Heads Hands & Feet

Ray Smith
(music)/Tony Colton (lyrics) compositions.)

With grateful thanks to Ray Smith for his input and advice.


Heads Hands & Feet really started out as the folk/psychedelic rock band Poet And The One Man Band in the late 1960s. The name was derived from a line in the Paul Simon song ‘Homeward Bound’. By then Ray Smith (composer) and Tony Colton (lyricist) were already songwriters and highly regarded (session) musicians in their own right. Tony also produced. Tony Colton and The Big Boss Band had been formed in 1964, but this was short-lived. They only recorded one single for Decca, ‘Lose My Mind’. In 1965 Tony recorded three singles for Pye under his own name. Another move to Columbia Records resulted in ‘In The World Of Marnie’s Dreaming’ but as none of these provided the big break Tony and Ray were looking for, they returned to composing and session work, including tracks for Zoot Money among many others.

Poet & The One Man Band was formed with fellow (backing/session) musicians Tony and Ray had been working with throughout the ‘60s. The band recorded one excellent self-titled album in 1968 of which two versions were issued in 1969 with slightly differing track-listings and different sleeves – one in the UK (on Verve) and one in the US (on Paramount).

After a change in the line-up, Poet & The One Man Band became Heads Hands & Feet in 1971. They were a very hot band set for stardom with lucrative recording contract offers, but despite great recordings and live shows, frictions set in and at the end of 1972, when Albert Lee left, the band had effectively split. Their first official release (there is another album – we will get to that) was the self-titled 1971 album that, like Poet & The One Man Band, was issued in two versions: a double album in the US (on Capitol) and a single album, with of course fewer tracks, in the UK (on Island Records). This time the sleeve covers, designed by band member Mike O’Neill, were the same and both had a gatefold sleeve. The complete album was released on CD in 1996 by re-issue company See For Miles Records but is very difficult – and expensive – to obtain.

The follow-up to Heads Hands & Feet in 1972 was Tracks (on Capitol in the US and Island in the UK), later released on CD as Tracks – Plus which includes two bonus tracks. The final official album was Old Soldiers Never Die, recorded in the autumn of 1972 and issued in 1973, after the band had already broken up. It saw its first release on CD in 2008 by Wounded Bird Records and is now hard to come by.

As mentioned above, a full album had been recorded as early as December 1968, and is by many believed to be the original debut album of Heads Hands & Feet. However, as Ray Smith told us, this was really intended to be the second Poet & The One Man Band album. The recording sessions took place between October and December 1968 under extraordinary circumstances and at the time were referred to as the “Pirate Sessions” as much of it was done late at night after official (i.e. paying) recording sessions had finished for the day. Many musicians and singers got involved for little or no money and/or for fun. By April 1969 Tony and Ray had the second album ready. However, the first album had come out in March and six weeks later they were told by Ian Ralfini, musical director of MGM, “Sorry Ray, I’m taking everybody to WEA. You can have the rights to the second album but don’t release it in England for five years.” They weren’t happy about it but did as told. Danny Secunda, their manager, later tried to convince Tony Colton to issue it as the Heads Hands & Feet debut album but by then Pat Donaldson had left and been replaced by Chas Hodges. Tony Colton, altruistically, felt that the first album should reflect the new line-up (with Chas), and consequently the album was kept in the can until it finally saw the light in 1995 as Home From Home (The Missing Album). The reason it was attributed to Heads Hands & Feet and not Poet & The One Man Band, is that Heads Hands & Feet had by then earned a cult status – and thus would sell better. Tony Colton had told Ray Smith: “We won’t call it Poet 2. We’ll call it Heads Hands And Feet: The Missing Album.” (Quotes: Ian Ralfini and Tony Colton from the Albert Lee biography Country Boy by Derek Watts.)

In addition, there is a bootleg release called Heads Hands And Feet And All Parts In Between comprising live recordings and a copy of ‘Hail The Conquering Hero’, recorded for the film The Hero (aka Bloomfield in the UK). Two 2013 download albums were released in 2013 entitled Wizz Kids and Truckers Music, put together by Ray Smith and comprising some different and/or adapted recordings of previously released tracks as well as ‘new’ unreleased ones. Another download album, Everybody’s Hustlin’, saw the light in 2014 – also put together by Ray Smith.

Heads Hands & Feet provided the core backing for Jerry Lee Lewis’s album The Session, recorded in London from 7th to 11th January 1973. Some members of HH&F, including Albert Lee and Ray Smith, featured on Don Everly’s 1974 solo album Sunset Towers, produced by Tony Colton who with Ray Smith wrote most of the tracks including some previously recorded by Heads Hands & Feet. Albert Lee played lead guitar on the album and toured with Don during the latter’s solo years; later he became The Everly Brothers’ post-1983 reunion tour bandleader/arranger and lead guitarist. Albert also played and recorded with Emmylou Harris’ Hot Band, The Crickets and numerous other bands as well as having a successful solo career. He currently tours with his band Hogan’s Heroes.

Ray Smith, the musical genius behind most Poet & The One Man Band and Heads Hands & Feet songs (and earlier compositions on many of which he also played), continued with composing after the band split – e.g. Leo Sayer’s ‘Rumours’ composed with Mark Alan. On his own and with a number of collaborators he has composed numerous songs – including jingles for commercials. He moved to Wales where he still resides today with his wife Jo Jo. He has also issued, as downloads, Heads Hands & Feet material much of which is previously unreleased and is working on more to come. For some great tracks see riff490 on YouTube.

Ray with Tony also scored music for films including A Man Called Horse, The Hero (both starring Richard Harris), The Vengeance of She and Popdown (references included here as they are Colton/Smith compositions – sometimes with Johnny Harris). Other films are Shadows in the Storm (1990 – starring Ned Beatty) and Fortune Strangers the music for both of which has yet to be located. They composed music for a 1969 TV movie, Destiny of a Spy, starring Lorne Greene, Rachel Roberts and Anthony Quayle.

Following a rough period, Tony Colton began working as a songwriter and producer in Nashville after Ricky Skaggs had recorded ‘Country Boy’ and taken it to # 1 on the country charts in 1985. The renewed interest in him and his work made Tony move to Nashville and found him working with Willie Nelson, Ray Charles, The Allman Brothers, Johnny Cash, Tom Waits, Trisha Yearwood and Garth Brooks among others. He still plays festivals and gigs of his own. Chas Hodges subsequently formed one half of the duet Chas ‘n Dave with Dave Peacock and they became legends of Cockney pub rock. Pete Gavin was briefly in Vinegar Joe (which featured a very young Robert Palmer on vocals), played on sessions of many rock stars of the time and joined Albert Lee in several bands before retiring from music and taking up a job in construction, remodelling houses.
Mike O’Neill revived his old instrumental band Nero & The Gladiators in 1991 (with Mike as ‘Nero’), an outfit he had formed in the early 60s with Rod “Boots” Slade. They toured until 2005. He eventually reunited with several musicians of the 60s in The Pioneers Of Rock ‘N’ Roll. Sadly Mike died in October 2013.

Enjoy viewing the complete (inc. Poet & The One Man Band plus others) Hands & Feet Song Lyrics.

Heads Hands & Feet Lyrics – Heads Hands & Feet Lyrics – Heads Hands & Feet Lyrics