#6: It’s Good News Week by Hedgehoppers Anonymous

City: Halifax, NS
Radio Station: CHNS
Peak Month: December 1965-January 1966
Peak Position in Halifax ~ #2
Peak position in Vancouver ~ #17
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 ~ #48
YouTube: “It’s Good News Week
Lyrics: “It’s Good News Week

Hedgehoppers Anonymous was a beat group who formed in November 1963 as The Trendsetters. They became The Hedgehoppers the following year. Jonathan King took over their record production in 1965, and added “Anonymous” to their name when they said they were popular in Peterborough, and did not want to change their name completely. Mike Tinsley was the lead vocalist for the group. Born in Portsmouth, UK, in 1940, he was the lead vocalist of the Electrons before he joined the Trendsetters. Guitarist John Stewart was born in 1941 Kincardineshire in Scotland. The rhythm guitarist with the group was Tony Cockayne. The bass player, Ray Honeyball, was born in 1941 in County Durham, UK. While the group’s drummer, Leslie Dash, was born in 1943 in Middlesex. All members of the beat group were Royal Air Force ground crew based at RAF Wittering in Cambridgeshire, England, before they formed.

Hedgehoppers was a nickname for the Vulcan “V” bombers, which fly a few hundred feet above the ground, under enemy radar to avoid detection and ground-to-air missiles. Mike Tinsley recalls, “in October 1962, I stood on the Vulcan “V” bomber…. armed with nuclear missiles to strike Russian Targets during the Cuban Crisis…. Thank God we didn’t go to war!” He remembers, “We all met on the base and at first played in the officers mess,sergeants mess …….and then ventured over time into “The Dorothy Club”, and Corn Exchange, Cambridge.  Primarily, before thinking of using Hedgehoppers, …..we were Known as “The Trendsetters”. A local agent spotted us in a pub, as we played in “The Prince of Wales,” Peterborogh, and the good old “White Lion, Whittlesea, plus many other venues such as The Winning Post… Market Deeping, Lincs. The owners of these establishments treated us like family and I have fond memories of them all!  We didnt earn much but were kept well fed, with drinks on the house most of the time. Great. Ha!”

Tony Cockayne left the beat group as they shifted from the Trendsetters to the Hedgehoppers. A civilian named Alan Laud took over on rhythm guitar.

In June 1964, the Hedgehoppers opened for Unit Four Plus Two, The Hollies and The Kinks.

It's Good News Week by Hedgehoppers Anonymous

Hedgehoppers Anonymous released their first single in the fall of 1965 titled “It’s Good News Week”.

It's Good News Week by Hedgehoppers Anonymous
“It’s Good News Week” was written by Jonathan King. The song satirizes the media’s obsession with bad news stories. The news stories listed in the song include:
1) A bomb being dropped that contaminates the atmosphere and blackens the skies
2) Grisly invention for keeping corpses alive
3) Wrapping brains on metal trays

Jonathan King was born in 1944 in the West End of London as Kenneth George King. He was sent to pre-prep school from the age of three. When he was 8-years-old King went to boarding school. When he was nine, his father died of a heart attack. He became fascinated with live theatre and bought his first 78 RPM in 1956 which was Guy Mitchell’s “Singing The Blues”. In 1963, King made a demo singing “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore” and the non-charting single “A Fool’s Paradise” by Alvin Stardust. In 1965 King was in touch with producers for the Zombies. He played them a number of songs including “Everyone’s Gone To The Moon”. It was decided that Kenneth George was not the right name for a pop star, and so Jonathan King was born. Eventually, the song climbed to #4 in the UK, and #17 on the Billboard Hot 100. In 1969 “Everyone’s Gone To The Moon” was one of the songs taken by the crew of the Apollo 11 spacecraft when they landed on the moon on July 20, 1969.

King released a half dozen more singles, including “Round Round”, which was a #2 hit in Vancouver (BC) in 1967. In 1973 King was one of the original backers of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. In 1997 Jonathan King discovered Chumbawumba, promoting their hit “Tubthumping” which climbed to #1 in Australia, Canada, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand and Scotland, and #2 in the UK. In 2000, King produced and promoted “Who Let the Dogs Out” by the Baha Men.

