Sparky Hill and the Red Itches formed in 1958, playing and recording for some 10 years. “Sparky” didn’t get his nickname for being an electrician, but because he lived in Sparkhill, Birmingham. (Trivia: his day job was tyre fitter.) The Red Itches took their name from the town of Redditch, the home town of Dave – that’s the Dave whose second name nobody could remember. Dave had a van, and acted as the group’s roadie, also playing bass whenever Roger “Longface” Parsons, the usual bassist, had one of his funny turns.
Death and red guitar below the fold…
As result of a mishap involving a guitar that was properly earthed and microphone that wasn’t, Sparky was electrocuted during a sound check at the Red Lion, Digbeth, Birmingham, in the summer of 1969. Ironic, in view of his nickname, as I’m sure you’ve already noticed. The group disbanded soon after, reforming just once in October 1997 to play at the reception following Shelley Parsons’ (Longface’s daughter) wedding in Acocks Green. Andy Smith, the groom’s brother, stood in at this reunion for the now very late Sparky. Coincidentally, Andy and the groom, whose first name nobody can remember, are the children of Dave who had the van, so everybody now knows that van man had been Dave Smith all along.
The guitar involved in this mishap, a red Watkins Rapier 22, then passed into the meaty hands of “Tiny” Drinkwater, lead singer and guitarist of the Putrescibles, and features on the cover photo of their EP, “You Didn’t Oughta Dun That”. Only 500 copies of this EP were pressed, and rare examples in good condition are much sought after by collectors of South and West Birmingham rock memorabilia. Either of them would probably offer you a tenner for it.
The guitar was a lot like this: