Trickster was an English rock band that released the album Find the Lady on Jet in 1977, followed by Back to Zero in 1979.

Members: Phil Bates (vocals, guitar), Colin Hewinson (piano, keyboards, vocals), Mike Sheppard (bass, guitar, vocals), Paul Elliot (drums, percussion), Mike Groth (vocals, bass), John Fincham (bass)


Trickster appeared in 1976 after guitarist–singer Phil Bates, a resident musician at Piccadilly’s Piazza restaurant, formed musical ties through a sequence of pop singles.

Bates (b. March 30, 1953) hailed from Tamworth, Staffordshire, where at age twelve he formed a backyard band, The Wild Four, soon renamed The Teenbeats. At seventeen, he moved to Birmingham, where he worked at Ringland Music, an instrument shop joint-owned by four 1950s jazz stalwarts: drummer Lionel Rubin, bassist Ken Ingarfield, flutist George Watts, and vibraphonist Alan Grahame; known collectively as the resident band on the ATV daily show Lunch Box.>

In 1970, Bates joined JUG, a hard-rock Wolverhampton band that gained traction in Glasgow with multiple shows at the Electric Garden. Back in Tamworth, he joined Enigma, an MOR folk-pop band that evolved into Quill. As ‘Kwil,’ they cut the 1972 Parlophone single “Spent the Rent” (b/w “Every Little Thing”).

In 1974, he surfaced as Billy Bates for the self-penned single “Mr. Hand Me Down” (b/w “Money Makes the World”), released on Spark (UK) and Blue Jean (Netherlands) and produced by Barry Kingston (Icarus, Velvet Opera). As a sessionist, he provided handclaps and chants on “Shemoot (The Prayer),” the closing track on the 1975 EMI–Buddah release Café De Paris by French rockers Les Variations.

Bates linked with keyboardist Colin Hewlinson and arranger–engineer Colin Thurston (Agnes Strange, Shabby Tiger) for the 1975 single “Take to the Mountains,” a Tony Hazzard cover backed with the joint-written original “Happy to Be With the One I Love,” released as Billy Bates Company on four-press Survival. The trio formed Graffiti with Wombles drummer Morgan Kent and covered two Beatles songs, “Come Together” (b/w “Dear Prudence”), on Beeb, a subsidiary of BBC Records.

In 1976, Take to the Mountains” reappeared on Philips (France) with a picture of ‘Billy Bates Company‘ that shows Phil Bates and Colin Hewinson with bassist Mike Sheppard and drummer Paul Elliott. Collectively, they formed Trickster, which landed its first deal with United Artists.

To Fly Away

In 1977, Trickster debuted with the single “To Fly Away,” a swelling ballad backed with “Never Too Old to Rock ‘N’ Roll,” both Bates–Hewinson originals.

A. “To Fly Away” (3:51)
B. “Never Too Old to Rock ‘N’ Roll” (3:57)

Producer, Engineer – Martin Rushent
Engineer – Dave Charles

Trickster came to the attention of Don Arden, a veteran rock managerial infamous for his heavy-handed methods, first with Small Faces and then with The Move, which spawned the seventies cash-cows Wizzard and Electric Light Orchestra. Arden signed Trickster to Jet Records, a UA-distributed label established for ELO and like-minded acts.

Find the Lady

Trickster released their debut album, Find the Lady, in 1977 on Jet.

A1. “Listen to My Music” (5:20)
A2. “Rich Man” (3:56)
A3. “Louise” (5:08)
A4. “Miles and Miles Away” (4:45)
B1. “If That’s the Way the Feeling Takes You” (2:44)
B2. “Your Money or Your Life” (4:51)
B3. “The Song Will Always Be the Same” (3:55)
B4. “Goodbye ’65” (3:34)
B5. “Let It Lie” (6:03)

Martin Rushent — producer

In 1978, Jet issued Find the Lady with an alternate cover.

ELO Tour and Lineup Change

Trickster promoted Find the Lady as the opening act on ELO’s 1978 world tour behind Out of the Blue, a lavish double-album presented at stadiums in a giant saucer (as depicted in the gatefold art).

After the tour, Mike Sheppard left Trickster, which continued as a five-piece with bassist–guitarist Michael Groth and multi-instrumentalist John Fincham. Groth hailed from Valentino, a pop act with retro leanings (ala Sailor). He wrote both sides of their 1978 Ariola–Hansa single “Evening In Calais” (b/w “Summer Days”), a production of Family Dogg’s Steve Rowland that earned an appearance on the German music program Musikladen.

Back to Zero

Trickster released their debut album, Back to Zero, in 1979 on Jet.

A1. “Tomorrow Belongs to Me” (3:56)
A2. “Back to Zero” (4:09)
A3. “You Make Me Want to Stay” (3:42)
A4. “Road to Nowhere” (4:12)
A5. “Bump in the Night” (4:07)
B1. “Time Makes a Fool of Everyone” (4:44)
B2. “Hold On” (3:40)
B3. “Falling for the Wrong Guy” (3:57)
B4. “I’m Satisfied” (2:55)
B5. “Can’t Stop Us Singing” (3:39)
B6. “The Loser” (3:39)

Bass, Guitar, Backing Vocals – Michael Groth
Drums, Bass, Guitar, Backing Vocals – John Fincham
Drums, Percussion – Paul Elliott
Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Lead Vocals, Backing Vocals – Phil Bates
Piano, Electric Piano, Synthesizer [A.r.p.], Backing Vocals – Colin Hewinson

Engineer – Alan Winstanley, Barry Kidd, Richard Goldblatt
Photography By – Fin Costello

Trickster toured with John Miles and appeared as Boston‘s special guest on European dates of their tour behind Don’t Look Back.

“April In Paris”

In 1980, Trickster released their final Jet single, “April In Paris,” a Hewinson–Groth original backed with Bates’ “Everybody Needs a Hero.”

A. “April In Paris” (4:08)
B. “Everybody Needs a Hero” (4:28)

Trickster toured with Jet label-mates Violinski, formed by member’s of ELO’s string section. The shows impressed representatives of RCA, which almost wrested Trickster from Arden and Jet before Bates dissolved the band.



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