The release of “It’s Good News Week” generated a huge amount of publicity. But it also created problems with the RAF. They hadn’t given the musicians the proper authority to find employment outside the Armed Forces. Mike Tinsley recalls, “…the record was released on Decca and started bringing newspaper reporters and photographers to the base, along with young girls seeking autographs, and that got us into deep water!! I remember being summoned before the Commanding Officer of the base who held the rank of Group Captain……then being marched in at quick time by the Station Warrant Officer to answer questions on very sensitive subjects . “What gave you the right Corporal Tinsley, to go recording for a record company when you know darned well you didn’t have the authority. Ive a good mind to put you on a court martial”    The station warrant officer gave a slight laugh, much to the annoyance of the CO and said “You can’t do that sir, they are playing in the Officers Mess tonight”.

Hedgehoppers Anonymous make their debut TV appearance on ITV’s Ready Steady Go! They also appear on BBC TV’s Top of The Pops to plug the single.

“It’s Good News Week” peaked at #2 in Halifax, #3 in Edmonton, Sacramento (CA), Chicago, and Minneapolis/St. Paul, #7 in Davenport (IA), and Denver, #9 in San Bernardino (CA), Orlando, Worcester (MA), Duluth (MN), and Boise (ID), and #10 in Evanston (IN). Internationally, “It’s Good News Week” peaked at #5 in the UK and #8 in Australia.

Finnish band Four Cats made a Finnish language cover version Suurten uutisten päivä (A Day of Great News) in 1965.

Nick Warburton, writing in Strange Brew, reports “By late November (1965), Tinsley and Stewart had managed to secure a successful discharge but Honeyball and Dash were turned down, forcing the band’s manager Ken Cox to find replacements to promote “It’s Good News Week” on the road and for TV appearances.”

Warburton adds, “A temporary replacement for Leslie Dash had already been lined up during early October. Glenn Martin, the resident drummer at the Ad-Lib Club in London’s West End, had just finished working with singer Ayshea Brough when the offer was presented to replace Leslie Dash for live work. Initially a temporary fill in, Martin soon became a permanent replacement.” While Keith Jackson replaced Ray Honeyball (though only in fact for photoshoots, but never for a gig).

Hedgehoppers Anonymous released a followup single titled “Don’t Push Me”. It reached the Top 30 in Australia. They had three more releases in 1966, with “Daytime” being the only single that charted in the UK. While they were still enjoying their post- “It’s Good News Week” glow, Hedgehoppers Anonymous shared the stage on billings with Tom Jones, The Fortunes and Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich.

The group split up by the end of 1966. However, Glenn Martin was still interested in a reformed Hedgehoppers Anonymous moving forward in 1967. Some new musicians joined him, and Martin was able to persuade lead singer Mike Tinsley to briefly rejoin the group for a tour to Sweden that October.

Once again, Glenn Martin was alone with the other musicians on to other things. But in 1968, Martin became part of the backing band – the Streamliners – for Sandie Shaw. He took the name Hedgehoppers Anonymous with him. When the Streamliners weren’t backing Sandie Shaw for a concert, TV show or in the studio, they’d be at a club billed as Hedgehoppers Anonymous. This all ended abruptly when Glenn Martin was replaced in the Streamliners, and that was the end of any appearances in the UK of a group billing itself as Hedgehoppers Anonymous. Or so it seemed.

Writing for Retro Fresh, Nick Warburton details a further twist in the story. “The Colour Supplement, had…played two dates on the same bill as Mick Tinsley’s Hedgehoppers Anonymous during their Swedish tour in late 1967!” That band’s lead singer, Phil Tunstall, became the new lead singer for Hedgehoppers Anonymous in December 1968. None of the original members were in the group that was now trading off the name Hedgehoppers Anonymous. Nonetheless, in January 1969, “Decca Records in South Africa re-released the three-year old “Don’t Push Me”. This resulted in an invitation of the group headed by Tunstall that had taken the name being invited to fly in February 1969 to South Africa.

In South Africa, the ex-pat UK group had a hit there called “Mary Mary”. In May 1970 there was a road accident and Phil Tunstall died. Fellow member, Mick Matthews contends Tunstall died because of the apartheid laws: “An ambulance that was only supposed to deal with non-whites turned up to our call – and left again, saying it could not deal with the case! It was a considerable time before a whites-only ambulance eventually got to us.”

