guy who fells in love with a tailors dummy was a well-produced hard rock song with excellent guitar work by Terry Gibson. The flip-side, Keith Grant’s "I’ll Find Out" was also a masterpiece, but despise some limited success the single didn’t make the impact the band members wanted.

Downliners Sect was now reduced to a four-piece when harmonica player Pip Harvey left the band during some really weird circumstances. The band was on its way to a gig and they were going to pick up Pip Harvey outside his home. They arrived and waited but no sign of their harmonica player until somebody told them that he had left because the police were after him! That was the last the band members heard from Pip Harvey until some of them ran into him-20 years later!

Unfortunately, the band lost a lot when the harmonica disappeared. Both Ray Sone and Pip Harvey gave the music a special touch with their excellent harmonica playing. The four-piece recorded the album "The Rock Sect’s In" which was back to basics again, an album with rhythm&blues and rock. Unfortunately it’s not as good as the debut album "The Sect" despite some real good tracks.

We must also mention that the piano that can be heard on "The Sect", "The Country Sect", "The Rock Sect’s In" and "The Sect Sing Sick Songs" is played by session musician John Paul Jones who later would be famous as bass player in Led Zeppelin!

In the end of 1966 the band members were starting to get dissatisfied with the situation. The music scene had changed and rhythm&blues wasn’t as popular as it used to be, the gigs became less frequent and the band members felt that they were achieving nothing. They were also dissatisfied with their producer Mike Collier. They thought he was a lousy producer who didn’t do a proper work with the band’s recordings. He also had the bad habit of giving himself credit for songs the band members had written, like "Sect Appeal", "Easy Rider" and "Be A Sect Maniac" from the first album.

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Don Craine's New Downliners Sect 1967. From left to right: Keith Grant, Bob Taylor, Kevin Flanagan, Don Craine, Barry Cooper.

So Terry Gibson and Johnny Sutton decided to call it a day and quit. To fulfil the contract the band recorded another single "The Cost Of Living" with the help of studio musicians. It made a minor impact in Sweden around Christmas but didn’t hit the charts anywhere. After that, Don Craine and Keith Grant formed a new Downliners Sect in the end of the year. The new band, which was called Don Craine’s new Downliners Sect had the following line-up: Don Craine (lead vocals), Keith Grant (bass, vocals), Bob Taylor (lead guitar), Matthew Fisher (keyboards) and Kevin Flanagan (drums). The music was changed to more soul and psychedelia but the main influence was still the raw rhytm’n’blues which have always been the trademark of the Sect. But the new organ player Matthew Fisher didn’t stay long in the Sect. After about a month he joined a new band called Procol Harum and he’s the one who plays organ on Procol Harum’s wonderful mega-hit "A Whiter Shade Of Pale". Instead the Sect got another organ player, a guy named Barry Cooper. He was an eccentric gentleman who shocked both band members and audience by wearing a pajamas on stage. He did other weird things on stage too, like sitting under the organ while playing it.

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Barry Cooper in action

This new line up recorded one single "I Can’t Get Away From You" with the flipside "Roses" which was an own composition. Two good songs but the record didn’t make any impact and vanished in the tide of exciting records that was released in the spring of 1967. Don Craine’s New Downliners Sect didn’t last long either. Before 1967 was over both Don Craine and Barry Cooper had left the band. Don just got tired of it all and Barry left a couple of months later. Keith Grant took over and the band continued with an ever changing line-up. (Johnny Sutton made a brief come-back in 1968). The band recorded three songs which was released on three separate EP:s in Sweden in 1969. (One Sect-song on each EP plus three songs with other artists). The songs "White Caterpillar" "Lord Of The Ring" and "Spider" were released on one EP in 1964 by Swedish company Garageland Records. All three songs can be described as early heavy metal. But in the end of 1968 the Downliners Sect had split up.

And that was the end of…………Oh no! The Downliners Sect would make a remarkable come-back in the 70:s

The story of the Sect, part 2