IT WAS 19th November 1931:
In the small village of Portishead in Somerset, Jack and
Dorothy Cutler looked on their new born son with pride –
and named him Alan John Cutler. This was soon abbreviated
to ‘Adge’ – and musical history began
to be made!
Adge left school at 14, spent a short time working in his
father’s bicycle-come-taxi-come-coach business, moving
on rapidly to work with the local cider company, ‘Coates’
and then as a labourer on a nuclear power station in North
Wales. For a few years he turned road manager for musician
Acker Bilk before moving to Spain for a year looking into
development opportunities for holiday homes. This final
move turned out to be disastrous and Adge moved back to
England and settled in London. Music was in his blood and
with several self-penned songs he began to scrape a living
singing in pubs and clubs right across the country –
even doing some solo lunchtime appearances in the famous
‘Cavern Club’ in Liverpool. Early in 1966 he
already had appearances booked on local west-country radio
and television and spent hours travelling between London
and Bristol to sing to crowds in his beloved Somerset.
reputation grew, but with it his need to earn a proper living,
so Adge visited the office of his good friend John Miles,
which was situated above the offices of Acker and Dave Bilks’
Adge was pretty hard up, living in a bedsit in Pembroke
Road, Clifton and doing labouring work as he had just returned
from a year in Spain looking for sites to build villas with
the Bilks’ building company. The venture didn’t
work out as the British Government had stopped all transfers
of money for foreign investment, so he had returned to the
Adge and John sat down together on that sunny afternoon
in June 1966 Adge expressed how he would like to make some
money singing the songs he had already written and discussed
his forming a proper backing group. Adge suggested ‘The
Mangold Wurzels’ but he and John eventually agreed
that just ‘The Wurzels’ was better. John had
spent the last eight years managing pop groups and had done
lots of business with EMI, hence the reason he contacted
them first to see if he could persuade them to offer Adge
a recording contract. He succeeded in obtaining a recording
contract - and then agreed to act as “The Wurzels’”
manager and agent: this continued for next 20 years.
1966 – the world would never be the same again! A
band of strangely dressed men with odd looking instruments
leapt on stage at the ‘Royal Oak Inn’ Nailsea,
Somerset and proceeded to record a ‘live’ album
for the EMI record company. This was Adge Cutler & The
Wurzels’ first LP and it sold in massive numbers,
quickly followed by a single which charted nationally and
then an EP “Scrumpy & Western” – this
was the start of a musical revolution that is still going
strong over 40 years later!
and his Wurzels were on a roll! Wurzelmania
hit the UK. The band was inundated with gigs across the
country – everyone
wanted to sing along to ‘Drink Up Thy Cider’
and listen to ditties about the champion dung spreader and
others. Another album, also ‘live’, was recorded
in 1967 entitled ‘Adge Cutler’s Family Album’
and was once again a tremendous success. Over the next few
years a total of 8 singles and 3 further albums were recorded
and snapped up by Scrumpy & Western enthusiasts everywhere.
The band even went on a tour of Germany! Adge’s popularity,
along with that of his band of Wurzels, was unsurpassed
- they even had plans to tour Canada
they had a strong following. Their popularity was reflected
by the number of television appearances – and when
Adge’s Wurzel stick was stolen the story was covered
by ‘Police Five’ –
the 1970s equivalent of today’s ‘Crime Watch’.
But Adge’s reign as King of Scrumpy & Western
music ended abruptly and tragically. On Sunday 5th May 1974
came the shattering news that Adge had died in the early
hours when his car overturned at a roundabout approaching
the Severn Bridge. He was returning alone to his new house
at Tickenham from a successful week of shows in Hereford.
The eulogies made were numerous, but in the end Adge Cutler
was just a true countryman: a Somerset man who knew his
homeland, its characters and their foibles. The wit of his
lyrics encouraged Somerset folk to laugh at themselves.
He was that rare bird – a born entertainer, just slightly
bemused even to the end that his little songs had brought
so much pleasure to so many people.
what was to happen to Adge’s remaining Wurzels? –
at the time comprising of Tommy Banner, Pete Budd and Tony
They were devastated of course, but were determined to carry
on Adge’s legacy and
keep his name on the lips of scrumpy fans across the world.
So carry on they did, and the following year recorded their
first solo album “The Wurzels are Scrumptious”.
A success, but not as good as they felt Adge’s memory
deserved. The following year they recorded a ‘live’
album at a country club near Bristol. One of the songs was
then released as a single. This song, all about a farm implement,
was picked up by Radio 1 DJ Noel Edmonds who championed
it. Within weeks the Wurzels hit the big time – their
first solo single ‘The
Combine Harvester’ shot to the top spot in the UK
charts – their first No. 1 – and Pete, Tommy
and Tony were inundated with radio and television interviews
and appearances. Ten years after Adge recorded his first
single, the Wurzels were a huge success and a household
name. How proud Adge would have been!
the huge success of Combiner Harvester
the Wurzels knew that they would have difficulty maintaining
this level. The problem was solved very quickly when Pete
Budd was playing around with the tune ‘Una Paloma
Blanca’; the lyrics ‘When the moon shines on
the cowshed’ materialised out of the scrumpy-laden
air and their follow-up single ‘Cider Drinker’
was born. This record, rocketing up the charts and selling
250,000 copies, proved to the world that the Wurzels were
not a one-hit wonder and were indeed here to stay!
