Memory Lane: The University's first rock group

In the latest issue of Connect we asked: "If you could go back to any point in your time at University, what would it be and why?" Sharing a few of our favourite memories of yours. In the first of a semi-regular series we're sharing another we've received since the magazine was published.


This came from Martyn Pettifer (Civil Engineering, 1964) and is titled: "The Hustlers - the University's first rock group" - over to you Martin!

"It’s not just the rosy lens of nostalgia that suggests the 1960s were the best of times for pop music. They really were. Even on campus. Dances on Saturday nights in The Portland Building had been dominated until then by the Len Mason Orchestra, a fine bunch of musicians, but performing ‘strictly’ in the Bump and Glide tradition. However, the coming era of Merseybeat was to change this dramatically. None of us there will forget the huge excitement generated at The Elizabethan Ballroom above Cooperative House on Parliament Street on 7 March 1963 by four little known groups from the Brian Epstein stable - The Big Three, Billy J. Kramer and The Dakotas, Gerry and The Pacemakers and The Beatles - playing their first live gig in Nottingham.

"Little more than two years before this musical revolution, two second year engineering undergraduates, Richard Eldridge (Mechanical) and Martyn Pettifer (Civil), found during shared lectures (especially Maths!) a common interest in Buddy Holly, Elvis, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Eddie Cochran, Billy Fury, and “Moody Guy” Shane Fenton.

"Soon they were jamming, with Richard on rhythm guitar, Martyn on bass guitar and Paul Winchester (Mining) on drums. They went on to establish The Hustlers in the autumn term of 1961, recruiting Bill Walker (Geography, later Dip. Ed) on lead guitar and a fresher Stuart Hamilton (Zoology) on vocals, who was found after advertising for a singer on the Students’ Union notice-board.


"The group name was chosen after rather too many pints in tribute to the super-cool Paul Newman film “The Hustler” then much in vogue. Initial bookings were in Halls of Residence at undergraduate parties where conditions could be a bit primitive (it was not unknown for amplifiers to be plugged into the ceiling). Later came a long-term residency alongside Len Mason at Union hops in the Portland building.

"Other appearances included a Saturday morning show at The Theatre Royal, gigs at Bramcote, The Mansfield Town Football Supporters Club, The Trent Bridge Inn (occasionally sharing the stage with The Jaybirds starring the virtuoso guitarist/singer Alvin Lee, later of Ten Years After fame), The Cock at Ripley, Summer Balls at Florence Boot, Florence Nightingale and Hugh Stew, as well as an amusing mis-booking for a formal dance at The Air Training Corps in Beeston, where the group was asked to play the valeta!

"We managed to stumble through the evening by endlessly performing in waltz time “Walk - Don’t Run” by the Ventures. Also memorable, but for the wrong reasons, was the 21st Birthday Party for Bridget Page (Soc. Admin.) on November 22nd 1963 when the dreadful news came through about President Kennedy’s assassination.

Where are they now?

Richard Eldridge - qualified as an accountant, became one of financier Jim Slater’s lieutenants, set up the quoted investment vehicle Eldridge Stableford, moved into oil and property, and ‘retired’ to Padstow.

Martyn Pettifer - enjoyed a career in civil engineering, management consultancy and regeneration. Now retired, living in Arundel, trying to finish scribing the score for his musical ‘Jack The Lad’.

Paul Winchester - worked for Shell drilling for and producing oil around the world, then went consulting. He retired to Australia, and is growing old disgracefully.

Bill Walker - taught before finding financial services a more lucrative pastime. He lives in Northampton.

Stuart Hamilton - went to work for Oxford University Press, later setting up his own publishing company, Ethnographica Ltd, operating in Nigeria. Whereabouts unknown.

Dave Putt - emigrated to Canada, where he secured an MSc teaching scholarship at Toronto University before becoming Director of Facilities. Now retired.

Rod Taylor - became a producer at Granada, later Agent to Mike Yarwood. Whereabouts unknown.

Graham Page - it is believed continued playing at Nottingham until his graduation. Whereabouts unknown.

"By this time Dave Putt (Electrical Engineering) had replaced Paul on drums, and Rod Taylor (Law) had brought steely-eyed flair and chutzpah to improving the quality of the bookings after volunteering to become the group’s agent (good practice for later years when took on the slightly more successful Mike Yarwood). Rod also took over on rhythm guitar from Richard, who felt that passing exams was possibly more important than a pop career.

"Rod organised The Hustlers’ only recording session in 1962 at the Magnegraph Studios in Hanway Place off Oxford Street, London, show-casing the group’s signature number “Moody Guy”; “Summertime” featuring Bill Walker’s haunting solo; “Exclusively Yours”, and a couple of Rod’s own compositions. These rare discs are now much sought after collectors’ items allegedly commanding big bucks in the pop memorabilia market (the author has a van load for sale, if anyone is interested).

"There was some low key competition with the other undergraduate group, The Midnights, when they formed later, but it was a friendly rivalry. Indeed, the Midnight’s lead guitarist, Mike Northcott, sat in for Bill Walker on occasion when he was away on teaching practice during his Dip.Ed. year.

"When Bill left Nottingham in 1963 to start teaching, The Hustlers found a freshman, Graham Page (Physics) to take over on lead guitar, with Rod adding vocals to rhythm guitar when Stuart was sadly sent down after failing his first year exams. This was the group’s final line-up, the last four men standing dispersing into the real world upon graduation in the summer of 1964.

"The Sixties were a terrific time to be studying (?) at Nottingham. There might have been only 2,500 students, but you could always find a soul mate to share interests and expand your horizons. The Hustlers were a group that took full advantage of what the University had to offer. Hopefully, we also gave something back if only in the memories of those who were there."

Share your Memory Lane story!

Were you a member of a band? Maybe you found love on campus? Whatever your memory, we would love to hear it and maybe it will appear on these pages! Email and put 'Memory Lane' in the subject line.