The Joystrings by Sylvia Dalziel
Comprehensive book charting the career of the Salvation Army's 1960s pop group
By Sylvia Dalziel
Reviewer: David Stuckey
In the days when the pop charts were open to tuneful folksy offerings from the likes of The Seekers and Peter, Paul and Mary, the Salvation Army’s very own pop stars trod a revolutionary path and found acceptance in church halls and concert venues. As Cliff Richard says in his tribute to the group, they “dared to go where others were much too cautious”, and they certainly proved that “the Devil didn’t have all the good music.”
It may have been a brief existence but it was a significant one. Sylvia Dalziel was a founder member of The Joystrings alongside her husband Peter. The group varied in number over the years, but prominent members also included bassist Bill Davison, drummer Wycliffe Noble and their lead singer Joy Webb, who also penned their best-known songs It’s An Open Secret and A Starry Night.
The Salvation Army, of course, has a proud musical tradition but it was newly-elected General Frederick Coutts who said in 1963 that the Army should be using pop music and guitars to reach young people – in other words “the Beatles sound!” as he called it. While The Joystrings never challenged the Beatles for Hit Parade supremacy they certainly and quickly found a ready middle-of-the-road audience after they were introduced to the television public on the Tonight show, hosted by Cliff Michelmore, soon after the general’s call.
The group were willing to take their music and their mission out of the citadel and into the world – the book has photos of them mingling with bunny-girls at the Playboy Club in London, and their 1964 tour programme has them singing on the steps of St Paul's Cathedral, at the Vauxhall car plant in Luton, Butlin’s Holiday camps at Clacton and Margate - and the Royal Albert Hall.
Most of them were still studying at the Army’s vocational college in Denmark Hill when the group was first put together, but eventually they were to tour their brand of music to Scandinavia, the Netherlands, France and Belgium. They held their farewell concert at the Fairfeld Halls Croydon in July 1968.
Today their sound may be deemed ‘cute’ rather than ‘challenging’ but their legacy is huge and they deserve recognition as pioneers in the growing Christian music market. Profusely illustrated and incredibly comprehensive the book charts their entire pop career from 1964 to 1968 – and a remastered CD of their music was issued in 2011.
From tambourines to the hit parade The Joystrings were a sight to behold and a joy to listen to.
David Stuckey is a journalist and member of Maghull Baptist Church