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Around 400 people packed into the Fisherman’s Hall on Saturday night to demonstrate that the popularity of one of the North-east’s best known bands has been maintained 25 years on from their formation, writes Alan Wiseman.


The sell-out one-off silver jubilee reunion gig of Johnny and the Copycats undoubtedly provided an evening of nostalgia for the musicians and the bulk of the audience, but the event also had a serious purpose.


Around £800 is expected to have been raised from ticket sales, and this cash will go to local charities, including the Deborah Ewen Trust Fund.

Three members of the band, lead guitarist Ian Lyon, drummer, Robbie Lawson and bassist, Bill Cameron may well cast their minds back on Saturday night to their first ever public performance in the summer of 1962, as fresh faced 16 year olds.


Calling themselves the Cimmarrons, they played at a School Holiday Hop in Buckie’s Commercial Hotel with another local lad Ally Ewen, on rhythm guitar.


Shortly afterwards, another school friend, singer and rhythm guitarist, Johnny Stewart, came into the band from another group, bringing with him a name change.


The band played as a five piece until Ally Ewan’s departure to join the RAF and their early residencies were at the Ambassadors Club in the North Church hall, and half the time spots at dances then held in the Fisherman’s Hall on Monday evenings.


A loan from Buckie and District Round Table enabled them to purchase better equipment, and this led to them being offered a wider playing circuit by Moray entrepreneur, Mr Albert Bonici.


In 1963, the band won the Scottish heat and came runners up in the nation final of a beat band contest in London.


This led to a support spot on the Beatles’ Scottish tour, and during the remainder of the Sixties, they played throughout the United Kingdom and in France and Germany supporting groups such as the Hollies, Kinks, Searchers, Billy J Kramer, and the Dakotas and Johnny Kidd and the Pirates.


They released a number of records, but chart successes proved elusive despite their popularity as a live act.

In 1968, Johnny married and left the band the following year, although he continued to take an interest in the group’s affairs and write songs for them.


Soon after Alex “Siggy” Slater’s addition on keyboards, the band began gigging as My Dear Watson. After touring extensively in the UK and receiving national radio exposure, they split up in 1971.


The band reformed in 1983 for a few selected gigs, but had not played together since until 1985 until Saturday night, though Ian, Bill and Alex currently make up 50 per cent of the popular Mex Rex.


Buckie’s young band, Exodus got the crowd in the mood with a warm up set of about an hour’s duration, before the four original Copycats rook to the stage around 9pm to a rapturous reception.


From then on the memories flowed thick and fast. The first part of their two and a half hour set featured hits from the early sixties from artistes such as the Beatles, Cliff Richard and the Shadows, The Kinks and Johnny Kidd and Pirates.


In the second part, the original four were joined by Alex for a rendition of later sixties and early seventies numbers, covering soul to psychadelia. The songs included Midnight Hour and My Girl.


The shortage of room didn’t deter the enthusiastic dancers, who demonstrated a variety of style as the band showed the wide range of their talent.


The show was schedule to finish before 11.30pm but it was only after two encores that the band were allowed to leave the stage around 11.45pm by the captivated audience.


The fans eventually did disperse, well satisfied with a great night’s entertainment featuring over 40 songs.


Although Johnny, Bill, Robbie and Ian are all now in their forties, they didn’t lack vitality. The playing of all five was immaculate and Johnny was in fine voice, ably backed by the others.


At the end of the night, Johnny said: “I enjoyed the evening tremendously”.


“It was a great night and I feel we could have sold twice the number of tickets if we had a bigger venue”.


Bill agreed. “You couldn’t’ beat the feeling on a night like this”. “It makes you want to carry on. That’s the way the music business is. Once you get into a band, you become hooked and just want to continue playing”.


Robbie stated: “The response we had from the public was absolutely fantastic. It was really good to see a lot if our longstanding fans coming along and giving us their support”.


Ian stated that it had been a “very special night”, and he had been delighted with how it had gone. Alex echoed his sentiments.

Before the gig, Johnny had indicated that it might be his swansong.


Asked if he had had a change of mind afterwards, he replied: “It is a strong possibility this could be the last time we play together but I wouldn’t like to say.


“Certainly we have no plans for another performance at the moment”. “I have a butcher’s business to run, and we all have responsibilities”. “Having said that though, we still get on really well with each other, and keep in contact, so you never know”.