Alan Avon replaced Phil Tunstall and in South Africa the group – now billed as the Hedgehoppers – released the album Hey. The title track, “Hey”, became a #1 hit in South Africa in 1971. The mellow, soulful, tune seemed auspicious for what was next for the UK ex-pat group. The Hedgehoppers won a SARIE (South African equivalent of a Grammy) Award for “Hey!”

It's Good News Week by Hedgehoppers Anonymous
UK ex-pat group that eventually became
known in South Africa as Hedgehoppers

But in early 1972, when another member of the group, Bill Honeyman, died in a second road accident, the Hedgehoppers folded.

Meanwhile, Mike Tinsley released a cover of “Let It Be Me” in 1968, but the song fizzled out. In the early 70s, Tinsley appeared on the New Faces Show, with Tony Hatch, and on The Opportunity Knocks Songwriters Show. He sang in the Yamaha World Song Festival in Japan in 1976. It was where he met Ellis Elias of Red Bus Int’ Music. Tinsley was invited to team up with Peter Yellowstone to write songs for Joe Dolan and Kelly Marie . “I Need You” followed as #1 hit in Ireland and South Africa for Joe Dolan. With Kellie Marie, Tinsley penned her #5 hit in South Africa titled “Run To Me”. This was followed by another song he wrote to Kelly Marie titled “Make Love To Me”, a #2 hit in South Africa which climbed to #5 in Australia. As recently as December 4, 2010, Mike Tinsley appeared in concert at the Amersham Rock ‘ Roll  Club, west of Watford, UK. Tinsley shared the bill alongside The Searchers, Vanity Fair and Chris Farlowe.

After disbanding in 1967 John Stewart focused on his songwriting and engineering career, working as an engineer in the UK, then as an engineer and producer in Canada and the US. In April 1971 he was hired as an engineer at Eastern Sound in Toronto. In the same year he founded his own production company. Latter in the 70s he was manager of MCA Records (Canada)’s publishing arm Leeds Music (Canada) Limited.

In 1977 he was hired as the first General Manager and A&R Director for a small record company and also a production company. In 1980, Stewart moved to Nashville recording Country & Western acts. He moved back to Canada in 1983 doing work as a manager and producer.

Alan Laud moved to Spain where – as of 2010 – he was still running a bar in Torremolinos, on the Mediterranean coast.

In 2001, Jonathan King was convicted of sexually assaulting of dozens of minors between 1969 and 1989. He ended up serving time in prison between 2001 and 2005. A subsequent investigation in 2018 resulted in the Surrey Police offering a “wholehearted apology” to King for failing to “meet standards to ensure a fair trial.” After the “debacle”, as Judge Taylor described the 2018 trial, some commentators started to question the verdict of the 2001 trial, including Bob Wolffinden in his book The Nicholas Cases, and Daniel Finkelstein in The Times. Wolffinden learned Jonathan King was in America at the time as attested by several witnesses and documents discovered after the trial. Another of Woffinden’s revelations was that the main complainant in “the 2001 case against King had, reportedly, after the trial, admitted lying against King for money. The complainant had also apparently sold his story for £45,000 to one newspaper and £5,000 to another.”

From 1996-2000 ” Its Good News  Week” was used in the popular Australian weekly TV series Good News Week. This earned royalties for the former members of Hedgehoppers Anonymous, as well as Jonathan King.

At this time of writing, I have no information about former Hedgehoppers Anonymous members Ray Honeyball, Leslie Dash or Alan Laud.

April 17, 2024
Ray McGinnis

Mike Tinsley – Bio,” Miketinsley.co.uk
Nick Warburton, “Hedgehoppers tracks set for re-release in South Africa,” BBC, December 29, 2010.
Nick Warburton, “Hedgehoppers Anonymous – Part 1,” Strange Brew, 2011.
Nick Warburton, “Hedgehoppers Anonymous,” Garage Hangover, September 27, 2010.
Matthew Scott, “The collapse of Jonathan King’s trial raises questions about Surrey Police that go beyond disclosure failures,” Barristers Blog, August 8, 2018.
Hedgehoppers, “Hey!“, CBS, 1971.

It's Good News Week by Hedgehoppers Anonymous

One response to “It’s Good News Week by Hedgehoppers Anonymous”

  1. Tom Locke says:

    A very solid, well-researched write up.

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