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Memories Of 1970s Rock Band Unicorn Whose Founder Members Came from Send And Ockham

By David Rose

Fans of rock music from the 1970s may remember Unicorn, a local band, that made some great albums, but unfortunately never had the fame they justly deserved.

Unicorn. From left: Ken Baker, Pete Perryer, Pat Martin and Trevor Mee.

Unicorn’s bass player was Pat Martin, who grew up in Send. In 1963 he began making music with Ken Baker, a friend from St Bede’s School, in Send. During the summer holidays Pat would ride his bike from his home to Ken’s house in Ockham with his guitar. They then both plugged into a home-made amplifier that Ken’s uncle had made.

Pat says: “My dad thought that if continued to pursue my love of beat music, it might keep me away from what he termed ‘the yobs’ he said I was mixing with.

“He bought us some better equipment, became our manager and we soon recruited a drummer, Pete Perryer.”

The Pink Bears.

The band was originally called the Senders. They then became the Pink Bears, later changing their name to the Late. They played many gigs in and around the local area and not long after they had left school aged 17, they were performing as a living. In the early days various members came and went, including, Trevor Mee. He was a gifted guitarist, so Pat switched to playing bass guitar.

The Pink Bears playing Lancaster Hall, Send, in 1965.

Other gigs Pat recalls playing with his band include the Stereo club that was above the Co-op store in Woking. He says: “We got a gig there as a replacement to another band. I don’t think it was a licensed premises, but there was a lot of good beat and rhythm ’n’ blues bands who played there.”

The Pink Bears’ business card.

Not only did Pat and his bandmates play at Woking’s famous Atalanta club, he saw many other bands there – some of whom are now legendary. He says: “I saw the Who, the Turtles, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Graham Bond Organisation, and Cream, who were playing their second-ever gig when I saw them there.”

The Late – jammin!

Atalanta owner Bob Potter managed Pat’s band the Late for three years. Pat recalls: “We did an audition for him and he liked us as we sounded like the Hollies. We were signed to him from 1967 to 1969. He had a studio in Mytchett and when we had some free time we recorded some demo tapes there.

“Under his management we got gigs from Hampshire down to Cornwall and up to North Wales. We never made much money, but it was great fun.”

The band rehearsed in Pat’s dad’s garage, which he had converted into a studio for them. They called it The Shed. Some recordings they made in it, have now been released on CD.

The Late’s van.

After a while their bookings for gigs slowed up, but they were lucky in that they became singer Billy J Kramer’s backing band. It was regular money, but they quit after about nine months as the routine of playing a medley of all of Kramer’s hits every day became somewhat tiresome.

By this time band member Ken Baker was writing his own songs and they got a break when Transatlantic Records offered them a deal. Now named Unicorn, the album was titled Uphill All The Way and was released in 1971.

Their style was soft rock with a country tinge plus lots of vocal harmonies. Gigs took them to countries in Europe such as Sweden and Italy where they were well received.

In 1973, David Gilmour, the guitarist in the world famous rock band Pink Floyd took Unicorn under his wing and the results were the albums Blue Pine Trees (released in 1974), Too Many Crooks and Unicorn2 (both released in 1976) and One More Tomorrow (1977).

Unicorn – their hair longer, typically 1970s fashion.

Pat recalls this as an exciting time as they toured the USA, playing support to such bands as Fleetwood Mac, Manfred Man’s Earthband, Billy Joel and Linda Ronstadt. Unfortunately, Unicorn never made it big in their own right and by 1977 the emergence of punk music meant only the biggest country-soft rock bands could survive.

Unicorn played its last gig that year in Canning Town, London, to an audience that was so small the band cut the performance short.

After driving lorries for a living and also driving a mobile library bus for a while, Pat has now retired, but music is in his blood and he still plays.

Unicorn’s albums are now available on CD, as well as other recordings by Pat Martin and his bandmates. For details see Unicorn’s website: www.unicornmusic.net or www.cherryred.co.uk/artist/unicorn/

Pat will be recalling his music career and stories about Unicorn when he gives a talk at the Keep pub in Castle Street, Guildford, on Monday evening, January 29, from 7.30pm. Entry is free. He will also have some Unicorn CDs for sale.

The talk is part of the series of history and nostalgia evenings at the pub, hosted in conjunction with Ben Darnton of Ben’s Collectors Records in Tunsgate, and who also hosts the popular Facebook page Guildford Past & Present.

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One Response to Memories Of 1970s Rock Band Unicorn Whose Founder Members Came from Send And Ockham

  1. Benjamin Darnton Reply

    February 13, 2018 at 9:55 pm

    Thanks to Pat Martin for an entertaining evening of music and anecdotes about the history of local 1970s band Unicorn at the Keep pub recently.

    From the beat group Pink Bears to the hippy look of The Late to the country rock style of Unicorn, Pat guided us through the highs and lows of life on road and in the music business with Unicorn.

    Particularly interesting was when they met Pink Floyd’s Dave Gilmour at a gig at a wedding and their association with Kate Bush.

    Cherry Red Records have issued all of Unicorn’s back catologue and they were recently featured on Johnny Walker’s Sound of the Seventies show on BBC Radio 2.\

    If you would like Pat to give a talk for your local history / music group please get in touch with him as he is an excellent public speaker.

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