The Ned Porridge Band was launched on an
unsuspecting public on the very last day of 1975, and within the following three years although not fully professional, they became one of the best known and highest paid country bands in the South of England. The Country Music People magazine said at the time that they "happen to be one of the best country groups in Britain, professionally or otherwise".
The first question that members of the band were asked was where they got the unusual name of "Ned Porridge"? Actually the group was originally called "Ned Porridge and the New Medway Silly" and also "Ned Porridge and the New Medway Corn Shuckers". Promoters moaned that they had to order larger posters to get it all in and so they became The Ned Porridge Band.
What made them unique was their versatility and stage presence. Front man, Ed Pearson, had a keen, sometimes wicked sense of humor, and he kept people entertained between numbers. Many considered Ned Porridge a contemporary country music band and they were, but they were also a band that played stone country. Seen at the Shackle Country Music Club in Gravesend, Kent, on a cold Sunday in the early days of 1980, they opened up their set with "Wild Side Of Life" followed by numbers like "Truck Driving Man", "Oh Lonesome Me" and "Act Naturally". By way of contrast they also did outstanding versions of Rodney Crowell's "The American Dream", Coe's "If This Is Just A Game", Kristofferson's "Strangers" and a show-stopping rendition of The Little River Band tune "Man In Black". They were experts at mixing just the right amount of well-known and newer material. "We try to play about eighty percent for the audience and the rest for us," stated Pearson. The mixture worked. The audience got the tunes they knew and the group had a chance to do numbers that they personally liked as well.
Ed Pearson, besides being the front man and one of the lead singers in the band, was also the driving force whose demand for perfection led the group to the heights that they achieved. Ed began singing in the Soho folk clubs in the late Fifties, where Rambling Jack Elliott ruled supreme and people like Kris Kristofferson and Joe Simon would sing for nothing. Musically speaking, Ed went into a ten-year retirement, but in late 1970, he got up on stage at the Westerner pub in Larkfield, Kent, and sang a number. This led to a three-year stint with a popular semi-pro group in the Kent area, The Country Cousins. During that time they made one album and did frequent radio broadcasts on programmes like Country Meets Folk and the Terry Wogan and Jimmy Young shows. In the latter days of the Country Cousins they appeared on TV, and in fact they were the very first act to appear on New Faces, and they came third.
The bass guitarist in the Ned Porridge Band and also one of the lead singers, was Tony Jarrett. A veteran in the music business, Tony was a member of the pop group Vanity Fair when they had three top twenty hits, starting in 1968 with "I Live For The Sun", followed in 1969 by "Early In The Morning", and finally in 1970, "Hitchin' A Ride".
In 1978 lead guitarist Rod Clout, was replaced by Clive Lawrence. Like Tony Jarrett, Clive had spent a number of years as a pro musician playing Beatles type material, followed by a stint in a R&B band, and finally two years in a close harmony duo, "Autumn Vine", He met up with Ed Pearson when both were members of the Country Cousins.
Completing the line up of the group were two brothers, Ed and John Paine. Ed Paine was the group's steel guitarist. He started playing music seriously while at college in a pop group playing bass. He later switched to steel and started the country group "Fine Harvest" and also played in The Country Cousins. John Paine was the group's drummer replacing the original drummer Terry Hobbs, and like Ed, he also added to the beautiful harmony sounds that had so much to do with the popularity of the Ned Porridge Band.
Sandie Packham could almost always be found adding her vocals to the group, but officially Sandie was not a member of the band but rather a permanent guest star. She got up and sang with the Ned Porridge group at the United Services Club in Rainham, and impressed the group so much that they invited her to attend the gigs, and she became an unofficial member of the group thereafter. Sandie later married the group's drummer, John.
They released two albums and both were five-star picks in CMP. Calling the Ned Porridge debut album "Roosevelt's Favourite" "exceptional', CMP editor Tony Byworth went on to say: "The album has the majority of factors that most British recordings lack - imagination, inventiveness, a wide range of material and moreover a presentation by musicians that really display an enthusiasm for the task in hand." No less enthusiastic was Alan Cackett reviewing "A Second Helping": "The whole package is one of the neatest and tightest albums to have come from any British band in a long while." In 1980 Bob Powel, a Country Music DJ on Radio London said, "If they come your way don't miss them because the Ned Porridge group is one of the best country bands anywhere."
To commemorate the 25th anniversary of the band, a new album not previously available has now been released. "Live At The Hook & Hatchet 77" was recorded live on a chilly June night at an open air concert and reflects the atmosphere, expertise and humor, generated by the band in their early days. The album features many of their popular numbers together with previously unreleased tracks and a spot from Sandie. "Live At The Hook & Hatchet 77" is available now on CD from Sundown Studios together with "Roosevelt's Favourite" & "A Second Helping".
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