Steve Somers - On The Local Scene

First published in Country Music People, January 1982

Varied music background helps spread Steve Somers’ name internationally

British country music has seldom risen above the merely imitative, although of course, acts like Frank Jennings Syndicate, Poacher and Kelvin Henderson have skilfully moulded their basic American influences into a convincing style. Steve Somers, however, is something else again.

He is one of those exciting people that happen in country music every so often. One of those artists who are only barely country in the first place, yet take the idiom by the scruff of the neck and add something of their own, lifting the music to new and heart-warming heights in the process. 

Over the past few years Steve has earned himself a healthy reputation right across the board. His musical interests began at school when he played in the brass section of the orchestra. In 1966 he joined the Army as a bandsman, and that was when he became interested in country music. In his off-duty hours he began to tinkle about with the guitar, and just for his own amusement he would sing standard country songs.

After leaving the Army he played with various country bands on a semi-pro basis and also began songwriting. Then he decided to go out solo, and in 1975 he appeared on television's New Faces and won with own song, Mavis Brown. This led to Steve joining The Settlers, a well-established folk group, the following year. They made many television and radio broadcasts while Steve was with the group, and even landed their own TV series. All the time Steve was quietly but surely directing the group closer to country music.

Whilst with The Settlers, Steve became friendly with Patty Vetta, the lady of the group, and towards the end of 1978 the pair left the group to form Somers & Co., an outfit that was much more country-orientated in its musical directions. Somers & Co. worked either as a duo, or with their own bass player, Roop Savage.

Patty was playing mandolin, and Steve proved that he was an ace instrumentalist, shining especially on guitar, though no slouch on banjo, fiddle, bass, piano and mandolin. The duo rapidly gained a reputation for its high standard of vocal harmony, and Somers & Co. were much in demand as back-up vocalists for artists like Ronnie Prophet, Pete Sayers, Don Everly, Colleen Peterson and Terri Hollowell.

Appearances at the Wembley Festival in 1980 (when they worked long stints with Pete Sayers) and 1981 followed, along with television shows supporting Frank Ifield, Family Brown and Ronnie Prophet, all helped to spread the sound of Somers & Co. Much to their touring was concentrated upon cabaret clubs, as the music of this duo was strictly for listening. They did make successful appearances at some of the more notable British country music clubs, toured with Pete Sayers and performed regularly at the Grand Ole Opry, Newmarket.

Sensibly, Somers & Co. never restricted their work just to the British Isles, and in the four years they worked together as a unit they took their special kind of music to the sunshine of the Arabian Gulf and the icebergs and snow of the Arctic Circle. Patty has now semi-retired from the business. She lives in London, and when time allows she is still active in the studios doing TV and radio commercial or adding backing vocals to famous singers' recordings.

Steve, who is very much a drifter at heart, still enjoys life on the road, and has now embarked upon a solo career, though usually he makes use of Pete Holder, who was also in The Settlers, on string bass. Two things about Steve Somers are undeniable. First there is no denying the range and versatility of his voice. Secondly, he is immensely likeable.

In the few months he has been out on his own he has worked steadily and built up quite a following. His appeal really is not difficult to understand. He has one of those sombre, masculine voices which distinguishes leading men in amateur operatic societies. He probably breaks fingers in handshakes, stares at you straight in the eye when he's talking to you … and he’s forever singing about the girls he left behind, like Mavis Brown. And they always loved Steve the best.

Originality and talent to entertain any kind of audience is sadly lacking in much of British country music, but Steve Somers joins that elite handful that includes Pete Sayers, Brian Golbey and Tony Goodacre, who are able to take the music to a much wider audience than the country club scene allows.

When Steve performs there's no fuss. No big build-up. No theatrics. He just saunters on stage, half smiles in acknowledgement to the audience applause, starts plucking away at an acoustic guitar and goes straight into his first song. His act is a wise mixture of his own original songs and well-known country numbers that encompass contemporary writers like Hoyt Axton and stretches back into Hank Williams and Don Gibson territory.

His own songs are pleasing in a confined way, logically arranged with a marginal funky undercurrent balancing the sweetness. They perfectly suit his rich, vibrant voice, which never appears to be strained because it’s such a natural instrument. Steadily Steve Somers is making his mark on the British country scene with a unique style that has very wide appeal.