TOMMY Banner was only supposed to be in The Wurzels for three months. But more than five decades later, he’s still savouring every minute on stage.

The 84-year-old, who lives in Taunton, first signed a short contract with the band in 1967, when they were looking for an accordion player to replace Reg Chant.

Now, he is the longest-serving member of The Wurzels, who are enjoying a busy summer with shows and festivals across the country.

Tommy spoke to the County Gazette shortly after performing at App-Fest in West Harptree, near Chew Valley Lake, in early-June.

“It was so bloomin’ cold!”, he said.

“The wind was whistling into the stage. We came off and every one of us had runny noses – it was like playing in the winter! But the crowd stayed, and they were magic.

“Their reaction was amazing. They must have been frozen stiff.”

That festival came after a hectic May schedule, which featured sets at Somerfest in Bridgwater and at the Royal Bath and West Show.

“We started early this year,” said Tommy.

“We did something like 10 or 12 festivals in May, all over the place.

“We even went to Wales, which is unusual for us! And then after playing in Bridgwater, we went straight off to Shrewsbury.

“That was probably our busiest May ever.”

Their remaining shows this summer will see them play across the region, including Devon, Severn Beach, Wiltshire, Bath Racecourse and Cornwall.

One thing that's never changed is Tommy's desire to send the audience home happy after every performance.

He said: “We go out to entertain. We hope we entertain, and we’ve all got the same principles. We don’t try and educate.

“In West Harptree, in an hour and 20 minutes, we never played a slow song; we kept the crowd going. That’s what we go out to do.

“People say, ‘why are you still going?’

“We’re still going because we enjoy it so much. We’ve got the same outlook. Every gig is a challenge to us that we’re going to win. We’ve got to win that audience.”

Tommy first found himself in the West Country band (then called Adge Cutler and The Wurzels) in 1967 after he had gained experience in the entertainment industry in Scotland and northern England.

He was immediately made to feel welcome in Somerset – but he's as proud as ever to be a Scotsman.

The Wurzels after performing at Somerset County Show in 2022.The Wurzels after performing at Somerset County Show in 2022. (Image: NQ Staff)

“I joined the Wurzels 50-odd years ago, and I came down for three months! That was my contract,” he said.

“I’d never even heard of them! I was on the cruise ships for two years before that.

“Once you sailed from Southampton, you didn’t know anything for three weeks until you hit South Africa.

“People say, ‘you’ve not lost your accent – I thought you’d be talking in a West Country accent by now!’

“But I made a point of it. I’m not going to try and use a West Country accent, because I feel that people would see through it and think I was taking the mickey out of it, and I certainly don’t intend to do that.

“I’m so proud to be a Wurzel, and I’ve retained that right through my career. But I’m still very proud to be a Scotsman.”

In 1976, two years after Adge died, the band rose to the top of the UK charts with ‘The Combine Harvester’, a cover of Melanie’s song ‘Brand New Key’.

Even now, it hasn't lost its charm or popularity.

The Wurzels recently joined celebrity fan Kaleb Cooper – who will be well-known to viewers of Amazon documentary Clarkson’s Farm – on stage for a live singalong of their biggest hit on the last night of his UK tour in Cheltenham.

“The reaction we got was unbelievable,” said Tommy.

“When Kaleb introduced us and we came on, we couldn’t believe it.

“It was like the last time we did Glastonbury (in 2010), and we couldn’t start because of the reception we received when we walked on stage.

“Entertaining people really makes you want to work.”

The Wurzels joined Kaleb Cooper on the last leg of his 'The World According to Kaleb' tour.The Wurzels joined Kaleb Cooper on the last leg of his 'The World According to Kaleb' tour. (Image: Ellis OBrien/Expectation/PA)

The Wurzels have been lucky enough to play at Glastonbury several times, but the title of their ‘favourite festival’ goes to another in Somerset: Watchet Live.

The band played at all-but-one of the festivals in the harbour town until its last hurrah in 2022, after which the organisers confirmed that it would not return.

“We played the same slot every Sunday – the teatime slot,” said Tommy.

“Sometimes, we’d stand on stage, watching and listening to the crowd. And we’d think, ‘this isn’t work. This is heaven. I’m getting paid for this’. It was never, ever work.

“Backstage, it was magic. It was a great atmosphere.”

Spectators at the sun-drenched Watchet Festival in 2022.Spectators at the sun-drenched Watchet Festival in 2022.

John Morgan, the band’s long-serving former drummer, had a special ritual at Watchet that festival organisers Mark and Jackie Bale used to pay tribute to him after he sadly died in 2021.

“John didn’t drink – he was teetotal,” Tommy explained.

“We would have a kettle in our Portakabin when we arrived. John would always get the same seat next to the kettle and the sandwiches and biscuits. It was a standing joke.”

So it was fitting that The Wurzels went on stage in 2022 with a carefully positioned teapot and some biscuits next to the drum kit.

“It was such a loving touch,” said Tommy.

“We knew how much John loved them. It was a great family festival.”

Popular drummer John Morgan (left).Popular drummer John Morgan (left).

He added: “The number of young drummers who used to come to the side of the stage to watch him drumming was unbelievable.

“He was so laid back, but he was a first-class drummer. They couldn’t understand how he could make it look so easy, but it came through years of practice.”

Tommy has also had plenty of young musicians come to him for advice.

At App-Fest, a young Scottish musician even asked him for a hug and thanked him for what he had done for musicians from the country.

“It’s so moving when you still get these things happen to you after all these years in the business,” he said.

“We’ve been through the hard times and hard travelling.

“If you believe in what you’re doing, stick at it. If you don’t fully believe in it, find another job that you like.

“But if you stick at it, and you’re lucky enough to have a bit of success, you will just love working.

“I never, ever go out of the house thinking ‘oh God, here we go again.’ It’s the same when we meet up at a gig or on our bus. We’re always delighted.”