The beat went on, without a British accent


A 1964 publicity photo of a band from D.C. called the British Walkers. The guy second from the left, holding the bulldog leash, is Bobbie Howard. (Courtesy Billy Hancock)
John Kelly
Columnist August 13, 2012

The World Wide Web is an amazing thing. Thanks to it, I heard from Alan Jackson a while back. No, not the cowboy-hatted country star, but a bass player from Manchester, England.

Alan — Alan D. Jackson, to be exact — had stumbled across a column of mine from 2009 about the British Walkers, a band that in the 1960s held court at the Roundtable in Georgetown. That was a time when — thanks to the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Dave Clark Five and their mop-topped ilk — it was good to be English, or in the case of the British Walkers, to appear to be English.

John Kelly writes "John Kelly's Washington," a daily look at Washington's less-famous side. Born in Washington, John started at The Post in 1989 as deputy editor in the Weekend section. View Archive

In fact, the British Walkers were all American, led by Bobbie Howard, whom many call one of the finest singers ever to come from this area, and in one incarnation featuring guitar great Roy Buchanan.

Alan was kicking around in various bands in his native Manchester when he heard from his friend Derek “Lek” Leckenby (guitar player in Herman’s Hermits) that a group in Washington called the British Walkers was looking for an English bass guitarist to join them.

Alan fancied the idea of living in the States so he wrote to the group’s booking agency in Washington, an outfit called Paramount Artists, outlining his credentials and including a photo. He also included a fateful aside: Alan had read in the Manchester Evening News that there was a possibility that Davy Jones of the Monkees might be drafted into the U.S. Army and sent to Vietnam. Though born in England, as an immigrant, Jones was eligible for conscription.

“I asked for assurance that this would not happen to me,” Alan said.

Alan said he heard back from Paramount, which thanked him for his interest. They were impressed by his credentials but because of his “anti-American sentiments,” he was not being considered for the slot.

And so Alan wasn’t drafted into the British Walkers. (He doubts Bobbie ever heard of him.) As it turned out, Davy Jones was never drafted either. He continued raking it in with the Monkees. And Alan continued providing the bottom line for various Manchester groups — the Dynachords, the Crestas, the BoWeevils, the JPs — wondering what might have been.

Reuniting and it feels so . . . good?

Speaking of what might have been, there’s no better place to flex that bittersweet muscle than at a high school reunion. I’m sure every reunion features a variation on this conversation:

“You know, I always had a crush on you in high school.”

“Really? I didn’t think you knew I was alive. You should have said something.”

“I was too shy.”

“Well, I always liked you, too.”

“Help me kill my husband.”

“Okay.”

These area schools are reuniting in the coming months:

Anacostia Senior High Class of 1969 — Sept. 29. E-mail anacostia1969@yahoo.com or visit www.anacostia1969.org.

Coolidge High Class of 1953 — Aug. 25. Contact Gerry at 301-438-7452, e-mail: queenger1@aol.com; or Sandy at 301-598-7736, e-mail: suga312@verizon.net.

Dunbar High Class of 1962 — Sept. 14-16. Contact Christine C. Leake at 202-232-2887.

Duval High Class of 1972 — Sept. 8. Contact Wendy Milne at 301-563-6555 or Wendysmilne@aol.com.

Eastern High Class of 1962 — Sept. 22. Contact Gwen Smith at 301-885-0502 or e-mail gwensartisticdesigns@msn.com.

Fairfax High Class of 1960 — Sept. 21-23. E-mail Cbotanart@aol.com.

Groveton High Class of 1963 — Oct. 20. E-mail donnamarkland@cox.net.

Hayfield High Classes of 1976-1979 — Oct. 5-6. E-mail hayfield77reunion@msn.com.

Herndon High Class of 1972 — Oct. 12. Contact Facebook group Herndon High Class of 1972 or e-mail 72hhsreunion@gmail.com.

High Point High Class of 1967 — Sept. 22. (Classes of 1966 and 1968 welcome.) Visit highpointalumni.com or e-mail nbjohncox@comcast.net.

Howard High Class of 1967 — Oct. 20. www.greatreunions.com.

Walter Johnson Class of 1962 — Sept. 22. E-mail lsabbott@verizon.net or call 301-259-1858.

James Madison Class of 1987 — Oct. 6. www.greatreunions.com.

McLean High Class of 1963 — July 13, 2013. E-mail mclean63@yahoo.com.

Northwestern Class of 1972 — Sept. 8. Call Andy Nussbaum at 410-740-6666 or e-mail nhsclassof72@gmail.com.

Northwood High Class of 1962 — Oct. 5-7. E-mail Serena Seliger Toro at serena9244@gmail.com.

Robert E. Peary Class of 1977 — Oct. 6. E-mail HuskiesClassof1977@aol.com.

Eleanor Roosevelt Class of 1987 — Sept. 22. www.greatreunions.com.

Washington-Lee Class of 1992 — Sept. 29th. wl1992.com/generals/.

Western Class of 1962 — Oct. 19-21. E-mail Liz8733@aol.com.

Walt Whitman Class of 1972 — Nov. 10. www.fivestarreunions.com.

Yorktown High Classes of 1962-1964— Oct. 19-21. Contact Lynda Dubrow at 505-883-9253.

To read previous columns, go to washingtonpost.com/johnkelly.

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