THERE were some brilliant Island pop bands in the 60s, but none could quite topple the legendary Cherokees, who quickly became the most popular and successful local group of those heady times.

Their classic fab four line-up of Graham Betchley, Brian Sharpe, Crann Davies and Ken Young, who came together in 1962, has gone down in Island folklore.

To be fair, none of them were original members of the group first formed in 1957. I'd like to highlight some of their predecessors, who had their own initial following at Newport's Queens Hall, now the Boots store.

These included Mick Horne, Gil Palmer, Chick Leal, Dave Head, Bill Wills, Codge Atkinson and Floss Ford. They helped bring a new dimension to the Island's live music scene, which had been mainly dance bands.

On their own admission, the Cherokees were never prone to originality, but were just happy to be swept along by the latest exciting sounds from the hit parade, as it was quaintly called.

Our intrepid four played all around the Island and crowds flocked to their gigs.

These venues included the Manor House, Lake, where they left because the management wouldn't pay them an extra £1 for petrol money, the Ventnor Winter Gardens, The Seagull, at the end of Ryde Pier, and the Sandown Pier Ballroom.

In 1964 big-time impresario Mervyn Conn realised the potential of the band and he cleverly included them in his star studded Sunday shows at the Commodore Cinema, Ryde.

They were featured as a supporting act for a bill that contained Heinz, Jess Conrad and the Mojos, then were on the amazing show that paired Matt Monro and the Pretty Things.

They also appeared with the Animals and Mark Wynter and in the final show of the summer topped the bill in Big Night Out, which featured purely local Island bands.

Earlier that year, the Cherokees had supported the Rolling Stones at Ryde Pavilion, with another local band the Shamrocks.

As good as they both were, the Stones were clearly in another league, as Jagger and co. quickly proved with world fame.

Were the Cherokees good enough for the big time? Many of us certainly thought so.

In reality, they were great Island lads with families and good jobs. They were not ambitious and, as I found in later years, many of the famous bands were ripped off and made very little money.

In Graham Betchley, the band had one of the finest singers the Island has ever produced.

The once majestic Royal York Hotel, Ryde, was their stronghold for many years. Their famous 69 Club Saturday night gigs were sell-outs.

Drummer Ken Young must take the credit for a lot of this. He also shrewdly managed to bring down some of the country's top bands, as the group's built-in impresario.

He managed to book the Nice, who included Keith Emerson, for just £75. The Moody Blues came, before they became a world famous stadium band, and so did T. Rex, Status Quo, the Move, Yes and Gene Vincent, an original American rock 'n' roll star.

They released a local four-track EP, with some of their most requested songs, including Anthony Boy and Stewball, and it sold out.

Rumours always suggested that the boys would buy a new hit single on a Saturday morning, learn it in the afternoon and play it in the evening. Sometimes better that the original records.

They became the idols of hundreds of young Islanders and their music influenced so many local youngsters. Their lead guitarist, Brian Sharpe, is still playing, when the lockdowns allow, and he has been such an icon for potential young guitarists.

In 1970, Island-born record producer and music mogul Wilf Pine, who worked for Don Arden, got the boys a record deal with Parlophone Records.

Because there was a mainland group called the Cherokees, they recorded the brilliant Candle In The Wind track, as Wilfred.

It almost made the charts and they also had a 30 piece orchestra on the London session. Brian wrote the B side, Between The Lines.

A couple of weeks ago I was told a great story about this record. Around 20 years ago, Seaview's Michael Green requested this single on Brian Matthew's Sounds of the 60s popular Radio2 show, for his 50th birthday.

He was moving house that day and never heard if they played it. Due to the wonders of modern technology, he was able to download the programme recently and was delighted to realise they had. Matthews even bent the rules, as it was actually released in 1970.

They also had a single released in Sweden.

The band finally disbanded in 1972 when the disco craze came in. I managed to get an exclusive story in 1982 when the boys had a reunion gig at the Wishing Well, Pondwell.

The police were called. No, their ageing fans were well behaved, but most of the cars had no parking lights on and were told to move.

There was even a queue outside. As people left, others took their places. They rehearsed 43 numbers in just 14 hours prior to the gig.

In 2004 Brian Sharpe released a CD album called The Cherokees ­— Found In The Attic. So their music lives on. It included tracks recorded at their live gigs.

Sadly, Graham Betchley and Ken Young have passed on. They will never be forgotten by a generation of Island people.

Bass player Crann Davies doesn't play music anymore but Brian Sharpe is as enthusiastic as ever.