Grease Band

Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1  (1968-69)

- Joe Cocker (RIP  2014) -- vocals

- Chris Stainton -- keyboards


  line up 2 (1969-70)

-  Joe Cocker (RIP 2014) -- vocals

- Tommy Eyre -- keyboards

- Chris Stainton -- bass


  line up 3 (1970-72)

NEW - Neil Hubbard -- rhythm guitar

- Henry McCullough (RIP 2016) -- vocals, lead guitar

- Bruce Rowland (RIP 2015) -- drums, percussion

- Alan Spenner (RIP 1991) -- vocals, bass


  supporting musicians (1971)

- Phil Harmonious Plunk (aka Chris Stainton) -- keyboards


  line up 4 (1975)

- Neil Hubbard -- rhythm guitar

- Henry McCullough (RIP 2016) -- vocals, lead guitar

- Bruce Rowland (RIP 2015) -- drums, percussion

- Alan Spenner (RIP 1991) -- vocals, bass


- Big Sleep (John Weathers)

- Bluesology (Neil Hubbard)

- Graham Bond

- Boxer (Chris Stainton)

- Pete Brown and Pibloktol (John Weathers)

- Joe Cocker

- Eire Apparent (Henry McCullough)

- Fairport Convention (Bruce Rowland)\

- Gene and the Gents (Henry McCullough)

- Gentle Giant (John Weathers)

- Bryn Haworth

- Heavy Jelly (Bruce Rowland)

- Juicy Lucy (Neil Hubbard)

- Kokomo (Neil Hubbard and Alan Spenner)

- Ronnie Lane's Slim Chance (Bruce Rowland)

- Henry McCullough (solo efforts)

- Memphis Band

- Maddy Prior

- Neutrons (John Weathers)

- Bruce Rowland

- Roxy Music (Neil Hubbard)

- Spooky Tooth (Henry McCullough and Alan Spenner)

- Chris Stainton's Tundra (Neil Hubbard and Alan Spenner)

- Strawberry Dust

- Sweeney's Men (Henry McCullough)

- Johnny Tempest and the Cadillacs

- Johnny Tempest and the Mariners

- Wild Turkey (Neil Hubbard and  John Weathers)

- Wings (Henry McCullough)

- Wynder K. Frog (Bruce Rowland and Alan Spenner)




Genre: rock

Rating: 4 stars ****

Title:  The Grease Band

Company: Shelter

Catalog:  SHE 8904

Country/State: Sheffield, UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: gatefold sleeve

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 2905

Price: $20..00

Another band with an exceptionally high mortality rate - three of the four members on their debut album having passed as of this blurb (March 2017).   


For better, or worse, this entity will always be better known as Joe Cocker's backing band.  There are certainly worse fates in the musical universe, but it also does this talented entity a disservice.


Under the moniker The Grease Band, by 1969  the line-up consisted of  lead guitarist Henry McCullough, drummer Bruce Rowland, bassist Alan Spenner, and keyboardist Chris Stainton.   1970 found front man Cocker forced to undertake his infamous 1970 Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour in order to make good on an America tour his management company had not bothered to inform him of.  Stainton was the only Grease Band member to participate in the tour.  To pay their bills McCullough, Rowland, and Spenner joined the "Jesus Christ Superstar" sessions band.  McCullough and Spenner then joined Spooky Tooth.  Rowland joined Terry Riley for the short lived Heavy Jelly.  Adding former Juicy Lucy bassist Neil Hubbard to the line-up, they reactivated The Grease Band in 1971.


In no small part attributable to their work on the "Jesus Christ Superstar" album, the band were quickly signed by EMI's Harvest label   In an interesting quirk of fate, Leon Russell's Shelter Records acquired US distribution rights.  The band subsequently went into London's Olympic and Island Studios to record their debut album.  Produced by the band, Chris Stainton, and Nigel Thomas, 1971's "The Grease Band" is one of those albums that takes a little time to reveal its considerable charms.  With McCullough responsible for most of the material, the album found the band offering up an early version of Americana toots rock.  A couple of reviews have made a comparison to an early Band album, and judging by tracks like 'Let It Be Gone' and 'Willie and the Pig' that comparison wasn't inaccurate.  Handling lead vocals, there was no danger anyone was going to mistake either McCullough, or Spenner as Joe Cocker.  On the other hand, as someone who never enjoyed Cocker's bellowing voice, I found their dry, raspy voices quite enjoyable - check out McCullough's performances on 'Mistake No Doubt' or the closer 'The Visitor'.   Offering up a mixture of blues, country-soul, and roots rockers, it certainly wasn't an overly ambitious, of cutting edge album, but it made for one of those warm, comforting collections.  For some reason I tend to play it during snowstorms.


