NINE BELOW ZERO: THE STORY SO FAR
1977-78 As punk hits the UK, Dennis Greaves and Mark Feltham form Stan’s Blues Band. They quickly develop a reputation as an excellent high energy live act.
1979 The band find management after a blistering show at The Thomas A Beckett pub, Mickey Modern, an artist with A&M. This swiftly promotes a change of name, one that preserves the Blues flavour and in tribute to Sonny Boy Williamson the guys adopt one of his song titles and are renamed Nine Below Zero.
1980 NBZ sign to A&M Records and give up their day jobs! On July 16th, they release their first album, Live At The Marquee. A&M boss Derek Green books the Hammersmith Odeon for a headline gig. It sells out. The band takes just one week off this year.
1981 Second album Don’t Point Your Finger – their first studio outing, produced by the legendary Glyn Johns. Album enters charts twice, remaining there for five weeks. NBZ play with The Who and The Kinks, and make TV appearances on The Old Grey Whistle Test, and the South Bank Show with Dr Feelgoodand The Blues Band.
1982 Nine Below recording at Glyn Johns’ studio in West Sussex. The classic 11+11 is written here. NBZ appear on the first episode of BBC-TV’s anarchic comedy hit The Young Ones, performing 11+11. The new LP is completed with producer Simon Boswell and becomes Third Degree, with the legendary British photographer, David Bailey taking the photos for the cover. Probably the most under-rated NBZ album, it fails to deliver the progress the band is expecting and results in a ’time out’ for the boys.
1983- 1989 Dennis forms soul/pop outfit The Truth – keeping him busy for the rest of the 80s, producing two Top 20 singles in the UK and a Top 5 R&B hit in the US. Mark Feltham, having earned a high reputation as a harmonica player, enters the session world.
1990 10th Anniversary sold-out gig at London’s Town and Country Club. The public welcomes back NBZ with open arms, sell-out UK tour follows.
1991-93 NBZ sign to China Records. On The Road Again recorded and released in April ’91. Band tour for rest of year, establishing them once again as a top live act in the UK and Europe. Off the Hook released, getting rave reviews. Band secures support slot on Sting’s European tour.
1994 NBZ invited by Eric Clapton to join him at The Royal Albert Hall, playing the whole Twelve Nights and going down a storm. Long-time NBZ fan Ray Davies books the band for his UK tour, including a date atWembley Arena. Brian May invites the band to play six shows during his UK solo tour.
1996 NBZ release Ice Station Zebro’. With several tracks co-written with Nik Kershaw, the album is regarded as the best they have recorded up to this point. The band are invited by Bruce Willis to play with him at Planet Hollywood in London after the premiere of Twelve Monkeys.
1997 Nine Below Zero form their own record company, Zed Records.
1998 NBZ tour Bangladesh. They take to their task with relish(!), making many friends along the way. Even in Dacca they want to learn to play Hideaway like Freddie King! Work starts on Refrigerator album, NBZ record a single for first National Curry Day with Indian artist Bappi Lahri.
1999 NBZ license A&M back catalogue to Zed Records, releasing Live at the Marquee on CD for the first time. Work on Refrigerator finished.
2000 NBZ spend the year touring Refrigerator. With 11 self-penned songs, it’s critically acclaimed by MOJOmagazine. Band celebrates 20th anniversary of Live at the Marquee with two stunning shows back at The Thomas a Beckett. Don’t Point Your Finger released for first time on CD.
2001 Third Degree released early in the year. Live work and interview requests flood in. The band work constantly for the next 18 months.
2002 – 2003 On The Road Again DVD released in May, complete with interviews and a two-hour concert. Acoustic album ‘Chilled’ released – NBZ set off around Europe to tour the album.
2004 NBZ play legendary Pistoia Blues Festival in Italy. They record Hats Off, a truly analogue blues record, where the guys pay tribute to some of the great blues artists they love so much. Recorded at Ray Davies’Konk studio in London – Ray regularly pops in to see his old mate Dennis. The band takes off for more touring around Europe.
2005-6. Two sold-out shows at The 100 Club on London’s Oxford Street. Gigs in former Yugoslavia take the blues to places that other bands fail to reach. Nine Below Zero are by now regarded as a truly international act.
2007 Two acoustic concerts, producing the DVD Bring It On Home, including a live CD. Rave reviews. Gary Moore joins the boys on stage to promote BIOH.
2008 NBZ open for Chuck Berry at The 100 Club. Work starts on It’s Never Too Late! – the first collection of new songs since Refrigerator.
2009 The band start working towards a show to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the release of their debut album, Live At the Marquee.
2010 arrives and a chance meeting with Glenn Tillbrook from Squeeze results in an offer to record a new record that Dennis and Mark had been busy writing all year, the offer was gladly accepted and the band go into 45 RPM studios in London to record the highly acclaimed and self-penned ‘It’s Never Too Late’ tours followed in wider Europe and Jools Holland and Paul Jones ask the band to guest on their shows.
2011 With the critical acclaim of ‘It’s Never Too Late’ ringing in the bands ears they are approached byGlenn Tillbrook again, but this time to make a new record together under the name of the Co-operative. All is finished in July of 2011 and one track, The Lennon McCartney song ‘You Never Gave Me Your Money’ is used on a Mojo magazine special celebrating the 40 year anniversary of the release of the Beatles record ‘Abbey Road’. The band play a selected few dates with Glenn as a taster for what will follow in 2012 as a mini tour.