Another single, ‘Morning Glory’ also hit the
charts as 1976 rapidly turned into Wurzel-year. With all
this chart success appearances all over the country in a
wide variety of venues were scheduled from cowsheds to top
nightclubs and a constant stream of bookings for radio and
television such as ‘Arrows’, ‘Multi Coloured
Swap Shop’. ‘Top of the Pops’, ‘Saturday
Scene’, ‘Pebble Mill at One’, ‘Seaside
Special’ and ‘The Ken Dodd Show’.
For several years Wurzel life was a mixture of touring -
two sell-out nationwide tours and world
tours taking in Canada (which gave them their first No.1
single outside the UK with Combine Harvester/The Blackbird),
Tenerife, the Middle East and Cyprus – and TV appearances
finding time to appear on numerous shows including ‘That’s
Life’, ‘Crackerjack’ and ‘The Basil
Four more albums and seven singles of fresh Wurzel music
hit the shops over the next few years – and the record
company was forced to release several ‘best of’
compilations to satisfy demand! But as with all chart-busting
groups eventually the pace had to slow – even lashings
of the local scrumpy couldn’t help the boys keep up
this neck-breaking speed of life!
In 1986 with the release of the single ‘All Fall Down’
– a little ditty reminding us of the perils of over-indulging
in the zummerzet brew - life for the Wurzels returned to
a more sedentary style as they decided to return to their
roots away from the glare of the cameras and once again
appear in the local pubs and clubs where they so enjoyed
In the mid- 80s the band could be found performing
just as in the old days before fame and fortune hit –
giving pleasure to fans in pubs and clubs with both traditional
Wurzel numbers and new songs written by the band. They may
not have been hitting the headlines but life was just as
rare excursion to the recording studios in this period was
when the Wurzels were commissioned to produce a 7”
single ‘Sunny Weston-Super-Mare’ – extolling
the virtues of this seaside town in the band’s effort
to help the dwindling local tourist trade – the single
even had an instrumental ‘B’ side for the buyer
to sing along to!
in 1995 came the opportunity for the band to return to the
spotlight. The Eddie Stobart haulage company was looking
for a group to produce a song to advertise the company:
The Wurzels were approached and the band’s first single
for several years was cut. The single, which actually consisted
of four brand-new Wurzel tracks, was a great success, even
reaching the national charts. It was also a first –
for not only was it produced in the common cassette format,
but also appeared in a ‘lorry shaped’ 7”
vinyl picture disc and the modern (at the time!) CD. Sales
were good, the company received great publicity and the
Wurzels once again came to the attention of the nation!
Although a follow-up album was planned (and was advertised
on the cassette sleeve notes) it never materialised.
on the heels of this success Wurzel fans were repaid for
their loyalty by seeing the issue of a new album on cassette
(made available at gigs) the first ‘live’ Wurzels
album for over 20 years. Recorded in Barnstaple early in
the year, “Mendip Magic – Live!” was,
and indeed still is, a superb example of the band’s
exciting live performance, undiminished over the years and
still as fresh as ever.
the band weren’t topping
the charts and appearing on TV with such regularity as in
the mid 1970s, life was no less busy as they continued to
perform for fans old and new alike – but with the
dawn of the new millennium things were about to take off
2000 a new CD was issued ‘The Finest Arvest of the
Wurzels’ – a massive collection of the Wurzel’s
hits. This major seller was closely followed by ‘The
Wurzels Collection’ – more back numbers reissued.
The band came under new and proactive management in the
form of Sil Willcox, an established manager and record producer
(most well known of his groups perhaps being ‘The
Stranglers’). Under his care and guidance the Wurzels
produced a new album ‘Never Mind The Bullocks’
which consisted of covers of modern pop songs.
singles from this album were to put the band back on the
map. The first was ‘Combine Harvester remix 2001’
– an upbeat version of their 1976 chart topper, closely
followed by ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’,
originally sung by a group known as Oo-Ar-Sis or should
that be Oasis! These releases opened the floodgates and
the Wurzels haven’t looked back since – and
certainly not in anger!
albums of fresh recordings followed along with numerous
appearances on TV shows. Requests for gigs poured in –
it is not uncommon for the band to play to crowds numbered
in their thousands and their fan base increased massively
taking in children, university students and adults alike.
In the summer of 2000 the Wurzels achieved the ultimate
accolade – they played at the Glastonbury Festival!
Adge Cutler would have been so proud of his legacy!
Wurzels’ first commercial video was released in 2002
along with another CD - both now highly sought after by
collectors. In recent times several albums and singles have
been released, including their first collaborative single
‘Cider Drinker 2007’ along with DJ Tony Blackburn
– a single to raise money
for a prostate cancer appeal following band member Tommy
Banner’s fight with the disease. More recently a re-recording
of the single ‘One For The Bristol City’, also
a charity single for prostate cancer, tickled the national
for Wurzel music has also resulted in yet another ‘Greatest
Hits’ collection - there appears to be no end to the
phenomenon of ‘The Wurzels’ – hardly a
day goes by now when they can’t be found on stage,
appearing on TV shows, raising money for charities close
to their hearts and most of all bringing so much pleasure
to so many people with simple sing-along numbers extolling
the virtues of living in the land of cider and sunshine.
Wurzels are regularly asked how long will
they keep going. The band always respond that they
intend to keep going whilst they enjoy performing –
and that suits the rest of us just fine!
FAMILY ALBUM DOWNLOAD:
Prof. Wurzel has put together a history of The Wurzels with
photos of all the band members from over the years.
download the PDF.