The Lancasters

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The Lancasters were one of those odd outfits organized by producer Derek Lawrence, who always seemed to have access to the likes of Nicky Hopkins, Ritchie Blackmore, and any number of future luminaries…
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The Lancasters were one of those odd outfits organized by producer Derek Lawrence, who always seemed to have access to the likes of Nicky Hopkins, Ritchie Blackmore, and any number of future luminaries for session work during the mid-'60s. Lawrence, a onetime protégé of Joe Meek, put the Lancasters -- Blackmore on guitar, Mick Underwood (drums), and Chas Hodges (bass), all three from the Outlaws, plus Reg Price (saxophone) and Hopkins (doubtless between gigs with the Hoochie Coochie Men) at the ivories -- to back a girl trio (the Murmaids, after a fashion) in a version of "To Know Him Is to Love Him." The combo had a little time left over at the end of the session, and Lawrence got two instrumentals out of them, "Earthshaker" and "Satan's Holiday," which were released on a very obscure single on the Titan label, credited to the Lancasters.

"Earthshaker" was a loud, crunching instrumental, influenced by Chuck Berry (and somewhat reminiscent of his "Guitar Boogie"), with no overdubs, just Blackmore and company ripping through a minute and 40 seconds of basic rock & roll licks. "Satan's Holiday" was a high-wattage adaptation of Grieg's "In the Hall of the Mountain King," a tune that stayed in Blackmore's stage repertory right into the '90s. The guitarist's clean yet sharp and powerful playing of the melody is a marvel of rock & roll virtuosity, while Underwood's drumming, coupling Charlie Watts-type steadiness with little Jim McCarty-style flourishes, is the other notable attribute. The group, which never really existed, never released another record, and within a year of its release, Blackmore was playing in an outfit called Roundabout alongside organist Jon Lord and on his way to making the music he liked.