The end of 2011 sees Gerry McAvoy play his last show for NBZ and pursue a new solo career.
2012 sees the return of Brian Bethell who played on ‘Third degree’ and who was a natural replacement. The band set off in January to take their music to the people who they call their extended family and kick off with shows in Germany, Switzerland and Austria.
This was swiftly followed by two sell-out shows in London and one in Essex when we battled our way home over the the Dartford Crossing ski slope in the worst snowstorm for many years. A UK tour for us as The Co-operative with Glenn Tilbrook in his winnebago, great fun, including a side trip to Jodrell Bank for a look at some other stars. A show in France – just as we went on the heavens opened, a crack of thunder and lightning, horizontal rain on stage, CANCELLED! ANNULE! We leapt stright back in the van and hit the tunnel at Calais by brekkietime…straight to Cornbury Festival for a super afternoon appearance. It was raining there too, but magically cleared up as we took to the stage. That Mr Cameron was wellied up, he must know something about something. Shepherd’s Bush Empire with Los Lonely Boys, another rain-soaked festival in East London Nine Below Zero – they can make it rain – or even make it stop! Some festivals in Italy, fly in-fly out, some more shows in Sweden and UK, a great season for us! Universal released a new version of Live At The Marquee in September, complete with bonus tracks and a never-before-seen DVD of the band playing at the world-famous Wardour Street club. Outstanding! Big shout to our friend and fan Johnny Chandler for his hard work on that! Two-week French tour with Dr Feelgood and Eddie And The Hotrods, hilarious fun! We toured the UK till Christmas, promoting the Marquee err product (man).
After a well-earned break the band toured Germany for two weeks in March, more snow! More touring through April and May, including a week in Scotland, another snowstorm! Then the festival season again – Ireland, Italy, Sweden, Spain, France, Switzerland and UK. Highlights still to come include Weyfest and Colne Blues Festival in August. And Universal are set to release Don’t Point Your Finger AND Third Degree (with the previously unreleased version we cut with producer Glyn Johns). Keep on truckin’!
Nine Below Zero now enter their 35th year together and are just as vibrant and unpredictably brilliant as they have always been. 2013 is going to be a great year for the band, they hope to see you somewhere soon in a town near you.
2014 kicked off with Nine Below Zero celebrating 35 years with a 22 date UK tour with The Stranglers.
Universal Music Group then went onto re-released two critically acclaimed A&M studio albums from the 1980s and the band reformed classic ‘Young Ones’ line-up for a special one-off UK tour.
The two classic albums, ’Don’t Point Your Finger’ and ‘Third Degree’ were re-packaged, re-mastered and released through Universal Music earlier this year.
The band’s original drummer Mickey ‘Stix’ Burkey re-joined the band for the tour all trough the Autumn of 2014
Mickey and frontman Dennis Greaves co-wrote many of the songs on ‘Don’t Point Your Finger’ and ‘Third Degree’.
Don’t Point Your Finger, originally released in 1981, was Nine Below Zero’s second album. Recorded in 12 days at Olympic Sound Studios in Barnes and produced by the legendary Glyn Johns. Dennis says, “We were walking in the footsteps of some of the all-time greats. Led Zeppelin’s first album was recorded there, along with “Who’s Next” and “Beggars Banquet” by The Stones.
It was the most inspiring experience”. The double CD also includes a live performance recorded for the BBC Radio One’s In Concert series in 1981 at The Granary Club in Bristol.
Third Degree, originally released in 1982, included the single 11+11, which was performed on the first episode of cult TV show, The Young Ones. This album spent six weeks in the album chart. David Bailey, renowned photographer of The Beatles, The Stones and the Kray Twins (to name a few), took the photograph for the album front cover artwork.
Nine Below Zero originally recorded the album, again with Glyn Johns, at his studio in Sussex. However, with it’s raw sound, A&M wanted to hear the album with a more clynical production and the band went on to re-record it with producer Simon Boswell. Now available for the first time, Johns’ original recording will be available on the re-release along with the more familiar version of the album.
Dennis says “I think it will be interesting for fans to see how a series of songs can sound so different and how the production process affects the finished article”.
At the end of 2014 Mark and Dennis entered the studio to start recording their first ever Duo Album. Having worked together for nearly 40 years this would be the start of a new venture for them.
2015 starts with Mickey Burkey rejoining Nine Below Zero.
Mickey played live with the band for the first time since the 80s in November 2012 at the 30th Anniversary gig in Islington. He has now rejoined the band on permanent basis to once again hook up with Brian Bethell, Mark Feltham and Dennis Greaves “the classic Young Ones line up”
They started the year with a run of dates with Bruce Foxton and From the Jam and an amazing performance at the Great British Rock and Blues Festival.
Mark and Dennis release their first ever work as a Duo, with the CD released in April 2015. They decided now was the right time to go out and perform the music that had inspired them at an early age.
As well as playing unplugged versions of well-known Nine Below Zero material, the duo will cover songs by blues legends such as Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, Jimmy Reed, Slim Harpo and Leadbelly.
“Mark and I are looking forward to getting up close with the audience who like us, are fans of the blues. As well as playing the songs, it will also be nice to talk about the artists who inspired so many of the great British blues bands of the 1960s, who in turn went on to inspire us”.
Dennis added “the rehearsals have been brilliant…. Some of the best ever. We are looking forward to playing this music live. To see Mark perform in this environment is truly a masterclass and it’s a little daunting for me, to be playing acoustic guitar…. No hiding behind the Marshall amp.” – Dennis Greaves