Tribute group had a real Groundhog Day at'¨ band's Christmas party

THEY formed a tribute act purely for the love of playing their musical heroes' songs.

Tuesday, 19th December 2017, 6:10 am
Updated Tuesday, 19th December 2017, 1:31 pm
The Undergroundhogs playing at the Christmas party of original The Groundhogs founder Tony McPhee, far right, who joined them for a couple of numbers

So Cliff Charter and his bandmates couldn’t believe it when they were invited to play at the Christmas party of cult blues rockers The Groundhogs, who scored a hattrick of top 10 albums in the 1970s.

The Undergroundhogs were formed at the start of this year by Cliff, landlord of the The Golden Eagle in Delamere Road, Southsea, after chatting with fellow guitarist Gareth Turner in the pub.

When a Groundhogs song came on in the background, the pair realised they had a shared admiration for the group and decided to learn a couple of songs and try them out at some open mic nights.

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After pulling together a full band, a friend designed a poster for an upcoming gig which incorporated a Groundhogs logo with the word ‘Under’ in front of it. They contacted the band to ask for permission to use the logo – and included some video links to their rehearsal footage.

They got a reply granting permission which also said: ‘Love the name and the videos.’

A few weeks later they got an email asking if they wanted to play at the annual Christmas party thrown by Groundhogs founder and mainstay Tony McPhee at his local pub in Shropshire.

The four-piece, completed by Cliff Stopforth and Rick Anderton, jumped at the chance.

Tony paid for them to stay in a B&B and the pub, The Wrekin Arms, paid for their van hire.

Cliff said: ‘When we were doing the soundcheck, it was just Tony and his wife, Joanna Deacon, who was on the sound desk, watching. It was funny playing Tony’s songs back to him, that was a strange experience.’

During the actual gig, Tony, who can no longer sing because of a stroke in 2009, joined them on guitar for three songs. ‘We just launched into it, and thoroughly enjoyed it.’

Tony later sent them a message which said: ‘Brilliant band, they’ve taken my songs and gave them a new lease of life!’

The band next play at The Joiners in Southampton on January 14.