Les années fastes du rock instrumental français

In the last quarter of 1961, three young musicians fond of r n r decided to set up a band. They were following Les Chaussettes noires, Chats Sauvages , Les pirates and Les fantômes, considered by many as the french shadows. Les Players inspired by both the Shadows and Duane Eddy were leading the second wave of french rock bands.

The band members were very young , around 17 years old, Hervé Roy, organ, Christian Martin, bass, and Michel Libretti, lead guitar had all formal musical training. They were helped by Carl Regnier , a jazz drummer, stalwart of the jazz scene. When they get etablished at the end of 61, he handed over to another 17 year old, Jean Pierre Prevotat, who he had been coaching.

Les Players were innovative from the outset by replacing the traditional rhythm guitar in the typical three guitars and drums line-up with Hervé’s organ. This was, remember, prior to the success of the Tornados.

As the group rehearsed into 1962 in the Parisian suburb of Colombes, R & R was at the peak of its popularity in France. They were resident act at the youth and culture club, and then performed at Le Golf Drouot, the french equivalent of London’s 2I’s or the star Club in Hambourg. All the famous french rockers started at Le Golf Drouot and it was here that all the visiting stars also played. Through the sixties it was host to Gene Vincent, Vince Taylor, The Shadows, The Spotnicks, Rolling Stones, Who…And of course it was frequented by disc jockeys and record company talent scouts. The big break for Les Players did not come here however, but at a big Twist contest at the Royal Swimming pool, though it was Golf Drouot manager Henry Leproux who encouraged them to enter. Les Players won this contest comfortably and were offered a recording contract by Polydor.

It was Polydor A&R man Bernard de Bosson (now chairman of Warner France) who took Les Players under his wing. After final rehearsals he helped them arrange four tracks in Polydor’s studio for their first 45rpm release. The recording went well and after 48 hours all four were finished. Opening with some heavy drumming, Manhunt is up-tempo with strong guitar work, a good cover of the sunset’s UK chart challenger and one of the best tracks from les Players. Another goodie is” la tour de Marre”, a slow piece used to promote a holiday resort in the Riviera. Out of this world and walking alone completed the Ep which sold well in the summer of 1962, leading to the recording of the group’s second release. Solid organ backing, aggressive intro on the drums and more twangy guitar helped create the lead track, the classic Sheiba. Pony express as popularised by the spotnicks provides an extravaganza for lead while song for your love sees Hervé featured on piano. For” If my pillow could talk”he reverts to organ to duet with Michel Libretti’s fine guitar.

By december it was time for a third Ep, the four tracks format being the norm in France at this time. Watusi stomp and delicado are organ features; the latter in a Booker T style, Cripple creek is the Duane Eddy title and Nashville a western style melody penned by Jean Pierre Prevotat. Les Players’s first album was released in 1963 and comprised the first two Eps plus Players theme which was inspired by Brian Bennett’s “little B”. By this time the Merseybeat sound had hit France and so Les Players took to singing Louie louie and the like, instrumental rock was still represented on their fouth Ep however in the shape of “Out of limits”, a good cover of the Ventures version.

Les Players were the first french act to cover “House of rising sun”, although Johnny Hallyday hat the hit. Their fifth Ep also included two instrumentals ”nostalgie” and “drums song” where Jean Pierre Prevotat gives the skins a good beating. Their final Polydor Ep included just one instrumental, a version of it’s not unusual renamed ne fais pas d’histoire. Their second album was a budget priced collection of R & R classics and then, at the end of 65 and following two releases on CBS, les Players split. Jean Pierre Prevotat tasted success again in the seventies with a group called Triangle. Christian Martin switched to flamenco music and Hervé Roy remains an in-demand session man. Michel Libretti, who had left the band in 64, joined Les Guitares (the french Spotnicks) before forming Les Sharks and also becoming a session musician in the seventies.

Les Players are a good exemple of a successful sixties group, talented enough to tour in countries such Algeria, Lebanon and France with the summer tours sponsored by Radio Europe1.


Discographie (60)

  1. (Pas de titre) (Polydor 45 597 Standard)
    Watusi stomp / If my pillow could talk / Le ciel est si beau ce soir / Players’ theme / Your other love / Sheba / Delicado / Cripple creek / Nashville / Manhunt.
    33 t 25 cm

Discographie (CD)

  1. L’intégrale (Magic Records 393 0038)
    CD 1 : Manhunt / La Tour de Mare / Out of this world / Walking alone / Sheba / C’est pendant les vacances / le ciel est si beau ce soir / oh oui j’en ai rêvé / Watusi stomp / Nashville / Your other love / Cripple creek / Players theme / Delicado / Si c’était elle / Out of limits / Aie l’amour et les voyages / Sassy Sue / Le kilometre à pieds / Rata twist.
    CD 2 : Le pénitencier / Nostalgie / Drums song / Tu me rends fou / Personne / Tant de cœurs brisés / Je ne fais pas d’histoire / Reste avec moi / / faut pas faire ça / Lucy / Les indiens / On dit que je suis fou / Que vos nuages ne tuent pas les hommes / Tao chang / Ma vie Sally / Comment faire pour l ‘oublier / Le dernier train de l’espace / Happy guitars.
  2. Dernier train de l’Espace (King records KICP 2436)
    I feel fine / After dark / Blue berry hill / Bye bye Johnny / Be Bop a lula / My baby left me / you never can tell / What ‘d I say / She is a woman.
    Album enregistré sous le nom de Sound Guitars et réédité en partie au Japon en 1993
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