Stretch

Stretch was an English hard-rock/blues band from London that released three albums on Anchor between 1975 and 1977, followed by a fourth on Hot Wax in 1978.

Prior to their album run, they cut a 1973 single as Legs on Warner Bros. and posed as Fleetwood Mac in a touring ruse commanded by Clifford Davis, then-manager for both bands.

Vocalist Elmer Gantry fronted Velvet Opera during the late 1960s and gigged with Armada during the early 1970s. Guitarist Gregory Kirby was briefly a member of Curved Air, appearing on the band’s 1973 album Air Cut. Bassist Steve Emery played on the two 1974 Ross albums and Danny Kirwan‘s second solo album.

Members: Kirby (guitar, vocals), Elmer Gantry (vocals, guitar, 1974-78, 2007-present), Jim Russell (drums, 1974–76), Paul Martinez (bass, 1974–75), Dave Evans (bass, 1975–76), Steve Emery (bass, 1976–79), Jeff Rich (drums, 1976–78, 2007–09), John Cook (keyboards), Nigel Watson (vocals, guitar), Nicko McBrain (drums, 1978–79)


Stretch evolved from Legs, a band formed by singer David Terry, guitarist Graham “Kirby” Gregory, and bassist Steve Emery.

Terry first emerged in The Five Proud Walkers, an R&B/beat group that morphed into psych-rockers Elmer Gantry’s Velvet Opera, where Terry donned a cape and adapted the Gantry stagename, taken from the titular character of the 1926 Sinclair Lewis novel Elmer Gantry. They released the album Elmer Gantry’s Velvet Opera in 1968 on Direction. When Gantry left, the band carried on as Velvet Opera with Paul Brett.

Gantry surfaced in Armada, a jazz-rock band with Gregory and Emery, who took the place of original bassist Rik Kenton, an early member of Roxy Music. Armada recorded more than an album’s worth of material but only managed one 1973 single under the name Rimington (after saxophonist Sammy Rimington).

Meanwhile, Gregory (often known simply as Kirby) was one of three musicians — along with keyboardist–violinist Eddie Jobson and drummer Jim Martinez — drafted into a revised lineup of Curved Air, which made the 1973 album Air Cut. He also played on Rock On, the long-awaited debut album by veteran actor–singer David Essex.

Later that year, Kirby reteamed with Gantry and Emery in Legs, which issued the 1973 Warner single “So Many Faces” (b/w “You Bet You Have”).

Legs and Curved Air were managed by Clifford Davis, whose main client was Fleetwood Mac. In early 1974, Mac were unable to honor a pre-booked US tour due to internal frictions which prompted the exit of Bob Weston, one of two guitarist–singers in the lineup responsible for the 1973 albums Penguin and Mystery to Me.

Davis asked Kirby, Gantry, and Hackensack bassist Paul Martinez to deputize three-fifths of Fleetwood Mac (in lieu of Bob Welch, Christine McVie, and John McVie) for a pre-booked US tour. (Meanwhile, Emery joined funk-rockers Ross, which issued two 1974 albums on RSO.)

Kirby, Gantry, and Martinez — who were told that this tour would have Mick Fleetwood’s blessing and participation — agreed to play along. However, Fleetwood pulled out at the last minute. Alas, they took to the road as “Fleetwood Mac” with Australian drummer Craig Collinge (Manfred Mann Chapter Three, Shoot, Third World War), but the tour soon collapsed amid audience walkouts.

Reeling in scandal, Gantry and Kirby broke from Davis and formed Stretch with Martinez and Russell, who had been replaced in Curved Air by a young Stewart Copeland.

Stretch signed with Anchor, a newly established UK label that also counted rustic-rockers Moonrider and the chart-bound Ace among its nascent roster.


Discography:

  • “So Many Faces” / “You Bet You Have” (1973 • Legs)
  • Elastique (1975)
  • You Can’t Beat Your Brain for Entertainment (1976)
  • Lifeblood (1977)
  • Forget the Past (1978)

Sources:

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