The Life and Times of the late Manchester Teddy Boy, Boppin Brian Spilsbury, in his own words as told to author, Julian Lord in Septemmber 2011.


Boppin Brian Spilsbury (3rd left) with Manchester Teddy Boys at Granada Studio's in 1971.

When I was eight years old I remember people talking about them (the Teds), that would be about 1956. I saw a lot of Teds around Belle Vue (in Manchester). There was a lot in the papers about them. In 1958, when I was eleven, my best mate, Dave Evans, worked in Raffo's Cafe, and I got to know a lot of Teds in there, and that's when I decided I wanted to be a Ted. I am what you'd call a second generation Ted. I was too young to be a proper fifties Ted. My auntie took my trousers in for me and I started combing my hair into a DA hairstyle. My mum bought me a pair of crepes with one-inch-thick soles, and I remember they cost thirty-nine shillings and eleven pence. When I was thirteen, I was what I would call a semi-Ted. I used to wear my dad's jacket to make it look as if I was wearing a drape jacket. The music I was into was Gene Vincent, Buddy Holly and Eddy Cochran.

 

From about 1958, when I moved to secondary modern school, the headmaster used to come round during assembly like he was in the Army and inspect everybody. Anybody with tight trousers or anything that looked like a Ted haircut or any creeper shoes would be ordered out of the line and sent to his office to receive punishment with the strap and told that dressing like that you would be classed as 'one of them' (a Teddy Boy.). This would happen every morning without fail, but us Teds didn't care and just carried on getting the strap. The headmaster got his comeuppance in the end though, because one day Alan Tottoh, who became a very well known boxer in the sixties after he had left school, came back and punched the headmaster.

 

I remember going to the cinema in the fifties with my mum and dad, and there was this little gang of Teds walking around, and my dad said, 'Who the hell do they think they are?' You always got older men in the streets commenting; 'If they were in the Army with me, I'd soon sort them out,' meaning the Teds. But we were not all hooligans. A lot of Teds in the fifties were only in it because it was the 'in' thing. They were fickle. Only a few stuck with it when the fashions changed. I think National Service killed a lot of it off, but not all of it. A lot of Teds went straight back into it when they had done their National Service. I know Teds who would not hurt a fly. My mate Johnny Goodwin went into the army in 1956, came out in '58 and went straight back into the Teds. Most of the Teds went in and did their National Service, fought in Suez, Malaya, etc. without moaning at all. People forget this, but it is very important. Plenty of Teddy Boys died for this country. I was in the TA from late 1972 until '74. There was one Ted I knew who was deaf and dumb. He was obviously not in it for the music but simply to be a Ted. It pisses me off that people think it is all about the music, it is not. It's about much more than that...  

 

In 1962, I left school and got my first job, it was in engineering, and then bought my first drape. I was only fifteen, so my dad had to sign the papers for me because I was paying weekly for it. Then I bought a secondhand drape. It was black with four buttons on it and a three-inch-wide collar. No, it had no velvet or cuffs on it. My first drape was fingertip length navy blue with a half velvet collar. It had two breast pockets and two side pockets but no ticket pockets [and] black round velvet cuffs. I used to get my drapes made over in Yorkshire, at John Temples in Leeds. My trousers were fourteen-inch bottoms with turn-ups and my socks were white or sometimes mustard yellow. I never saw any fluorescent socks in the fifties or the sixties. Most Teds I knew wore their sideburns to earlobe length but in the late fifties they got slightly longer. In the sixties, especially in London, you had long haired Teds with long sideburns, but long hair and long sideburns were generally in fashion then anyway.

 

I remember Teds wearing normal black shoes or leather brothel creepers in the fifties. Some Teds did wear stovepipe trousers and waistcoats, and I think this was probably influenced by US Westerns and some borrowing from the Beau Brummel look. I never saw any bright drapes. There were lots of greys, blacks and blue drapes, but no green. I saw two or three lads with Mohican hair cuts in the late fifties but I don't know if they were Teds or not.

 

By 1963-4, when fashions began to change, I was still wearing my drapes and listening to rock and roll records. People asked when I was going to change and I used to reply, 'Never!' and they just all accepted it. Some of the Rockers wore crepes and ice blue jeans with their leather jackets. They also wore studded belts for fighting with. Some of them even wore drapes to go out in. The early Rockers were all into rock and roll like Johnny Kidd and the Pirates. The original Teds seemed to have disappeared by '63-4, so I thought I was on my own. My best mate at the time, Dave Evans, stuck with it until '64, then he got married. However, I knew that the Teds were still around because I used to read the Record Mirror which catered for the rock and roll fans, and I used to read the letters from London Teds who used to slag off the modern music. In about '65 I was in the cellar of a shop in Cheetham Hill, looking through old records, when I saw a copy of Webb Pierce's 'Teenage Boogie', a classic, yet very obscure at that time, rockabilly record on the Brunswick label, worth now around £1,000. All the Teds in the sixties had big record collections, rare Sun records, we dug out as much rare rockabilly as we could find. We started everyone off on it. We got auction lists and found all sorts of ways off outdoing each other.