"The Grease Band" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) My Baby Left Me  (Arthur Crudup) -3:06   rating; ** stars

Surprisingly dull and plodding - the first minute was squandered on a faceless in-studio jam.  Unfortunately when the actual song kicked in, their cover of the Arthur Crudup classic (the writing credit misspelled his name as 'Grudup'), was equally boring.

2.) Mistake No Doubt  (Henry McCullough) - 4:20   rating; **** stars

Funny; Henry McCullough didn't have the greatest voice you've ever heard, but on the country-blues tune 'Mistake No Doubt' his dry, squawk sounded spectacular.   The glorious harmony vocals and McCullough's sweet slide guitar moves certainly didn't hurt.   

3.) Let It Be Gone  (Henry McCullough) - 4:30   rating; **** star

Ever wondered what The Band would have sounded like if they'd been born and raised in Northern England ?  Probably not, but the rollicking 'Let It Be Gone' might give you a feel for what such a mash-up might have sounded like.  One of my favorite performances on the album.  Taken from a July 1969 performance on the West German BeatClub television show, YouTube has a live performance of the tune at:   The song was also tapped as an Italian single:





- 1971's 'Let It Be Gone' b/w 'Mistake No Doubt' (Harvest catalog number C0006-93706) 







4.) Willie and the Pig  (Henry McCullough) - 4:13   rating; **** star

Every time I hear 'Willie and the Pig' it makes me smile ...  Who would have thought a bunch of skinny pale English guys would have been able to pull off such an enjoyable Band-styled slice of Americana.

5.) Laughed at the Judge   (Henry McCullough - Neil Hubbard - Bruce Rowland - Alan Spenner) - 5:30

One of two group compositions, 'Laughed at the Judge' was an okay blues-rocker, showcasing Chris Stainton on keyboards.   Always wondered why the tune was  released as a single:

- 1970's 'Laughed At the Judge' b/w 'Let It be Gone' (catalog number Shelter catalog number 7034)


(side 2)

1.) All I Wanna Do  (Henry McCullough) - 4:00   rating; **** stars

'All I Wanna Do' was the track for folks who didn't think skinny, pale, white English guys could get down and funky.  The song was tapped as the second US single:






- 1971's 'All I Wanna Do' b/w 'Jessie James' (Shelter catalog number 7310)





2.) To the Lord   (traditional arranged by The Grease Band) - 4:20   rating; **** stars

Country-tinged remake of the Gospel classic ...  McCullough's raspy voice and lead guitar licks made it surprisingly enjoyable.  The performance was in the same class as Blind Faith's 'In the Presence of the Lord'.

3.) Jessie James   (Henry McCullough - Neil Hubbard - Bruce Rowland - Alan Spenner) - 4:48   rating: ***  stars

I'm thinking 'Jessie James' featured Spenner on lead vocals ...  Another Band-styled slice of Americana with the emphasis on the rock component.  Plenty of sterling McCullough fuzz guitar, but not my choice for one of the standout performances.

4.) Down Home Mama  (Alan Spenner) - 6:31   rating: ***  stars

Written by Spenner, 'Down Home Mama' started out as a pretty, laidback, country-rock ballad with some tasty Chris Stainton Hammond B3 organ fills.  As it progressed, the song took on a heavier bar band feel.

5.) The Visitor  (Henry McCullough) - 2:43   rating: ***  stars

McCullough's 'The Visitor' is the kind of barebones acoustic folk song that I would normally hate with a passion.  With the possible exception of the late Ronnie Lane, it's a musical genre that routinely sends me storming out the door.  And here's another exception - maybe because McCullough's ragged boice sounds a bit like Lane ?    Pretty tune and another slice of Americana.



In support of the album the band toured the US several times twice, but with few sales to show for their efforts, they split up early in 1972.


Hubbard and Spenner  joined The Chris Stainton Band, followed by a stint in the band Kokomo.  Only 43, Spenner died of a heart attack in August 1991.


McCullough joined Paul McCartney and Wings,played in a couple of Joe Cocker backing bands, and  released a mid-'70s solo album.  n June 2016 he died of the results of an earlier heart attack and possible stroke


Rowland played in a number of bands, including supporting Bryan Ferry and Ronnie Lane's Slim Chance, before he joined Fairport Convention.  74 years old, he died of cancer in June 2015.