Named after a Carl Perkins’ classic, Matchbox were one of several 70s rock ‘n’ roll revivalist bands from the UK to make the jump from club favourites to chart stars.
The band was formed in 1971 by two former members of Contraband - bass player Fred Poke and his brother-in-law Jimmy Redhead. They were joined by an old schoolfriend of Poke’s called Steve Bloomfield. Capable of playing almost any stringed instrument, Bloomfield had made a living as a session player for Pye Records and was on several Mungo Jerry hits. Matchbox’s debut single came out on Dawn in 1973, after which Redhead’s departure left a line-up of Wiffle Smith (vocals), Rusty Lipton (piano), Bob Burgos (drums), Bloomfield (guitars), and Poke (bass). They subsequently recorded Riders In The Sky for Charly (they had previously recorded a Dutch-only album on Rockhouse). Smith and Lipton then departed, and former Cruisers vocalist Gordon Waters joined. The band was signed to a minor label and completed Setting The Woods On Fire in just over two days in October 1977, but as the record company were virtually bankrupt Chiswick took over its distribution. By this time, however, Matchbox had signed up with Raw Records - which issued a single - and this led to complications. Chiswick did not promote the band because Matchbox were not signed to the label, and Raw declined to promote them because they did not own the album. In desperation the group bought themselves out of their contract and signed a new agreement with Magnet. At this point they had been joined by vocalist Graham Fenton, previously with the Wild Bunch, the Houseshakers and the Hellraisers, and now Redhead returned, along with another guitarist, Gordon Scott. The first Magnet single, ‘Black Slacks’, missed out, but the second - a Steve Bloomfield original called ‘Rockabilly Rebel’ - made the charts. A string of hit singles followed. One further line-up change came about when Bloomfield decided he did not want to tour anymore, and Dick Callan was brought in as a replacement for live appearances. Apart from Matchbox recordings, the group also put out a version of Freddie Cannon’s ‘Palisades Park’ under the pseudonym Cyclone. Steve Bloomfield released a solo album entitled Rockabilly Originals. The group is known as Major Matchbox outside the UK.