Fans of British rock & roll have tended to think of Mike Sheridan and his band Mike Sheridan & the Nightriders as a footnote in the music's history, as the band that brought Roy Wood into the recording studio for the first time. They -- and Sheridan -- were actually a bit better than that, not only in Birmingham, whence they came, but in the context of early-'60s British rock & roll. Mike Sheridan (born Michael Tyler) is of the same generation as the Beatles, the Searchers, et al, born in time to reach his teens as Elvis Presley's records were sweeping over the British charts -- he skipped past skiffle to rock & roll in 1958, a reluctant singer who won a local talent contest and found the seed of a career planted. He later joined up with a group called Billy King & the Nightriders -- by early 1963, Billy King was gone and the lineup coalesced around Sheridan, with Big Al Johnson on lead guitar, Brian Cope playing bass, Dave Pritchard on rhythm guitar, and Roger Spencer on drums. At the time, the music scene in Birmingham was starting to heat up, with singles by Jimmy Powell & the Dimensions and other acts starting to turn up in record stores. They were good enough to get a large local following, and once the Beatles and other Liverpool acts started roaring up the charts, record labels began looking at other northern cities, including Birmingham. No less a figure than producer Norrie Paramor, who'd signed Cliff Richard & the Shadows and managed their recordings since 1958, chose them out of a competition for a recording contract with EMI's Columbia label.
They weren't a bad group at the outset, with a tight sound built around strong playing that, if not the most inventive, was still interesting, and they had a good sense of melody and what to do with it, at least instrumentally. Sheridan's voice was strong enough, but they lacked some delicacy in their overall vocal approach -- that problem was solved when Big Al Johnson decided to leave the group and was replaced by Roy Wood. Under the latter's influence, the group began utilizing more (and more sophisticated) harmony vocals, and took on many of the attributes of the Merseybeat sound. By 1965, they'd updated their name to "Mike Sheridan's Lot," but nothing they did seemed to work in term of generating a hit. Following their recording of Jackie DeShannon's "Don't Turn Your Back on Me," the group as it was then constituted decided to pack it in -- Wood exited to co-found the Move, and the rest soon followed suit. Sheridan soldiered on, taking a regular job to earn a living and founding several bands of "Nightriders," while his original band, sans Wood, evolved into the Idle Race, with Jeff Lynne fronting them. Sheridan linked up with Move alumnus Rick Price at the tail-end of the '60s to produce a pretty, McCartney-esque album, and eventually succeeded as a songwriter in the '70s; he also cut a single of Roy Wood's "Do Ya" for Tony Stratton-Smith's Charisma Records in the early '70s. He left music for a few years, but by the start of the '80s was back fronting a new band -- and playing bass -- with Keith Statler and Tony Kelsy. He also played with veteran British rock & roller Joe Brown.