Fresh Life - the early 70s

John Martin, Tim Jenks, Eddie Phillips and Trevor Howard.

Sound Engineer: Bernard McNally

In the early 1970s Tim became very actively involved in the Evangelical Outreach work within the Wolverhampton area. He did this playing with a band that played first in churches, coffee bars and church halls in the local area, and then more widely afield. While still at school, he sang and played guitar and drums with a variety of fellow members of the YP (The Young People's Fellowship) at St. Judes Church on the Tettenhall Road in Wolverhampton.

In 1968 a cellar room, approached by steep steps, was turned into a coffee bar for the YP by members of the church. It was decorated in trendy purple, with bench seating at tables around the walls - creating cosy booths to chat in. There was a small stage and a brick built serving bar to serve 'pop', coffee and snacks. The venue soon became a popular venue with not only the YP, but also their friends from outside the church fellowship. It was also advertised by YP members handing out cards advertising upcoming events - 'fishing' for visitors.

Barry Law was the leader of the YP back in those days, and he organised visits from Christian musicians to perform in the Coffee Bar every Saturday night. The group would play about three sets, interspersed with the playing of records - just before the last one there would be a 'quiet time' - an acoustic number or two and a short homily - no hard evangelical preaching - just a gentle invitation to find out more about the Faith.

Early groups booked for the venue were generally of the folk genre and Tim started out in 1968 playing guitar in a folk trio (Dorothy Downes as vocalist and Mike Cadman on guitar and vocals) but by the early 70s Christian Rock was really taking off and Tim was encouraged by Barry to form a rock group and Fresh Life was formed when Eddie Phillips joined Tim in the autumn of 1969 to sing and play guitar, with a local police officer joining them on drums - Mick Dale.

A prolific songwriter, Eddie encouraged Tim in his songwriting and they soon had a repertoire of songs to draw upon that they had tried out on the YP and then honed in practice sessions in the cellar. 'Life' began as 'Fresh Life' in about 1970 - then dropped the 'Fresh' to simply become 'Life' in 1971. They played at St Jude's and in neighbouring church venues, honing their skills and gaining a 'fan base'. In the late spring of 1971 John Martin joined the band, mainly playing bass guitar, but also the bass drum and hi-hat, providing more vocal talent and also contributing songs to their music catalogue and completed the band's lineup.

Eddie left for Birmingham Bible College in September 1972, leaving Tim and John as a 2-piece. Multiskilled and flexible, they 'managed' but really needed a drummer to allow them to deliver the music in the way it was meant to be. When they played a gig at St Matthews, they mentioned on-stage that they were looking for a drummer and Trevor came up from the audience and introduced himself. Trevor and Tim both attended the Grammar Tech and Trevor was a Christian, based at St Matthews, and a drummer! So the Band was complete. They played 3-piece, with Eddie joining them to make a 4-piece version of Life in between college terms.

Back in those early days Barry served as promoter and manager - and Bernard McNally (a school friend of Tim's) became their technician and general 'roadie'. Barry employed his carpet delivery van as a group transport vehicle taking the fledgling group to gigs that he fixed up for them.


In 1973 they cut their first EP, here is a clipping from the local newspaper reporting on it...


The photoshoot for the article photographed them on the steps down to the coffee bar.


50 years on they recreated the shot (having to climb over a gate to get on those steps this time around)....


Here is a taster of the 'Life Sound'.... a snippet of a live performance in Stockport - 1975.... pardon the noise on the tracks - made on magnetic tape half a century ago!

The Golden Reunion Gig at Hope Baptist Church on 8th

The band played to a packed church - raised a lot of money for the rebuilding fund and a good time was had by all!


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