Friday, 11 October 2013

The Teddy Boys

We have always had young and violent subcultures, such as The Hooligans in London, the Cornermen in Liverpool, the Scuttlers in Manchester and the Sloggers/Peaky Blinders in Birmingham.  It was at the beginning of the 1950`s that another "danger to the public" emerged, initially down in London, which quickly spread throughout Great Britain, and that was the "Teddy Boy".  This was somebody who wore a long coat, or drape suit that was of Edwardian style of forty plus years previously.  They created their own look by wearing drainpipe trousers and shoes, often suede that were known as Brothel Creepers, lace ties from the American west, and hair shaped with brylcreem into what was known as a "Ducks Arse".  The teddy boy monicker was not coined until a notorious murder trial in September 1953.

    Their brand of music after 1954 was rock n`roll that was popularised by Bill Haley & the Comets and Elvis Presley and the release of two films that shaped the moral degeneracy of the young; "Rock Around The Clock" and "The Blackboard Jungle".  Both films caused riots in cinemas throughout Britain as teds destroyed seats and - gasp! - "danced in the aisles".  What was true that it did spurn a violent culture where no reason was needed to attack and seriously harm somebody, cause mayhem, and basically do as you pleased.  This was not true of many teds, who simply wanted to be part of the culture, but there were a great many who revelled in it.  
    Many towns and areas had what was known as their own "King of The Teddy Boys" who had plenty of fights with people looking to take their crown.  As time went on, many teds did not wear the drape coats but made their stand by simply having their hair done in the appropriate DA, and the willingness to fight.  The style generally faded after the mid sixties as society entered the "Counter Culture" of West Coast America.  

    The name "Teddy Boys" was coined by the Daily Express on 23rd September 1953 after the trial of six young men for the murder of John Beckley aged 17.  They shortened the word "Edwardian to "Teddy" and the phrase stuck.  They were originally known as "Cosh Boys" - a 1952 film of the same title featured a young Joan Collins - but the "Ted" label stuck and newspapers filled with horror stories about this new youth cult, though some stories were greatly exaggerated.  Michael Davies aged 20 and Ronald Coleman, 15 were charged with the murder of John Beckley, who died from stab wounds.  Four others were charged alongside them.  The jury could not agree on a verdict, so the four were acquitted but held for assault, for which they were punished.  They could not agree on a verdict for Coleman, who was acquitted but, like the others, held on assault charges.  Michael Davies was retried again at the Old Bailey on 19th October 1953, and after a four day trial, was convicted and sentenced to death.  He put in appeal after appeal and finally after 92 days in the Condemned Cell, was reprieved by Home Secretary David Maxwell-Fyfe, who earlier in that year had no hesitation in refusing a reprieve for a young man who it was openly admitted, had not committed murder.  That man was Derek Bentley.  Davies was released from prison in October 1960.  One of the others originally arrested, stated that Davies had NOT stabbed John Beckley, but said Davies seemed to enjoy the notoriety so they all thought he may as well carry the can for what one of his friends had done.  An echo of the case was a 1962 film entitled "The Boys" starring Richard Todd, Dudley Sutton(who was sentenced to death) and Ronald Lacey.