Bram Stoker was formed in the summer of 1969 by Hammond organist Tony Bronsdon, guitarist Pete Ballam, drummer Rob Haines and bass guitarist Jon Bavin, in their south coast town of Bournemouth, England, UK.
Kindred spirits Tony, Pete and Rob were in separate bands at the time but collaborated on a project with Jet Harris (ex Shadows bass player). When the project ended they recruited bass player friend Jon Bavin. The chemistry was now right and Bram Stoker became their opportunity to explore and create their own music. They were young, enthusiastic and inspired by the current progressive musical trends.
After intense rehearsals in a room above a pub in Poole, the band went on the road. That summer of 1969 was the start of a busy schedule. The band’s live performances were well received and drew enthusiastic audiences. From the vast circuit of clubs, colleges and universities throughout the UK the band developed a loyal following.
Although influenced by the Gothic image, Bram Stoker chose its own musical direction, composing its own material and experimenting with new musical styles. Inevitably the band acquired the "progressive classical rock" label but succeeded in creating its own identity. The band’s focus was on stage performance and raw, powerful sound. Each member embraced fresh ideas and encouraged originality.
Tony Bronsdon's classical training is augmented by a formidable technique, with a Hammond organ sound that is majestic, biting and haunting. His stirring ability to integrate his classical interpretation into their musical compositions - with drummer Rob Haines' driving rhythms - defined the Bram Stoker sound. Pete Ballam’s antics on stage were spontaneous and unpredictable, his legendary "Doppler" (a spinning speaker cabinet) had to be seen - and heard - to be believed. Rob Haines took an individual approach to his role in the rhythm section and created his own spinning cymbal, which - like Pete’s "Doppler" - is unique to Bram Stoker (evident on "Poltergeist"). Jon Bavin enhanced their compositions with melodic themes, ethereal vocals and dextrous bass lines.
One of their early gigs was as support act for The Who at Bournemouth Pavilion. Front man Roger Daltrey saw the potential and invited Bram Stoker to his home in Berkshire, where he made demo recordings of the band. After six tracks had been recorded The Who embarked on an extensive USA tour, so the demos were put on hold until his return. Derek Lawrence, record producer of rock band Deep Purple, showed an interest and more tracks were recorded in London’s De Lane Lea Studios with Deep Purple’s engineer, Martin Birch. A few months later Bram Stoker was signed up to an independent label owned by Rolling Stones manager Tony Calder.
The band had also developed a keen following in Holland and enjoyed a successful tour of that country in the spring of 1971. After a re-shuffle in 1972, when Tony and Rob were joined by Sheila Darcy (designer of Bram Stoker's hood logo in 1969) and Harvey Coles, the band embarked on a second foreign tour, this time to Italy and Greece. The " Heavy Rock Spectacular " album was released that same year.
Bram Stoker enjoyed remarkable interest from the music industry during the period from 1969 to 1972 and this is shown in the wake of the " Heavy Rock Spectacular " album - from its original vinyl release by Windmill Records in 1972 through to its present CD format. The album became a collector's item; an original vinyl LP is particularly valuable. Inevitable bootlegging ensued and CD copies of " Heavy Rock Spectacular " appeared on various labels world-wide. Sales of the album continue unabated, and the band's following on the Internet grows daily with fresh blood.
Bram Stoker re-formed in 2009 and composed new material. Original members Tony Bronsdon (keyboards/vocals) and Rob Haines (drums) have again been joined by Sheila Darcy (bass/vocals) and Harvey Coles (guitar/vocals).
In the intervening years 1972 - 2009, Sheila performed full-time in professional bands in Europe, Asia and North America. In recent years she became a resident of Florida and Citizen of the US, whilst being a soloist performer on cruise ships. She feels that returning to England has taken her full circle; re-joining the band is like "coming home", and that her many musical experiences and performances have been a training ground for the challenges and rewards of the present Bram Stoker.
1972 - 2009 were also busy years for Harvey. He toured Asia, Europe and the USA before moving to Texas, where he formed his own band. He later moved to Chicago, where the blues scene provided him with a great opportunity for growth and experience. His move back to the UK in 2009 turned out to be perfect timing as Bram Stoker was re-forming. He brings not only his musicianship to the band but also his songwriting and arranging skills.
The band is now based in Tony’s present home town of Salisbury, Wiltshire.
The songwriting continues.... New recordings will soon be available.