THE GREG MASTERS HISTORY:
Born . , 19xx, x, England.
The core of the group, rhythm guitarist Dave Pritchard, bass guitarist Greg Masters and drummer Roger Spencer, was relatively unchanged from 1959 until February 1972. The band went through several incarnations, names, lead guitarists and lead singers: first Billy King and later, more successfully, with Mike Sheridan, with whom they first rose to prominence and, in 1964, to a record deal with EMI.
While Mike Sheridan and The Nightriders failed to crack the charts, the band's lineup during this period included a young lead guitarist and composer named Roy Wood, whose first commercial song "Make Them Understand," appeared on one of the band's B-sides in 1965.
The Nightriders soldiered on with a new lead guitarist, Johnny Mann, for a few months. When they placed an advert in May 1966 for a younger replacement, the winning applicant was Jeff Lynne, then a relatively unknown guitar prodigy from the Birmingham district of Shard End. The Nightriders recorded one single for Polydor, "It's Only The Dog/Your Friend", released in November 1966 with Jeff Lynne on lead guitar. Roger Spencer sang lead on the former; the latter was written and sung by Dave Pritchard.
Eager to showcase Jeff Lynne's vocal and guitar skills as well as his growing cache of catchy Beatlesque songs, the group changed its name, first to Idyll Race, then Idle Race. Roy Wood, now a major star as The Move became a successful chart act, helped arrange a partnership with pop producers Eddie Offord and Gerald Chevin for his old bandmates. In 1967, Idle Race were the first major signing by the new British arm of Liberty Records. Interesting, only their first single (not issued in the UK) and their first album got released in the US on Liberty. (Liberty would later merge with United Artists.)
The group were well received by the music press for their melodies, whimsical lyrics, and inventive production. They often appeared on the same bill with such bands as The Spencer Davis Group, The Who, The Small Faces, Pink Floyd, The Moody Blues, Status Quo, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Yes, Free, and The Move.
During this period, Idle Race was also, as one member later termed it, a very "schizophrenic" band. While their records were awash in melodic hooks, paisley-pop backdrops and lilting harmonies, they were a much heavier act in a live setting. Jeff Lynne's early trademark around the clubs and colleges was his ability to coax an unusual "violin" sound out of his guitar, while Masters would occasionally take a bow to his Hofner bass. In addition to original material, their set list included extended covers of Steppenwolf's "Born to Be Wild", The Jimi Hendrix Experience's "Purple Haze", Moby Grape's "Hey Grandma," The Lemon Pipers' "Blueberry Blue," The Doors' "Love Me Two Times", and an electric version of "Debora" by Tyrannosaurus Rex.
Influential BBC disc jockeys such as John Peel and Kenny Everett were big boosters of the group. But despite critical respect and famous admirers such as The Beatles and Marc Bolan, Idle Race failed to catch fire with the public.
Bad luck sabotaged efforts from the start. Their debut single on Liberty, a cover of Roy Wood's "Here We Go 'Round the Lemon Tree", was scheduled for release and heavily promoted in September 1967. When The Move's version began getting national in airplay around the UK as the B-side of the hit "Flowers In The Rain", Liberty abruptly pulled the single in the UK (although it was still released by Liberty in the US). The record company replaced it with Jeff Lynne's crunching "Impostors of Life's Magazine" in October. With no promotion, "Impostors" received critical praise but this did not result in strong sales.
"The Skeleton and the Roundabout" (February 1968) and "The End of the Road" (June 1968) suffered similar fates. Work continued throughout the year on the Idle Race's debut album, the group commuting in from Birmingham to London on Sundays, when they were granted free studio time at Advision. The resulting "The Birthday Party" was released in October of that year to strong reviews but tepid sales. (Surprisingly, it was issued in the US on Liberty with a modified cover.)
Jeff Lynne and Roy Wood's mutual respect and friendship deepened. The demo for The Move hit "Blackberry Way" was recorded in Jeff Lynne's front room and borrowed motifs from the Idle Race; the chorus of Jeff Lynne's 1969 rocker "Days of the Broken Arrows" lifted part of a riff from the The Move's "Wild Tiger Woman". Roy Wood and Jeff Lynne often spoke of working together on a project that would integrate classical instruments within a pop/rock idiom.
Jeff Lynne received an offer to replace Trevor Burton in The Move in February 1969 but declined with hopes of steering Idle Race to commercial success — and producing the band's second LP for Liberty.
The self-titled Idle Race was eventually released in November 1969 (in the UK but not in the US). When the two Jeff Lynne-penned, Jeff Lynne-produced singles that preceded the LP, "Days of the Broken Arrows" (April 1969) and "Come With Me" (July 1969) also failed to chart, their composer's frustration mounted.
Despite more good reviews, Idle Race, the first album to be produced by Jeff Lynne, flopped.
Meanwhile, Mike Hopkins (guitar) and Dave Walker (vocals) were hired to replace Jeff Lynne in Idle Race. A cover of Mungo Jerry's "In the Summertime" on Liberty in 1970 finally got them into the top 10—in Argentina. A cover of Hotlegs' "Neanderthal Man" didn't fare as well.
Greg Masters leaves shortly after entrence in Steve Gibbons Band and was replaced by Bob Griffin bass/vocals who remains untill 1975 and the line up was:
Trevor Burton bass/vocal (former, The Balls), Steve Gibbons vocals (former, The Balls), Dave Carroll guitar/vocal (former, Tea & Symphony), Bob Wilson guitar/vocal, Bob Lamb drums (former Locomotive).
Released in 2000, A Garland for Linda, wich is a benefit album for the cancer-fighting organization the Garland Appeal. It is also a tribute album to Linda McCartney, who died of breast cancer in 1998. Her husband, Paul McCartney, contributes one selection, but it's not a pop song -- it's a classical piece. It is one of ten classical pieces, all written for Linda McCartney, by such modern classical composers as John Tavener, Judith Bingham, David Matthews, John Rutter, Roxanna Ranufnik, Michael Berkeley, Giles Swayne, and Sir Richard Rodney Bennett. The pieces are all similar in tone -- gentle, sometimes somber, yet always sweet. There may not be any major works here, but everyone's heart is in the right place, and the result is a sentimental mood piece that floats charmingly on its affection.
Greg Masters played the bass on this album.
When we were on the road, Greg was the 'hard man'. If there was any trouble he would see us through it and he's saved our bacon many a time. It is hard to believe it now, but Greg was a leader in the 'fashion stakes' when we were together and was the first person we knew, to wear 'hipsters' with an outside zip! Charlie Mingus was his inspiration and Greg became a highly rated bass player and possibly the first one that I know of to make and play a fretless bass. He still plays great today, making it look effortless and we know he misses being on the road.