Hailing from the London borough of Bermondsey, the Handley Family were – for a very short period – touted as England’s answer to the Partridge Family, the Osmonds and the Jackson Five. The five siblings (three girls – Molly, Wendy and Sally - and two boys – Tommy and Billy) appeared on Hughie Green's talent show Opportunity Knocks and released at least three singles, the first of which managed to scrape into the UK Top 30 in 1973. There was at least one further sister, Julie, and Sally had previously sung with the showband Sweet Rain.
Issued on RCA imprint GL the A-Side, Wam Bam is pretty typical of its type and time, a singalong country song – written by Dave Christie (who would become the group’s producer) - that would keep a Sunday night TV audience tapping their feet for a couple of minutes between acts on any televised variety show. You can easily imagine this song being covered by Op Knocks superstar Lean Zavaroni. The B-Side, however, is another matter.
Rum, Dum and Baccy is downright awful, with ludicrous lyrics which in no way reflect the particular type of alcohol or the cigarettes mentioned in the title. Also, the kids clearly sing Rum Dum DUM Baccy all the way through the song, rather than the correct Rum, Dum AND Baccy.
Went to a dance, saw a girl named Sandy
Dancing with Brandy and sipping on shandy
The candy was handy so we gave it to Sandy
Everybody there was feeling dandy
Wo-woah! Rum, dum-dum, baccy....
Just stupid. And that’s it: that one verse repeated twice. Great bongoes though, and at least the writers Dave Reece and Steve Glen - who would go on to release the frankly ridiculous and overblown Jim Steinman rip-off Down Among the Dead Men (the Story of the Titanic) on CBS in 1980 - saved embarrassing the children by avoiding the use of the word 'randy'! The Handley kids, all too young to enjoy the delights of booze or tobacco would go on to release two further 45s on Dave Christie’s Tiffany label (Boing Boing Boing/Chuggin’ Along and Light Up the World With Sunshine/Joanna May), with the Handley sisters also being roped in to sing backing vocals on other sessions for the company: they can be heard prominently on recordings by ‘comedian’ Freddie Starr, who co-incidentally was also a former winner of Opportunity Knocks.
There were a few live appearances, including being the star attraction at the Bermondsey and Rotherthithe Carnival, where they arrived in an open-top limousine. They also appeared on several other TV shows, including kid’s teatime staples Crackerjack and Lift Off with Ayshea. Their time in the spotlight was brief; the kids grew up, left school, put their music career behind them and brought up families of their own.