Cheers to “HONEY” LANTREE of THE HONEYCOMBS: The First Female Rock Drummer

Cheers to “HONEY” LANTREE of THE HONEYCOMBS: The First Female Rock Drummer

In the 50s and 60s being male or female governed which musical options individuals had. That is, if you were a male, you could do almost anything musical: guitarist or drummer, bandleader or producer. If you were female, you could be a singer, but even then the contexts had limits.

Very few women in this milieu achieved success as drummers, keyboard players or bass players. But one individual female comes to mind. And, of all instruments, she played drums! I can only imagine the passion for pop/rock this woman had. A passion so true, gender didn’t matter; she ventured into a music world where men ruled that industry.

I’m talking about, ANN “HONEY” LANTREE of THE HONEYCOMBS: she could rock out on her drums! No session men on their tracks (produced by eccentric, record producer Joe Meek). A great song!

Check it, and her, out!

She was a hairdresser working in Martin Murray’s salon before joining The Honeycombs. In the evenings Martin was teaching her guitar. The drummer in Martin’s band used to leave his drum kit set up in the rehearsal space, and when by chance she had a bash at them she turned out to be surprisingly good.

She joined Martin’s band and was thrilled to bits to be asked to join: she was now a member of THE HONEYCOMBS.

The group started in November 1963 as an amateur band. Its members were Murray (rhythm guitar) a hairdresser, his salon assistant Honey Lantree (drums), her brother John Lantree (bass), Alan Ward (lead guitar), Denis D’Ell (lead singer, harmonica player.)

Inevitably Honey became the focus of the group of Fleet Street hacks and casual fans. She was strikingly attractive with her fashionable hairstyle sparking eyes and fine facial structure and she cut a dash in her specially tailored feminine versions of the boys suits and ties. But she could definitely play the drums.

I met her at a gig and we became friends.

Honey and I used to go visit me mum at THE INFECTIOUS COCKNEY, where me mum was a waitress. Honey and I would grab a bite to eat and me mum would brew us a proper cuppa tea. Honey was always polite and laughed at me mum’s jokes. When we sat at a table, Honey was always tapping her fork and spoon to some beat in her head. I did not mind. But one time, as I watched Honey, my nice cuppa tea became cold: bummer.

The Honeycombs auditioned with eccentric indie record producer JOE MEEK. The audition resulted in The Honeycombs recording “HAVE I THE RIGHT?” Meek provided the B-side, “Please Don’t Pretend Again”.

Meek used his apartment at 302 Holloway Road, Islington, as a recording studio.

The number 1 hit was recorded there, “Telstar” by The Tornados: written by Joe Meek (sold a whopping 5 million copies.) Meek pioneered experimental pop music.

Conspicuous in “Have I The Right” is the prominence of the DRUMS, whose effect was enhanced by members of the group stamping their feet on the wooden stairs of the studio. Meek recorded the effect with 5 microphones he had fixed to the banisters with bicycle clips. His land lady was not too pleased and kept complaining about all the stomping.

“HAVE I THE RIGHT?” was released in June 1964. The sales started slowly, but by the end of July the record climbed in the UK Singles Chart. At the end of August (on her 21st Birthday) the record reached No. 1 in the UK. It also hit No. 5 in the USA. The Honeycombs had other Top-10 hits, but never as big as “Have I The Right?”

In April of 1966 The Honeycombs broke up.

Meek’s homosexuality – at a time when homosexual acts were illegal in the UK – put him under great pressure; he was consequently subject to blackmail.

On February 3,1967 (on Buddy Holly’s birthday) Meek killed his landlady and then himself with a shotgun.

An attempt to form an all female band in 1967 was shelved when it was not possible to find enough talented female musicians. From the perspective of the 21st century this seems almost inconceivable but female pop musicians were a bit of a rarity in the sixties even if there were plenty of vocalists.

Honey has been involved with the Joe Meek Appreciation Society and did an interview in 2008 for the film made about Meek.

Cheers to you, Honey! You opened up doors for future female musicians.

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Tagged: bands, drummer , females , music , rock