Van Morrison was an integral part of the Monarchs,
a showband which, by 1963, was embracing R&B and soul.
Morrison formed The Monarchs, a showband that tried its luck first in Scotland, then London,
and finally Germany, playing six-sets-a-night clubs in the red-light districts of Hamburg
and other cities.
By November 1963 The Monarchs were back in Belfast, where they promptly split up.
THE MONARCHS (George Jones [Guitar], Billy McAllen [Guitar], Van Morrison [Sax],
Wesley Black [Keys], Harry "Mac" Megahey [Sax, Trumpet],
George Hethrington[Vocurie McQueen [Drums) Roy Kane [Drums],
Jimmy Law [Voc], Davey Bell [Sax], Leslie Holmes [Trumpet]
The Monarchs were the group that Van Morrison played with for a few years prior to joining Them, and they even cut a single, though as it turns out that record isn't as interesting or desirable as one might guess. They formed at the end of the 1950s as an outgrowth of the Belfast band the Javelins. They were at the outset a showband, a term that in Ireland refers to an ensemble that can play many kinds of popular music styles. Morrison was already into rock, blues, and R&B, but showbands were about the only option for gaining professional experience, so he paid his dues with the Monarchs, playing saxophone and singing. They played, without much success, in Scotland, and through a chance encounter in London in the summer of 1962, passed an audition to be sent over to Germany. Many British bands, from Liverpool but also from elsewhere, were being sent to Germany for residencies in the early '60s, and undoubtedly the Monarchs' time there in 1962 and 1963 helped Morrison become a tougher, more seasoned performer. Morrison also played some guitar and drums in addition to playing saxophone and singing.
In 1963, the Monarchs got the opportunity to record a German single for CBS, "Boozoo Hully Gully"/"Twingy Baby." Unfortunately for archivists who would love to hear a professionally recorded disc with Morrison predating Them, Morrison only played sax on the record and did not sing. Another member of the Monarchs, George Jones, sang lead on "Boozoo Hully Gully." Said Morrison of "Boozoo Hully Gully" (as quoted in John Collis' Van Morrison: Inarticulate Speech of the Heart), "It was a really bad song but we gave it a dynamite instrumental track." Both sides of the single appear on the Van Morrison bootleg Bluesology 1963-'73.
"Boozoo Hully Gully" apparently made the German charts, yet the Monarchs
broke up in late 1963.
In any event, Morrison's vast musical ambitions could not have been fulfilled in the band, though he wasn't writing songs yet. His singing, songwriting, and overall musical vision would take quantum leaps the following year, when he joined Them. ~ Richie Unterberger, All Music Guide
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