Sinnermen and Sara were formed in 1963 by guitarist / banjo player Tony Giles, vocalist Ian Clarke, vocalist / guitarist Bob Toop, vocalist / bassist Ray Cartwright, drummer Cyril Faulkener and vocalist / guitarist Ruth, the original ‘Sara’. Managed by Stuart Gledhill, bass player with the Gerry Brown Jazz Band, the group started off small at The Osprey pub in Poole Lane, West Howe before graduating in 1966, to residencies at the White Hart in Barrack Road, Christchurch, The White Buck in Burley and the YMCA folk club where over time they attracted a devoted following.
When Cyril Faulkener married Ruth, he stepped down from performing to become the group’s road manager and Ruth made way for ‘Sara’ mark two, Annie Christopher. Annie had a background in opera and church music before taking a different path by joining The Kingpins, a local rhythm and blues band. She then hooked up with Tubs in Crowd, an eight-piece soul outfit that travelled throughout France in the summer of 1966, plying their trade around the many American Air Force bases in the northeast of the country. She left when the band moved on to southern Germany and returned to Bournemouth, becoming a member of the Michael Toone Dance Band before Sinnermen and Sara invited her to join after she answered an advert in the Bournemouth Echo.
The group gained a recording contract in 1968 with MGM and were marketed as the UK’s equivalent to the Australian folk quartet The Seekers. The label chose a cover of the Trini Lopez song “I’m Coming Home Cindy” (May 1968) as their debut single. They followed up with a self-titled album containing a blend of standard folk tunes including “Banks of the Ohio”, “Won’t Go Hunting With You Jake”, “Master Jack” and “Leaving Liverpool”, a couple of skiffle favourites “Freight Train” and “Pick a Bale of Cotton” plus two contemporary songs, the New Christy Minstrels “Green Green” and Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright”, the latter became their second single in November 1968.
Towards the end of the sixties, the quintet became a regular fixture every Saturday night in the bar and ballroom at the end of Bournemouth pier sharing a bill with a variety of trad jazz bands. They also undertook promotional tours performing at several major concert halls including London’s Royal Festival Hall, Bristol’s Colston Hall, and the Guildhalls in Portsmouth and Southampton. Radio exposure on Wally Whyton’s Country Meets Folk, Jake Thakray’s My Kind of Folk, and an interview on the Tony Blackburn Show increased their popularity, resulting in the formation of their own fan club. However, cracks were beginning to appear due to the old chestnut musical differences. The ensuing shakeup resulted in bassist Ray Cartwright standing aside for Bernie Adelus, manager Stuart Gledhill being replaced, a new agency coming in to handle their bookings and a change in record company from MGM to RCA. The new line up recorded “Time to Say Goodbye” written by Keith Potger of the Seekers, but it never saw the light of day because of the internal wrangling that ripped them apart.
Shortly after the split, Annie formed Sugar ‘n’ Spice with her brothers John and David and sisters Jane and Liz. Over the years she has also sung with The Avon Hyde Band, Rollacoasta and The Smak Band. Tony Giles, Ian Clarke and Bernie Adelus regrouped with Bob Fraser and Liz Sterling as Cinnamon, (see what they did there), but the high-profile shows and recording career was behind them.
On Saturday 17th July 1993 the original members, including both Sara’s, Ruth and Annie, returned to the scene of a concert they performed with the Karpaty Polish Dancers in February 1969 at the Bournemouth Winter Gardens. Playing to a packed audience of loyal fans, they performed the old favourites “A Closer Walk With Thee” and a rowdy rendition of “Wild Rover” which earned them a standing ovation. A healthy sum of money was raised for the ‘Save the Winter Gardens’ fund via ticket sales and a specially re-recorded, privately pressed version of their album Sinnermen and Sara – Unplugged. However, their efforts were in vain as the bulldozers moved in fifteen years later to bury the scene of their last hurrah under a car park. As for Sinnermen and Sara, the gig proved to be their last hurrah.
Sinnermen and Sara Discography
Sinnermen and Sara Singles
I’m Coming Home Cindy c/w I’ll Tell My Ma: MGM (MGM 1415) 1968
Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright c/w Buffalo Boy: MGM (MGM 1450) 1968
Sinnermen and Sara Albums
Sinnermen and Sara: MGM (MGM CS-8099) 1968
Sinnermen and Sara – Unplugged: Private Pressing 1992