Summer in the City by the Gutter Brothers from the 1991 Christmas Special, Miami Twice is regarded by many to be the best song to feature in Only Fools and Horses.
For many years fans of OFAH have questioned whether the Miami Twice version of the song was actually sung by the Gutter Brothers as so little is known about the band. On many forums it had been suggested that it was the Lovin' Spoonful's version in Miami Twice and that a mistake had somehow occurred in crediting the song to the Gutter Brothers.
With the 2002 release of the OFAH CD and the omission of the song, the topic of conversation once again turned to the mystery of the Gutter Brothers and Summer in the City.
After searching for information about the band I received an email from Chris Cawte. Chris had been with the Gutter Brothers from 1988 until the finish in 1994. Chris had not only answered my email but he also wrote a very interesting and detailed history of the band, which you can read below.
I'd like to thank Chris for taking the time and effort to supply the following.
History of the Gutter Brothers
By Chris Cawte
The band began life in the mid-eighties on the streets of Covent Garden, London as a busking band. The line-up changed frequently as various musicians came and went as you'd expect in busking circumstances. Tony and Dennis were founder members, originally playing a mixed bag of blues and rock n roll standards with a swampy feel. Tony hails from New Orleans, hence the washboard, and Dennis, a Londoner through and through, had been fooling with the tea chest for a few years as an ideal busking bass, needing no power, and costing virtually nothing to make, yet throwing a loud and boomy sound across the London streets, attracting a crowd from all over.
By the time I joined the band, there had been attempts at recording and playing a few gigs indoors, the odd bit of songwriting, greatly inspired by Dennis' lyrics, which had an incredible strength and real power. We played on the street every weekend and started doing more gigs, and taking the strange womping sound into pubs and clubs, gradually increasing our repertoire of original songs and building up a following of some size around London. The line-up as above had a chemistry and belief about it which is rare to find, but essential for success as a gelled and creative band. We recorded an album of songs in 1988/9 called "Isometric Boogie" which, though totally self-financed and initially only sold by the band through gigs and mailshots, went on to be distributed nationwide to shops and finally selling thousands of copies.
The band's following grew in the next couple of years, and we went to Germany, Italy, Spain and USA playing gigs and doing TV shows. Then in 1991 we had a call from Central TV asking us to write the soundtrack for a new comedy serial called "Gone to the Dogs", starring Jim Broadbent, Alison Steadman, Warren Clarke and Harry Enfield. This work led to a release on Demon Records of an album of the same name, containing songs and music from the show (still available?). We continued to tour and write, by now playing gigs at venues such as the since renamed Forum (formerly the Town & Country club), London, The International in Manchester, and large festivals like Reading, the Capital Radio London Festival and many motorbike rallies and such like.
Having worked with TV Director Tony Dow on "Dogs", we had a call from him in late 1991 to ask if we would do the music for F&H Xmas special. Obviously we jumped at the chance, and went off to chat with Tony. It was late in the schedule, and the time spent with crew in USA made time tight in production over here - there had already been a request to use Summer in the City for the show, I think by John Sullivan himself, so we suggested that rather than use the original, why not re-record it ourselves then carry on with the scoring? This went down fine, and we did a version using electric bass rather than tea chest, and a bigger, more regular drum kit than Jeff used to use live. Although we wrote the music under the name Gutter Brothers, it was deemed not essential to use the live sound as was, but do appropriate things with the music to match the pictures. Sometimes to gain more rock power on record we'd need the electric bass and big drums - and creating tension and suspense with a teachest is tricky! So the song stuck, and we incorporated it into our live set.
We did release an EP with Summer plus 3 more tracks later in 1992. Dennis left the band as a player in 1992, continuing to write lyrics for it, and the four of us played on but with a bigger, rockier sound. The busking days were now gone, and the band had progressed along with the passage of time. We continued until 1993, when due to personal life decisions (kids, schools, housing, all the normal stuff) I decided I wasn't going to tour any more. Tony decided it was time to go back to New Orleans and start a family, and we did a farewell tour which culminated in a live CD and video recorded at the old Mean Fiddler in Harlesden - for this show Dennis came back to play a small selection of the old stuff with us in a montage in the middle of the set, and thereafter we parted. We did one more "comeback" tour of UK in 1994 by venue request and nothing since.
Sadly, on Chrstmas Eve 2002 Dennis James Johnson died in Cheltenham Hospital Glos., aged 54. The remaining band members all attended his funeral and saw him off, with a host of his friends and family, in style. We played a few songs acoustically at the wake, including Summer in the City, and a load of Dennis' own amazing songs
We are very much hoping to stage one or maybe two memorial gigs in his honour later this year.
A Potted History of the Gutter Brothers
Busking in Covent Garden
Record LP "Isometric Boogie"
Appear live on First Exposure, LWT
Appear live on MTV Europe
Appear live on Night Network, LWT
5 weeks in New York and New Jersey, clubs and busking
Release single Fat Cadillac, voted a hit on Jools Holland's JukeBoxJury
Play on Formel Eins party in Munich
Obtain distribution for Isometric LP
Playing nationwide in clubs and busking wherever we go
Go to Ireland - Dublin street festival and appear live on Nighthawks, RTE
Appear on two shows in Italy on RAI2
Appear on Late Night with Jools Holland on BSkyB, live at the Astoria
Sponsored by Heineken to tour UK.
Much gigging and busking
Write music for "Gone to the Dogs" Central
Release album same name
Only Fools Miami Twice
UK tour with Jools Holland BigBand
Release EP "Failsafe"
Write music for "Gone to Seed" Central TV
Tour UK with Dr Feelgood
Continue to tour til split in summer
Live CD and Video from Mean Fiddler - "Already Dead"
Play one-off memorial gig at The Mean Fiddler
Play three gigs in Portsmouth, Bristol and London
The Gutter Brothers now have their own website. Click below to visit it
Chris Cawte and Jeff Walker both play in the Genesis tribute band, G2. Click below to visit it
Pictures © Gutter Brothers