Southlanders are the longest running male vocal group in British
pop music history.
original line-up consisted of Vernon Nesbeth, Frank Mannah, Allan and Harry Wilmont entertainer Gary Wilmot's father. Today Vernon is the last founder member of the band.
Their international success began at the birth
of rock n' roll and has continued for five decades. They have
traveled three continents…from Europe to Africa to the
Caribbean, released a series of hit records, hosted their own
television spectaculars, acted in films and television and performed
in the world's premier cabaret lounges.
Edric Connor began, classically, teaching singing to Vernon. After about 2 years in 1953 Edric asked Vernon to get a group together to do vocal backing to him for an L.P. recording he was about to make for AEGO record Company. Edric Connor, then a leading Film and Theatre actor, a University Lecturer and a robust singer, became a friend and mentor to Vernon. Vernon got his best Friend Frank Mannah, to be a member of this group to be, he was happy to be part of it, he suggested Vernon got in touch with two brothers, Harry and Allan Wilmot, with whom he was in a failed vocal group. Vernon got onto the brothers and both agreed to do the recording, only.
After the recording, a name was needed for the backing group of which Vernon was responsible. Because Vernon, Harry and Allan were from JAMAICA, the name "The Caribbean’s was chosen for the recording,
Edric Connor, soon after, on one of his teaching session with Vernon, suggested keeping the group going. Vernon's approach to Frank was a very positive "yea Man, that would be great” but the two brothers had no interest to be in another group as a career move. After pleading with these guys for six weeks with no success Edric suggested that Vernon offers each member of the group separate responsibility whilst being members of the proposed group. Allan reluctantly said that he would try, Harry still said no but, two weeks later he relented and said that he too will try it but, any f...... and he would be off.
That’s how THE SOUTHLANDERS came about thanks to the genius and the well being of Edric Connor
Not long after the group started to rehearse they acquired two business partners as their managers. These managers suggested a name change because every ensemble from the Caribbean calls themselves “The Caribbean’s”. The group with the managers mentioned many names including Southlondoners because three of the fellows live in South London, it did not click, neither did The Southerners, then the name SOUTHLANDERS came up, that clicked. The group agreed to it as did the two managers, Syd Green and Les Farrell of Edwin Morris music one of the Chappell Music Co Group of Bond Street, London. The Name is now The Southlanders.
Whilst rehearsing at Weeks Studio in Hanover Street, off Regent Street, London. Two men knocked at studio door, apologized for interrupting but said, they just had to follow the sound they were hearing as they walked past the studio. The group was rehearsing the song “Shi Boom”. The two men were song pluggers from Edwin Morris music publishers, when told that the group were just starting as a vocal group, they offered to be their managers of the group, for which they got an ok from everyone.
Edric Conner, in cabaret, at the Celebrity Restaurant, at the corner of Bond Street and Clifford Street, Central London, with the group, the Caribbean’s. This man was so unselfish that he took the risk of having a group of novices join him, in his professional engagement at the restaurant, to perform two of the songs they’d recorded for their L.P. It is doubtful if any other artist would take such a risk. The show was a success. Vernon said at the time, and still does Edric Connor had a heart of Pure Gold.
Television and Radio Broadcast:
The group now The SOUTHLANDERS, first ever television show was in ROME. When Vernon told Edric Connor of the Rome T.V. booking, he said "you must not go to Rome without being a member of The British Actors Equity”. He then gave Vernon £16.00 to go and Join BAE, in Harley Street, central London. Vernon went and registered each member of the group with BAE, for £2.00 each. And shared the balance of £8.00 equally between himself and the other three fellows.
recording deal came quickly with Parlaphone but it was with Decca
that the group began to have major chart success.
biggest hit, 'Alone' was recorded (including the B-side)
in two hours and rush-released and reached No.2 in the charts.
the first fortnight it sold 750,000 copies…yet it stayed
in the top 20 for another 15 weeks to register a massive seven-figure
afterwards 'Put A Light In The Window' was up there at
No.5. For the rest of the decade and into the next The Southlanders
were everywhere…on concert tours, in theatres, on radio
and television...all over the world.
were learning their craft at one of the most exciting times in
pop music anywhere in the world. They toured with Cliff Richard
and at concerts Cliff Richard would watch them from the wings.
They also worked with Marty Wilde. Then they were making up to
five television appearances a week - including the legendary Six-Five
Special, The Jackson Show and the children's classic Crackerjack,
on which they sang live for six consecutive weeks.
have performed at London's Albert Hall, four times at the
prestigious Palladium Theatre, and on the luxury cruise liner,
the QE2. They also performed on cruises for RCCL (Royal Caribbean
the late 1950s/60s The Southlanders became a favorite of 'The
American Forces Network' (AFN) including a lot of live radio
broadcast for them.
seeing them in cabaret Bob Hope insisted in adding them onto the
bill of his British TV spectacular.
Southlanders acted in the award-winning BBC play 'Job'
which won the Cannes Film Festival.
made a film with 50's heart-throb Ronnie Hilton, hosted their
own television show with Emile Ford and the Checkmates, and guest ed
on TV variety shows in Germany, Belgium, Holland and Rome, Sweden.
The group appeared on every major UK television show at the time.
Jimmy Saville began his Mecca dance hall shows The Southlanders
were among the first entertainers to join him in the cradle of
what became the disco boom.
increasing reputation earned them few days off and solid booking
up to four years ahead. Their sophisticated cabaret material becomes
a crowd-pleasing weave of traditional calypso and spirituals with
modern Motown, Jazz and Soul classics.
Vernon Nesbeth has fronted successive line-ups and remains the
focal pivot for his current partners.
polished show, whether for UK clubs, continental hotel seasons
or tropical cruise liners, has been structured and updated to
outlast fleeting show business trends.
groomed, self-disciplined and sassy…faultless in their
harmonies and with inexhaustible verve…effortlessly poised
- The Stage