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Sixties singing sensation Dorian Gray and his band Unit Five re-emerge as Five In The Bar

By Alan Smith

If patrons of Maidstone’s Pizza Express had a feeling of deja vu when they watched the newly formed band Five In The Bar perform in the restaurant’s music room recently, they were right.

The lead singer of the ensemble that performs Buble and Sinatra covers is Tony Ellingham.

Tony Ellingham in his Dorian Gray years
Tony Ellingham in his Dorian Gray years

Mr Ellingham was a pop sensation in 1968, when under his stage name of Dorian Gray, he made several records and appeared on Top of The Pops with Cilla Black and Tom Jones.

His producers didn’t think his real name was sexy enough, so re-Christened him after the Oscar Wilde character who never grows old. A rather appropriate choice as it turns out.

Mr Ellingham was given six months off by his boss at Kent Art Printers in Rochester to try his musical career, but with a new house, and a wife and baby, he soon decided it was safer to go back to his old job and a regular paypacket.

He said: “You couldn’t make the money back then that you can now.”

He said: “For a while my record was being played every single moment of the day on pirate radio stations, but when the government closed them down it all changed.”

Tony Ellingham - the new Buble?
Tony Ellingham - the new Buble?

However, he never entirely set his musical ambitions aside, forming the show band Unit 5 in 1973.

The band had a devout following at their weekly gigs at the Laughing Waters Motel, now the Inn on the Lake, near Gravesend, throughout the Seventies and released its own EP.

This year, the band has changed direction and reformed as Five In The Bar to play in a more sophisticated swing-style.

Mr Ellingham, from Lordswood, said: “We love the material we are doing now.”

Unit 5 in the 1970s
Unit 5 in the 1970s

Other band members may also be familiar faces to some readers.

Lead guitarist Max Hoad was with The Coasters and The Brian Jenner Band.

Bass player Nigel Beckett was with The Sound Casters, which played during the intervals at the Odeon Cinema in Gillingham. He also played with The Other Kind, then Mark Question and Devine Eclipse before also joining the Brian Jenner Band.

Keyboards player Phil Thompson played with the Brian Jenner Band and the Four Avengers.

Drummer Andy Jenkins was with the Brothers Grimm.

*Fans have two opportunities to catch the band again:

They will play at Boughton Monchelsea Village Hall on Friday, May 2. Tickets £12 (includes fish and chips) from 01622 751926.

They are back at Pizza Express on Saturday, June 7. Tickets are £14 from 08456 027017.

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