The Mandrakes

The Mandrakes



Vocals: (Robert) Allen Palmer.

Guitars: Keith Griffin; Mick Cooke - left & replaced  by Rob Southwick

Drums: Mick Stephenson

Bass: John Standidge

The Mandrakes evolved from a gathering of pupils from the Scarborough High School for Boys during the summer of 1964.  Meetings and practice under the work in progress title of The Titans, first in the crypt of a church and then a former chicken hut, took place.  Allen (to become Robert in1969) Palmer joined after a successful audition and the first gig took place in a local youth club towards the end of the year.


Vocals: (Robert) Allen Palmer

Guitars: Keith Griffin; Rob Southwick

Drums: Mick Stephenson

Bass: John Standidge - left & replaced by Keith Griffin

After a road traffic accident involving Ron Gillette, a local impresario, and Allen Palmer, Ron took the Mandrakes under his wing and the quality of the equipment and gigs steadily improved during the year with the band evolving into a four piece when John Standidge left.


Vocals:  (Robert) Allen Palmer

Guitars: Rob Southwick; Pete Liley

Drums: Mick Stephenson

Bass Guitar: Keith Griffin - left & replaced by Mick Cooke

Keith Griffin left to joint the R.A.F. in July and the band membership then settled down for a long period of stability, with a growing fan base throughout the whole of Yorkshire.  Late in the year several recordings were made on a two-track in the front room of Mick Cooke’s parents’ house, two songs written by band members Allen Palmer (Concentrate) and Mick Cooke (Big House) are featured in the archive along with three further songs (covers). See tracks 8, 9, 10 on list of  'Recordings'.


Vocals: (Robert) Allen Palmer

Guitars: Pete Liley; Rob Southwick - left & replaced Dec 1967 by Rich Hodgson

Drums: Mick Stephenson

Bass: Mick Cooke

With an established reputation the Mandrakes embraced all the trends of the period and during the summer were filmed by Tyne Tees Television at one of the early flower power festivals.  A few weeks later they were mobbed on stage at a club in Rotherham and the set had to be terminated. Ron Gillette moved into discos and passed the reins as group manager over to local photographer Brian Cooke, who over the years has produced a volume of Mandrake photographs, a selection of which is presented in the Archive.


Vocals: (Robert) Allen Palmer

Guitars: Rich Hodgson, Pete Liley - left & replaced later in the year by Allan Black

Drums: Mick Stephenson

Bass: Mick Cooke - left & replaced later in the year by Derek Gill

A year of change started with the recording of the demo tape of the two Robert Palmer songs “Baby-sitting” and “It’s The Hardest Thing”. The focus of the group now changed from popular covers to more underground material and the gigs from village halls to universities.  Brian Cooke’s light show was renowned as being every bit as good as the Pink Floyds. In the early summer Pete Liley left and the band operated for a time as a four piece but not before they’d been mobbed yet again at the same Rotherham club!  Allan Black joined soon after that, and Mick Cooke left in the autumn to be replaced by Derek Gill and another period of musical development and wider based popularity followed.


Vocals: (Robert) Allen Palmer - left July ’69, replaced later by Angela Holmes-Dixon

Guitars: Rich Hodgson; Allan Black

Drums: Mick Stephenson

Bass: Derek Gill

Early in the year the Mandrakes undertook a successful four week tour of Denmark and a promotional film was produced by Brian for the Hull Arts Festival. By this time Robert was being “noticed” and in July was poached by the Alan Bown Set.  His last gig was on 23 July at The Penthouse, Scarborough, and he never played with the group again, even though there were several re-union events. Difficult to follow, Robert was eventually replaced by Angela Holmes-Dixon which involved the band in a complete musical change of direction.


Vocals:  Allan Black &  Angela Holmes-Dixon

Guitars: Rich Hodgson; Allan Black

Drums:  Mick Stephenson - left & replaced later in the year by John Cambridge

Bass: Derek Gill

Late in 1970 the last remaining original “Titan” Mandrake from 1964, Mick Stephenson, left to be replaced by John Cambridge, who had just left David Bowie’s ‘Hype’ and returned to Yorkshire.  As Angela also left, another female singer called Maggie Fiorenza was tried but eventually the group reverted to a lead male singer in Allan Black.


Vocals: Allan Black

Guitars: Rich Hodgson; Allan Black

Drums: John Cambridge

Bass: Derek Gill

1971 was highlighted with a one-night stand at The Lord Mayor’s Hall in Paris. This line-up then recorded ‘Someone Had the Nerve to Pity Me’, ‘Stranger to Himself’ & ‘Looking Forward to Being There’ - all Allan Black compositions, which are on the Archive.  Shortly after, the band members drifted in their own directions and the Mandrakes ceased to gig.

Postscript 1: With hindsight, it’s easy to see why Palmer got noticed, given the
bands that The Mandrakes were lucky enough to support on the University, Concert, and Festival circuit. These include -

The Who (3 times) : Jimi Hendrix : Thunderclap Newman : Pretty Things :
Chicken Shack : Amen Corner : The Tremeloes : Dantalion’s Chariot :
Fleetwood Mac : Traffic : Fairport Convention : Soft Machine : Geno Washington :
Family : Marmalade : The Move : Elmer Gantry's Velvet Opera : Spooky Tooth : Tramline : Savoy Brown Blues Band : Baron Richtofen : The Nice : Free : Mott the Hoople (twice) etc., etc.

Postscript 2: There have been a limited number of reunion gigs since.  Robert Palmer was invited to the first two but failed to turn up.  After Robert’s sadly premature death in 2003, just about all of the group members who had played with him during the 60’s, plus his younger brother Mark, performed a memorial concert for charity before a sell out crowd, at what has been described by most there as just about the best gig they ever went to.




(Robert) Allen Palmer (vocals), Mick Stephenson (drums), John Standidge, Keith Griffin, Mick Cooke, and Derek Gill (bass), Rob Southwick, Pete Liley, Rich Hodgson, Allan Black (guitar). Other members for a brief period were Angela Holmes-Dixon, Maggie Fiorenza, (both vocals), and John Cambridge (drums, ex-The Rats & David Bowie’s Hype).

Copyright Notices

Information kindly supplied by Michael Cooke and Rich Hodgson, 2011.

All photographs and memorabilia copyright Brian Cooke 2011.

Very special thanks to: Rich Hodgson, Michael Cooke, Brian Cooke, Anne Palmer.

All recorded material copyright Michael Cooke, Robert Allen Palmer, Allan Black. 2011.

The complete photographic archive of The Mandrakes is available at: