Falkirk’s very own Fab Four

23-01-2012. Picture Michael Gillen. GRANGEMOUTH. Falkirk Roadrunners and Young Once feature.
23-01-2012. Picture Michael Gillen. GRANGEMOUTH. Falkirk Roadrunners and Young Once feature.

They may never had been on ‘Top of The Pops’ or penned a chart hit, but when it comes to attracting sell-out crowds to their concerts wrinkly rockers Young Once are very much number one.

With a combined age of 260, Falkirk’s homegrown Fab Four may be considered unlikely candidates to enjoy such popularity – and they admit their shows attract more grannies than groupies – but the sales figures do not lie.

The staggering fact is that, since forming in 2009, they have now played to three packed houses in three years and raised £27,000 for charity in the process – making them arguably Scotland’s champion fundraising band.

Their last show – in response to public demand – had their army of fans raising the roof of a packed Dobbie Hall in Larbert in appreciation of their talents as they danced and clapped the night away.

The gig just before Christmas was such a stunning success the venue has already been booked for number four 11 months from now.

It is clear their dedicated followers want Young Once to go on for ever. Even though they are approaching pension age, they seem happy to oblige – and who can blame them?

In truth, it’s not even fair to say fame has come to them late in life and they are trying to capture what they missed out on as wannabe rock stars earlier in life.

Back in the 1960s, when schoolboys Peter Duncan, Paul Serafini, Brian Watters and Sandy Drysdale first picked up their guitars and drum sticks to play in separate bands, they all enjoyed a heady level of popularity as they toured venues large and small across the central belt.

Back then Peter and Paul with Falkirk High classmates Alan Godfrey and Dave Johnston were The Young Ones, a name blatantly taken from the hit song by Cliff Richard and the Shadows.

At the same school Sandy had his own rival boy band, The Road Runners, with Gerry Dickson, Bill Barclay and Ronnie Brookes, while at Larbert High Brian was strutting his stuff at the weekends with The Sundowners, who included his wee brother Derek and their mates Ian Thomson and Drew Wilson.

All three groups, who played covers of Shadows, Elvis, Everly Brothers and Buddy Holly hits, attracted their fair share of bookings, not just in church halls but also bigger venues such as the Dobbie and Doaks (The Young Ones playing there regularly mainly due to the fact Dave’s dad Bill Johnston owned the place!).

When Ronnie quit The Road Runners in 1963 Peter left The Young Ones to take his place. Shortly after that, Dave followed him in leaving the group when he finished school and, although he was replaced by Archie Buchanan, they folded soon afterwards.

The Sundowners, however, were to remain regulars on the Scottish music circuit until the end of the ’60s and were even invited to play before Princess Anne and Prince Edward at Gleneagles after a charity clay pigeon shoot organised by former Formula One world champion Jackie Stewart.

Only the ambitious Road Runners went on to bid for bigger and better things. They reached the grand final of a major talent show in London, were given studio time by EMI and Decca – and were even booked as support acts to headliners including The Pretty Things, Little Eva, Billy J. Kramer and Sounds Incorporated.

But, in the end, they too had to give up the dream of having careers as rock stars and take proper jobs on ‘Civvy Street’ instead.

While they went their separate ways they did keep in touch and, when Peter and his wife, Irene, organised a party to celebrate their ruby wedding in 2008 he invited them along.

It turned out to be a defining moment as, after Peter suggested getting together later for a jam session for “old time’s sake”, the idea took root.

Although Gerry opted out of the chance to play, Brian was happy to step in. They hired a rehearsal studio and, after an hour or so going over the old standards, agreed they’d had so much fun they should do it again - and again.

From there it was only a matter of time and, when a mutual friend suggested they were playing so well they should stage a reunion concert, they agreed on two conditions - one that it be for charity and two that, due to their advancing years, the name of the band for the one-off show in the Carronshore Club should now be Young Once.

That was back in 2009 and Young Once have not looked back since.