Most of you know that I’m always on the lookout for Ted Lyons & His Cubs in the background of any fabulous number in a mid-sixties film. Whenever I see that name on the drum kit, I know the music and dancing will be outstanding! Plus, the band members themselves perform so energetically that they always add an extra fillip to the organized chaos on the dance floor.
So you can imagine my glee when Ted’s son Steve contacted me here over the weekend. (*I was thrilled!*) He also very graciously sent me the above photograph of the band (Ted is on drums; you can enlarge the picture by clicking on it). Then yesterday I heard from The Man (Terence “Ted” Lyons) himself. He told me that he also had a small role in the Mehmood film Bhoot Bungla:
…you will see me [as] a leader of a bad gang…there [is] a blind old man playing a violin on the street begging for money…I get hold of it and Mehmood is with good gang going past and he orders me to return the violin to the old man…I [say] what [will you] do?…he [says] with action that he [will] break my hands, so as a bad lad I raise the violin and break it then throw it to the beggar, then Mehmood approaches me and raises his hand [which] starts a dance sequence.
Needless to say, I have ordered Bhoot Bungla! His Cubs these days are his grandchildren, but he says he still misses the excitement of the film world (I would too). He counted Helen and the brothers Kapoor (Shammi and Shashi) among his friends. His sister Marie Shinde was a very active dancer and choreographer at the same time. Marie was good friends with my pal Oscar Unger (Pompadour Man!) and taught a young up-and-coming actor named Amitabh Bachchan his first film dance!
Here is one of the few (so he tells me) close-ups of him during a drum solo in Janwar (the cracktastic “Dekho Ab To”):
Before he gets tired of me pestering him, I am hoping that Mr. Lyons will share more memories and more films in which his band (and he) appeared. These are the films (and songs) that I know of so far, and every single one is truly a gem.
In somewhat vague chronological order, without further ado:
1. “Jaan Pehchaan Ho” in Gumnaam (1965). The one that started the whole obsession: a Laxmi Chhaya crowd-pleaser with “Mr. Charisma” Herman Benjamin manning the mike (the band has plenty of charisma too!).
3. “Dekho Ab To” in Janwar (1965). Everyone channels the Beatles with mop tops and Rajshree for company (and, being me, I have to add an extra screencap of Shammi). And that’s Oscar Unger playing guitar on the right!
4. “Dance Music” in Mere Sanam (1965). The band plays as Oscar puts the moves (and not only of the dance variety) on Asha P. while a fuming Biswajeet watches (it ends abruptly when Biswajeet punches Oscar).
5. “Nikolasa Nikolasa Mere Sang Jhoomle Zarasa” in Bedaag (1965). New discovery for me via Tom! and bonus is that Edwina is in there too, plus other familiar dancers and choreographers (Herman, Chinoo).
6. “Dance Music” in Afsana (1966). Helen shimmies in the background with the band, in an unfortunately all-too-brief cha-cha-cha:
7. “Karib Aa Yeh Nazar” in Anita (1967). A drunken Sadhana croons this haunting tune in a bar. I love the three guys who get up and do a quick little loony dance move, and I’m thinking they might be band members as well.
8. “Awara Aye Mere Dil” in Raat Aur Din (1967). One of my very favorite Laxmi Chhaya songs. And it gives us an idea of what Ted Lyons looked out upon over those years—people having fun and dancing like mad!
I’m so happy to have discovered the joys of these songs. Ted Lyons & His Cubs have the same power over me that Shammi and Helen have: I will buy a film just to see them. They haven’t let me down yet! And if they play a song in Bhoot Bungla, they still won’t have (I pretty much like all the songs in Bhoot Bungla).
Many pranams to you, Mr. Lyons. I can’t thank you enough for the entertainment you and your Cubs have given me. And I know I am not alone in that!
Update: In the weeks since I wrote this I have discovered that the extent of Mr. Lyons’ talent and contribution can’t really be summed up easily. He was a background dancer and singer and bit-part actor, especially in Shammi and/or Helen movies (! No wonder I love him!: “Yamma Yamma” from China Town, “Suku Suku” from Junglee, and so many more); and has a number of extended family members who also made a very large albeit “unsung” (no pun intended) mark on Hindi cinema through the 50s and 60s. Terence himself also started up the first company to recruit all those gora extras that I am so fond of, looking bored and stoned out of their minds in all those nightclub scenes.