US mouth-organ virtuoso Larry Adler moved permanently to London in 1949, having become a hugely popular entertainer in the UK. His son, Peter Adler, had trained classically on piano and cello as a child and learned tenor saxophone and double bass as a teen. By 1963, Peter was a student at Trinity College Dublin, where he met two more ex-patriot British students; Ian Whitcomb and Barry Richardson. Sharing an interest in jazz and blues, the trio formed Ireland’s first R&B group ‘Bluesville‘ at the end of that year with Whitcomb as singer and pianist, Adler playing sax and Richardson alternating between sax and harmonica, all backed by local musicians Ian McGarry (drums), Gerry Ryan (bass), Mick Molloy (guitar) and Deke O’Brien (guitar) – former members of The Alpine Seven showband. They were quickly a big hit on the Dublin scene, and while front-man Whitcomb was the main focus of attention, Adler was a close second with his sharp clothes and enigmatic permanently-worn shades – actually the result of a major eye problem.
A deal with a record label boss in Seattle saw some of the group’s primitive recordings issued regionally as singles in the States during 1964, though Adler apparently did not play on these sessions. The singles caused enough of a stir for the Jerden label to finance the recording of an albums-worth of material in Eamonn Andrews Studios at 40 Henry Street in March 1965. Adler did play on some of these songs, but a growing rivalry with Whitcomb limited his involvement. One of the tracks recorded was the piano-led blues titled ‘You Turn Me On (Turn On Song)’, which became a national chart hit in the US (the first by an Irish act) and provided the name for the subsequent album. Whitcomb was asked to promote the single in the US in the summer of ’65, but the invitation was not extended to the other band members, who continued to gig in Dublin with Peter Adler (or occasionally BP Fallon) acting as front-man. On returning from the States and finding Fallon mimicking his moves on stage with Bluesville, Whitcomb put a permanent end to the ground-breaking group and returned to the US to attempt a solo pop career, with limited success.
Meanwhile, as Molloy and O’Brien joined soul group The Chosen Few (and, later, London pub-rockers Bees Make Honey, with Richardson), Adler, McGarry and sometime Bluesville bassist Brian Lynch formed jazz/blues band The Action, fronted jointly by Adler and future opera star Colm Wilkinson. Although both groups continued to enjoy a high profile in Dublin, it was actually a minor incident in London that kicked off Adler’s almost accidental solo career. Early in 1965, while Bluesville were still at their peak, Adler and his friend Michael Chaplin were arrested on a charge of larceny for splashing about in a fountain in Hyde Park. Their court appearance became headline news when it emerged that one was the son of Larry Adler and the other the son of actor Charlie Chaplin. Larry Page, the shrewd manager of The Kinks and The Troggs, spotted an opportunity and signed the duo to a record a novelty single. The result – credited to singer Chaplin and with Adler playing harmonica – was ‘I Am What I Am’ / ‘Restless’, released by Decca in April 1965. It was not a hit, not least because Chaplin was not a good singer, but Page was impressed with Adler and followed it up with a single credited to – and with both sides written by – the by now ex-Bluesville saxophonist: ‘Love And Not Hate’ / ‘You Especially’ (Decca, October 1965). The ‘A’-side was an orchestral folk/pop protest song, although it owed a strong debt to Sonny & Cher’s recent hit ‘I Got You Babe’; ‘You Especially’ revisited the jaunty pop of the earlier single.
On to early 1966, when Peter Adler quit The Action over musical differences, but soon found another group of British exiles living in Dublin. The Next In Line were a mod/soul group from London who based themselves in Dublin for a time, living in a flat above the infamous Green Tureen restaurant on Harcourt Street. The lineup included ‘Bruce’ (vocals), Max Ker-Seymer (lead guitar), Bojang Meftah (rhythm guitar), Tony Cousins (bass) and Bunt Stafford-Clark (drums), and backing Adler they supported visiting acts such as The Hollies and The Who. Decca issued one more Peter Adler single in May 1966 – ‘I’m Gonna Turn My Life Around’ / ‘But I Was Cool’. The Next In Line are reported to have backed him on the record, though it also featured a brass section and organ solo so must at least have had outside musicians involved. The ‘A’-side was written by Adler and is a bone-fide mod gem, with an Oscar Brown Jr song on the reverse.
- I Am What I Am
- Love And Not Hate
- You Especially
- I’m Gonna Turn My Life Around
- But I Was Cool
This single didn’t chart either, but has since become a highly-prized collector’s item among fans of ‘60s soul music. This was unfortunately the end of Peter Adler’s brief solo legacy. He split from The Next In Line sometime after July 1966, with the rest of the band breaking up shortly afterwards. Max ‘The Mod’ Ker-Seymer now runs a successful toy company and Bunt Stafford-Clark became a session drummer and later a prolific studio engineer. Peter Adler vanished back to London where he was at one point an antiques dealer, and he now runs the highly-regarded ‘Pebble’ tribal/ethnic jewellery company.
Green Beat: The Forgotten Era of Irish Rock (Daragh O’Halloran, 2006)