 

Yes, I used to carry weapons. I began when I was fourteen, carrying a bicycle chain. In the sixties I had a pair of brass knuckledusters. In 1960-61 I wore a studded belt, but only with my jeans because it was a bit scruffy. Between 1960-62 I wore an army webbing belt with metal studs in. At the end of the sixties I used to carry a flick knife. A lot of Teds used to carry a length of rubber hose with a steel rod inside that was about a foot long. I used my bike chain in a fight one time. I have seen all these weapons used in fights. At the 'Rink', a skating rink (on Birchfield Road between Longsight and Levenshulme, south Manchester) that doubled as a dance hall at night, they used to search us before we went in. One night I saw a big table covered in confiscated weapons. It later became a night club in the seventies and was called Ocean's Eleven. All these places, the dancehalls, have gone now, it's all night clubs. There were always fights at the Rink. The Moss Side Teds used to come over for fights.

 

Raffo's was for Teds in the fifties, and in the sixties it became a Rockers' place, so I used to go there. My dad warned me not to go there because it got a bad reputation in the fifties. Before the Mod era of the sixties, we used to go out to dance, for socialising and for the music. There was none of this binge drinking and girls scrapping that you get today. It's a different world now, a much worse world. The music is shit and the fashions are shit. It's all gone to pot. In the sixties it was more peaceable, nobody ever challenged me, and I wanted to know people. I was friendly.

 

In late '65 I met a postman named Malcolm Breeley in a record shop. He was wearing his postman's uniform but had a quiff in, sideburns and was wearing brothel creepers. Then in '66 I met 'Smokey' (real name Jed Davidson), who was an Original and still wearing the gear and we became mates. That was in Brown's School of Dancing on Stockport Road in Levenshulme. The next night I met Rockin' Lewis (Brian Lewis Stewart). He was wearing his drape, and bought me a pint, and so then there were three Teds in Levenshulme. Later I met Kenny Doyle, Bob Needham (now deceased), and Yank (now deceased), and then Lewis' brother Colin. There were about five of us Teds that I knew who stuck it right throughout the sixties.

 

In 1964 I went to the Hollywood youth club, where I met half a dozen Teds all wearing black drapes. This was in Stockport, just off Mersey Square, and they absolutely hated the Mods and all the changes going on.

 

It all began to take off again after we did a programme for Granada Television. In 1972, the Midland Hotel in West Didsbury opened up with rock and roll on Saturday nights. The resident band was the Rocking One Percent. To start with there were only a few Teds there, but by '73 it was jam-packed with Teds and they came from all over, even the London Teds used to come up. I wore my drapes all through the seventies, but it became a lot more violent, due mostly to squares taking the piss and then them getting a good smacking. The seventies was a fantastic time for the Teds, and we also got hold of all the old obscure rock and roll and rockabilly records that you couldn't get, or had never even heard of in the fifties. It was the Teddy Boys who rediscovered rockabilly when the rest of the world did not even know what it was. The style got ridiculous though, with a lot of Showaddywaddy, bright coloured drapes.

 

After we had done the programme about the Teds for Granada TV, in March 1971, I was in the Wheatsheaf pub in Levenshulme with four or five other Teds when a gang of skinheads, about a dozen strong, came in and asked if they could come into our pub. They said they had seen us on the telly and their parents had told them, 'You will never beat that lot.'

 

I met [Teddy Boy historian] Brian Rushgrove on Deansgate in Manchester in 1972 and I bought his magazine, called At The Hop. We have been good friends ever since. Brian told me about the massive and growing scene in Bradford and the West Riding of Yorkshire in the late sixties and early seventies.

 

I never saw a Ted wearing winkle pickers until the seventies. Until the seventies, only the beat boys wore them with the Italian look. In fact I never saw Teds wearing suede crepes until the seventies. Before then, crepes were always leather and we used to polish them until they were really shiny. We used to bull them up. I used to wear white shirts. I got my first bootlace tie in 1962. I also used to make my own ties. I never saw lads in the fifties wearing velvet collars, or any velvet at all, but it was mentioned in the media.

 

By the mid-eighties, the Ted scene was dead. You were getting a lot of pretend Teds (jive bunnies), so I went into the woodwork. There was simply nowhere to go. Then in 2010 the Manchester Teds got going again and I joined them. They are Teds recreating the original, pre-rock and roll Ted style.

 

The Teds have had an absolutely massive impact. I've always been proud to be a Ted and be different from everyone else. It is the best thing to be in, and the fifties is the best thing since sliced bread. I have always been a Ted. It's in my heart.