The Full story
The Shades of Blue was a 4 piece pop music group formed in February 1966 at the British Army camp of Hobart Barracks in a town called Detmold, West Germany.
They were all serving British soldiers:
Fred Bowes Royal Army Ordnance Corps (bass guitar)
Roger Pollard Royal Army Ordnance Corps (drummer)
Howie Dutton 4th Royal Tank Regiment (rhythm guitar)
Mick Trewhella Royal Corps of Signals (lead guitar)
The group practised frequently until they felt ready to go on the road. The first few bookings they got were at other military establishments around Hobart Barracks. As their reputation grew the area they covered also grew. Soon they were performing in German civilian clubs as well as British military camps. Within 6 months the Shades were entertaining British and American service personnel along with quite a large following of German civilians.
Recruitment to the armed forces in the sixties was low due in part, to the runaway success of the Beatles and other popular bands.
Young men at this time were more interested in forming groups and seeking stardom rather than becoming soldiers.
Sometime in 1966, a bright spark in MoD HQ hit on the idea of holding a pop group competition for the many bands that were forming within the army. The thinking behind this was, the publicity for the competition would let civilians know that even if you were a soldier you could still be in a pop group. The first Army Beat Group Competition began to take shape. Everywhere the British Army had bases, local army groups were invited to enter with one regional heat deciding the winner for that area.
The Shades of Blue entered the Northern Germany regional contest and beat about seven to 8 other bands to go forward to the Grand Final to be held on 20th April 1967 at the BBC Playhouse, London. The judging was to be carried out by David Jacobs, Barry Alldis, Alan Dell, Keith Fordyce and Murray Kash all prominent TV or Radio DJs at the time.
On the evening, Shades of Blue played their own composition “I wanna be free”. The judges headed by David Jacobs carefully considered all the entrants before naming the winners. The Shades of Blue became a part of British Army history when they were crowned the first ever official Army Pop Group.
Shortly after the competition, the Major Minor label signed them up and the boys recorded their one and only single at Chapel Studios, London which at that time, was also host to the likes of Jimi Hendrix, The Tremeloes and The Who. The lads appeared all over West Germany and had a strong following of both military and civilian fans wherever they went. They took the same route as the Beatles had five years earlier, playing on the Star Club circuit in the larger German towns and cities.
It was about this time the group had several changes. Fred was posted away leaving the bass guitarist slot vacant. There was nobody in the area to fill this so the band had a reshuffle. A lead guitarist called Pete Lingard became available so Mick stepped aside and became rhythm, Howie quickly learnt bass and Pete came in as the new lead guitarist. Not long after the group had a change of drummer. Polly left the Shades and was replaced by Jock (Billy) McCormick. Billy was a very skilled musician, quite into jazz. He gave the Shades a new depth and polish. The BBC invited Shades of Blue to appear live on the “Saturday Club” radio show hosted by David Lamb in Koln, Germany. The show was broadcast live to the UK, Germany, The Middle and Far East.
In August 1968 after several line-up changes and a posting or two by the Army, the band split up. The Shades of Blue ceased to be.
On 7th November 2001 some 33 years later, the four original members of the Shades of Blue reunited again in South Tyneside, UK.
On 20th April 2007, Fred & Mick returned to Detmold to meet up with Howie to celebrate the 40th anniversary of winning the cup. Roger was unable to attend due to illness.
On 20th April 2017, the Shades reunited to celebrate the 50th year since winning the first-ever Army beat group competition. At the time the group did not know this would be their last ever get-together. Later that year on 18th December 2017 Fred Bowes sadly passed away leaving the surviving members of the band brokenhearted. A bond and friendship that endured over 50 years had been broken.
This site is dedicated to the memory of Shades of Blue members Rhythm/Bass guitarist Howie who passed away 5 Sep 2022, Bass Guitarist Fred who passed away 2017, Drummer Roger who passed away 2021 and also my late father Henry Redvers Trewhella who diligently collected anything related to the band and provided much of the memorabilia you see on this site. (Mike Trewhella 2018) The cup which Howie looked after until 2022 was carefully packaged by Monika Dutton, Howie’s widow, and sent to Michael in early 2023.