Lord Rockingham's XI was a group of musicians put together by Scottish bandleader Harry Robinson to play as the resident band on the UK pop television programme "Oh Boy". This hugely popular show, the creation of Jack Good, was nationally networked in the UK from September 1958 until June 1959, on ITV, the commercial counterpart of the BBC. Broadcast on Saturday evenings in direct competition with the BBC's "Six-Five Special", the show was hosted by Tony Hall and Jimmy Henney and featured non-stop music.

Lord Rockingham's XI actually had thirteen musicians in all, if you include bandleader Harry Robinson. There were two tenor saxes, two baritone saxes, a double bass, an organ, a piano, Latin American percussion, three guitars, and drums. Well-known jazz buff Benny Green played tenor sax with the band, but was so embarrassed by it that he often played in sunglasses to hide the fact.

The group recorded several novelty rock instrumentals for British Decca. The first of these (and, according to some, the best) was "Fried Onions" in May 1958, which failed to chart. Then, in October, Decca released the Harry Robinson penned "Hoots Mon", complete with Scottish accented cries like "Hoots Mon, there's a moose loose aboot this hoose!". Helped by the weekly TV exposure, the single went to # 1 on the UK charts and stayed there for three weeks. "Hoots Mon" was based on an old traditional Scottish song, "A Hundred Pipers". Despite selling 500,000 copies, each of the XI received only 6!

When the band wanted to go on the road, legal hassle developed. Although most people identified Harry Robinson as Lord Rockingham, this was not the case according to Jack Good, who had created the name as a play on words "rocking 'em". But it turned out there had been a real Lord Rockingham in times past. There was considerable argument about who had rights to the name Lord Rockingham and lawyers had to be brought in to settle the dispute. They settled out of court, with Good keeping television and recording rights, and Robinson being able to use the name on tour.

Like many novelty hits, "Hoots Mon" was hard to follow. The next release, "Wee Tom" only made # 16 in February 1959. After a further attempt to have a hit with "Ra Ra Rockingham" failed, Robinson reverted to more straight forward orchestra names like Harry Robinson's XV and the Robinson Crew.

The band was revived twice (with a modified line-up), first in 1962, for an attempt to cash in on the twist phenomenon (Newcastle Twist / Rockingham Twist, on Decca), and then in 1968, for an LP on Columbia, "The Return of Lord Rockingham", a mix of rerecorded old hits (including "Hoots Mon" of course) and arrangements of contemporary numbers like "Lady Madonna". Harry Robinson was the musical director once again. Lord Rockingham's XI remain a delightful, if transient, piece of 1950s fun, and should never have been taken as seriously as some musicians apparently believed they should be.

More info (including a discography): http://www.fortunecity.com/greenfield/wolf/31/id57.htm

CD : Jack Good Presents Lord Rockingham's XI (UK Stylus). Their complete recordings, 35 tracks.

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