Musical Roots Set In Colliery Shadow

A Mix With A Difference

Peter Knowles on duty at Marks & Spencer in recent years.

Lonnie Donegan, Elvis and even Susan Boyle are all on there. So, too, Tony Christie and Frank Sinatra.

It’s an eclectic mix but Peter Knowles is no ordinary character, as listeners to Wolverhampton-based WCR will have been reminded.

The artists all featured on the play-list the former Wolves star drew up for his appearance on the station’s popular Inside Tracks programme.

Donegan, if you pardon the pun, went straight in at no 1 – which is the position with which the ‘King of Skiffle’ became familiar with My Old Man’s A Dustman shortly before Wolves beat Blackburn in the 1960 FA Cup final. The tune was borrowed by the South Bank for Stevie Bull’s A Tatter in the late 1980s.

But why was the Donegan version special to the man who lit up Molineux for most of the 1960s before sensationally quitting to become a Jehovah’s Witness?

“We didn’t have drums or guitars, so we would use anything like a scrubbing board and go into the street to learn to sing and play like him,” Knowles said on the programme. “Lonnie was no 1 for four weeks with this song.”

We promised when we profiled Ted Farmer’s musical loves two months ago that we would return to the archives and spotlight another instalment of this entertaining programme before long. And presenter Peter Whitehouse was told this time that those formative years in the Knowles family’s home village of Fitzwilliam in South Yorkshire might well have stretched into adult life.

“My father was a fitter in the mine and Cyril went down the pit working at Grimethorpe before starting his football career,” the player said. “I passed my medical as well but the day I should have started down there was the day I signed for Wolves.”

It was lucky for all at Molineux that the player’s aunt ran a cafe in the middle of Wolverhampton and that Stan Cullis had a persuasive tongue. As the 16-year-old was hesitating over whether to put pen to paper or go and look round other interested clubs, the manager crucially took him to look at the trophy area and told him he would be joining one of the finest clubs in Europe.

The WCR interview goes over the reasons for Knowles’s defection from the game and there is searing self-criticism about the young man he was. “I was arrogant and wish I could turn the clock back and say sorry to those people I didn’t show enough respect to,” he said. “I am still carrying the garbage of how I used to behave.” Anyone hoping to hear that he regretted turning his back on Molineux and a possible place in the Mexico World Cup finals will have been very disappointed.

Shades of Elvis…..the 1960s Molineux heart-throb.

Back, though, to the music and the disclosure that the young Knowles modelled himself on Elvis after one of his many cinema visits had been to see Jailhouse Rock. No surprise to hear the song of that name was on the list, then.

So, too, is The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore by the Walker Brothers, to whom he was introduced backstage at The Gaumont in Wolverhampton around the time Cyril was playing for England under-23s at Molineux.

Gerry and the Pacemakers’ You’ll Never Walk Alone and Italia 90 backing track Nessun Dorma are two other popular selections in the ten-strong play-list, which took a surprise twist with I Dreamed A Dream by Susan Boyle – a song Knowles said reflects his love of an underdog.

With One Wish by ‘brilliant actress’ Glenn Close also comes from left field and there is a nod to Jehovah’s Witnesses with the choice of I Will Call – a piece that we are informed is favoured by those in the movement.

Is This The Way To Amarillo? by Tony Christie is in there for its uplifting nature and the list is completed by Sinatra’s My Way – no explanation required!

WCR is to be found at 101.8FM, where we hear suggestions that a new Inside Tracks series might be in the offing.

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