In Orbit for 50 years
A short biography by Karl-Heinz Villis
The story of the SPOTNICKS began, more or less, in the mid 50’s in Gothenborg, Sweden when two school-friends, BO CHRISTER STARANDER and BJORN THELIN (both born in 1942), teamed up to play rock and roll, then actual hits and standards. Equipped with acoustic guitars they played school parties, dances, folk-parks etc., of course, all vocal stuff. They called themselves THE REBELS.
Then, in 1957, they met a guy named BOSSE FREDRICK WINBERG (or BO WINBERG, born 1939) in a record shop, discussed music and stayed in contact. Winberg played piano and guitar and was a bit like an electronic wizard. He wanted to create electric guitar sounds but, at that time, no real electric guitars were available (or very, very expensive). So he built guitars and also amplifiers by himself, also for his new friends Starander and Thelin. He even built an electric bass-guitar by using a normal guitar, adding stronger string holders and he put bass-strings on. Another guy, OVE JOHANSSON (born 1940), came to the band and became their drummer. They continued to play parties, dances, in folk parks under different band-names.
In 1960 they taped their first (home-made recordings), first in an old plastic factory, later in Winberg’s parents’ house. It was about that time that a technician suggested the name THE SPOTNICKS just to give the band a more international name. Bo Starander changed his name, also to sound more “international”, to BOB LANDER. At that time they recorded and released a mix of vocal and instrumental songs, later instrumental songs became more and more in demand by the fans.
Their first singles were released in 1962, an unsuccessful manager (Stikkan Anderson, later of ABBA-fame) was fired and a new manager, Roland Ferneborg, took over. He started their European career by booking them for a three month stay at the “Casa Leon” dance hall in Berlin, Germany - their appearances were a mixture of being a dance-band and also a show-band. They became well-known in Berlin and many then-famous stars, bands and singers, when they had finished their own shows, visited the “Casa Leon” to see the SPOTNICKS. Nice little gimmick was the using of a radio sender in Winberg’s guitar, the receiver was connected with his amp. This allowed Winberg to leave - while playing - the hall, the building, crossing the street and drinking a beer in a pub opposite to the “Casa Leon” - all without stopping to play. Surprise, surprise.
Their European career continued with a tour of Great Britain in September 1962 where they recorded, during a day off from playing, their first album (Out-A-Space - The Spotnicks in London) in a 17 hours long session. In England their records were released by “Oriole-Records” and a number of their records reached the British charts too. France and other countries followed in 1963, their next album (The Spotnicks in Paris) was, as the title says, recorded in Paris. While playing a rehearsal at the famous Paris “Olympia” Bo Winberg’s guitar sender reached the same frequency as the French police which resulted in some trouble(and big promotion for the band). First personal change took place too in 1963 (Ove Johansson left and was replaced by Derek Skinner) and their next album was recorded in Stockholm. Another tour of England took place but shortly before the beginning Bo Winberg became ill and was unable to play. Cancelling the tour was impossible so it was decided to take a British guitarist (Bruce Baxter) as lead guitarist. Bob Lander later explained to me: "we took our LPs, marked the songs we wanted to play and sent them to Bruce Baxter. We travelled to England a day earlier, teamed up with Baxter, locked ourselves into a rehearsal room and rehearsed the whole day through and then went on tour the next day".
Heavy European touring continued and in 1965 they became successful in Japan too which led to their first three month lasting world tour at the end of the year. Their record-output was still enourmous and successful. Further changes in the line up happened in 1965, 1967 and 1968 (see separate list of band-members) click here They were still very busy and in demand but in 1970 the band split up.
Requests for further Spotnicks-material came in from Japan and also Europe so Bo Winberg recorded an
album with a one-off band of friends and session-musicians. One of its songs, a tune called “If you could read my mind” became very successful in Germany and led to a newly formed band THE SPOTNICKS with only Bo Winberg as the only original founder member.
Heavy touring, mostly in Germany, followed, the line-up changed from time to time and the SPOTNICKS were present through the 70’, the 80’s and until 1992 when Winberg decided to retire and moved to Spain, tired of all those years of touring.
His then-band continued to tour and play, but, due to legal reasons, under the name PAPA’O because the name SPOTNICKS was owned by Winberg and his manager Ferneborg.
In 1997 Bo Winberg, bored of retirement and living far away in Spain, returned for a massive concert in Germany with his former band-mates as THE SPOTNICKS.
They celebrated their 40th Anniversary in 1998/1999 with a lot of gigs in Sweden and a fantastic ‘live’-CD simply called “LIVE 1999”. And, for their Anniversary gigs, they often brought in original founder members OVE JOHANSSON and BJÖRN THELIN, which, together with BO WINBERG and BOB LANDER, opened the concerts with a number of their old favourites.
Today, BO WINBERG and BOB LANDER still lead the band. OVE JOHANSSON took over leading their fan-club. They recorded and released about 700 songs so far.
Click here for list of Spotnicks albums
Bo Winberg, Tony Hoffman, Bob Lander
London, 9th March 2003