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California Brakemen Gallery (1970-1974?)

Photo Gallery - Band Lineups - Discography - Audio samples - Where Are They Now?

The Story

As far as we can tell, the California Brakemen started life as a five piece cabaret group around the Belfast pubs and cabaret clubs in 1970. They had a residency in The Whistle Stop country club. The first reference to them we found was an advertisement for their new album, The Country Music World of the California Brakemen which was released on the M and M label in January, 1971.

A few months later, an article appeared in Spotlight reporting that the group had become a six piece and was turning professional in April. The original lineup included Crawford Bell (guitar), Mike Morris (guitar), Dave O'Brien (bass), Jimmy McLenaghan (drums), Maxie Catherwood (steel) and they added Tom Hickland (fiddle and keyboards) in turning pro. They were being launched and managed by Mick Connolly of Aiken Promotions.

It wasn't too long before they had their first defection, Mike Morris left the band and was replaced by Johnny Burke. In the beginning, they mostly played in and around Belfast, but by mid year, they had started to journey far from the city centre to more rural spots and more importantly, south of the border. Said leader Crawford Bell in July, 1971, "Now that we're doing a full band programme, we only make rare appearances in the cities. It is in the out-of-town centres that a good country and western sound is appreciated."

They released their first single in early 1972, Waltz of the Angels. It did not sell well enough to make the Irish charts, but helped further establish the band on the lucrative ballroom circuit across Ireland. They were soon playing places like Dublin, Limerick, Offaly and Galway as well as their base in the North. A second single was released in June of 1972, Cowboy Convention. Again it did not sell that well, but further helped with gigs in the South.

The band underwent a fairly major change at the beginning of 1973 when Johnny Bourke left and was replaced by a female vocalist, 18 year old Linda Mayne. The changed helped broaden the band's appeal and said Crawford Bell at the time, "Linda has pulled the band together like never before. She's a really strong force in the band now."

Although it took some time, about 8 months later (in August), they released the first single to feature Linda, Medals for Mothers on the Release label. As far as we can tell, this was their last single. We came across an advert for the band in 1974, but nothing after that, so we think they may have gone off the road then.

We do know that Crawford Bell went on to a long solo career and will try to find more about that as soon as we can.      

More to come.....

Photo Gallery

click on thumbnails for full image

California Brakemen - 1973 California Brakemen (RF) California Brakemen - 1971 California Brakemen - 1971 California Brakemen - 1971
California Brakemen - 1971 California Brakemen - 1971 California Brakemen - 1971 California Brakemen - 1971 California Brakemen - 1971

 
California Brakemen - 1972 California Brakemen - 1972 California Brakemen - 1973 California Brakemen - 1973 Coming Soon
Years Vocals Guitar Bass Drums Keys/Fiddle Steel Guitar/Trumpet
1970   Mike
Morris
Dave
O'Brien
Jimmy
McLenaghan
Tom
Hickland
Maxie
Catherwood
Crawford
Bell
1971   Johnny
Burke
Dave
O'Brien
Jimmy
McLenaghan
Tom
Hickland
Maxie
Catherwood
Crawford
Bell
1973 Linda
Mayne
  Dave
O'Brien
Jimmy
McLenaghan
Tom
Hickland
Maxie
Catherwood
Crawford
Bell
               

Discography

Singles:
Waltz of the Angels / Jesus Takes A Hold

M and M Records - Unknown - January, 1972
Cowboy Convention / Turn The Jukebox Up Louder
M and M Records - FFMS 10016 - June, 1972
Medals for Mothers / Special
Release Records - RL 689 - August, 1973

Album:
The Country Music World of the California Brakemen
M ands M Music -  Unknown - January, 1971

 

Audio Clips

       
Cowboy Convention Coming Soon Coming Soon Coming Soon Coming Soon

Coming Soon

Where Are They Now?  

Crawford Bell:
Mike Morris:
Dave O'Brien:
Jimmy McLenaghan:
Tom Hickland:
Maxie Catherwood:
Johnny Bourke:
Linda Mayne:

 

 


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In Loving Memory of Grant Gallagher: Sept. 21, 1990 - Nov. 18, 2006