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18th June 2015 7:40 pm

Last online 18th June 2015 7:40 pm

Amid the multitude of Midlands groups during the mid-1960s, all replete with Beatles haircuts, high collared jackets and a neo-Liverpool sound; one band stood out, The Blueshounds. It was soon to become better known as Locomotive, playing Kansas City jazz and blues and featuring a 7-piece horn-based line-up. A recipe for suicide you may think, but strangely enough the band carved their own very personal niche in the UK music scene, chalking up some 250 shows each and every year.

Locomotive became renowned as a nursery for musicians destined for stardom. Graduates from its ranks included John Bonham (later Led Zeppelin), Chris Wood (Traffic), Poli Palmer (Family), Pete York (Spencer Davis Group), Dave Pegg (Fairport Convention/Jethro Tull), Carl Palmer (Emerson, Lake & Palmer), Mike Kellie (Spooky Tooth) and Dave Mason (Traffic).
In 1967 CBS Direction released the first Locomotive single, coupling the ballad A Broken Heart, with what was much later to become a ska classic, Rudi, A Message To You. ...Six months later, Locomotive trumpet player Jim Simpson quit playing in order to concentrate solely on the band’s management... Simpson set up his own label to release Rudi The Red Nosed Reindeer ...

The label was named Big Bear Records in recognition of D.J. John Peel’s nickname for the label’s founder, and the date was November 15th 1968.
With the 1980s came a swing back to Big Bear Records’ first love, jazz and swing. Concentrating mainly on British artists, the label was to win a string of plaudits and awards, securing its place in the history of recorded jazz with great recordings by Kenny Baker’s Dozen, Val Wiseman with Lady Sings The Blues, Duncan Swift, Bruce Adams/Alan Barnes Quintet and, of course, the incredibly successful King Pleasure & The Biscuit Boys.

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