As Cliff Richard and the Shadows, his backing band, pioneered instrumental music in Britain and around the world, the Youngsters formed and brought the genre of rock to Thailand. Elite+ sat down with band members to reminisce on their story and music, then and now.
The Youngsters comprise Kwanchai Paphatphong on lead guitar, Pansuang Chumsai na Ayutthaya on bass, Jirapan Angsawanond on rhythm guitar and Kridkamon Kiratibutr on drums. The founder of the Youngsters, Mr Kwanchai, has since become president and CEO of Inter-Media Consultant Co, Ltd, organizing the Thailand International Motor Expo and publishing Formula, Car Stereo and 4 Wheels magazines. Fifty-five years ago he was an Assumption School student fascinated by the Shadows.
“I was about 13 or 14 and the Youngsters was the first string band at our school. I started playing music with Mr Pansuang. While I lived in Soi Convent, he was in Soi Pipat, so we often visited each other. Mr Pansuang could play piano since his mother taught him. I was bored from practicing guitar alone, so we joined together. We played Cliff Richard, Elvis Presley and instrumental songs from the Shadows.”
Later they decided that the band would be livelier if they had a bass guitar and drums. “We opened an audition at school to recruit new members. We got a bass guitarist from Catholic friends. For the drummer, our current bass guitarist, Mr Jirapan, who knew nothing about music at the time, brought his friend to audition and we let him show his percussion skills. Our drums were improvised from a Chinese lion dancing drum and chopsticks. Cymbals were adapted from the lids of Thai earthen jars.” Mr Kwanchai laughed. “When he tried it, we were surprised to find that he was talented.”
This was the beginning of the band. The name came from Prakin Chumsai na Ayutthaya, a Thai National Artist and Mr Pansuang’s mother. As the name describes, the band represents the young blood of music. The Youngsters often gathered to perform music for friends’ birthday events for no money, as the performances were meant as a leisure activity.
Mr Pansuang, co-founder and bass guitarist, added that they were not professional musicians at first. Sometimes when the Youngsters were hired to perform on stage and more instruments were needed for the performance, they often gave up their own wages to the additional musicians because they wanted the band to perform better. Some members began to take music more seriously and later turned it into a profession. The band’s rhythm guitarist is one example. “Mr Jirapan developed his musical skills into a career. He became a professional guitarist, music producer and professor at Silpakorn University.”
To set up a goal for the band in the future, Jirapan Angsawanond believes that a debut Youngsters album might be a good idea. “As most of us are non-professional musicians, we need to have a collective goal. And an initial album would be a good achievement. I haven’t thought about it seriously, but songs might be something not so far from the style of the Shadows and Cliff Richard. We might adapt some jazz as Mr Pansuang can play jazz standards. Likewise, Mr Kwanchai can sing jazz well. Although we’re an instrumental band, in fact every member can sing. But the vocals go along with other musical genres, not only for the Shadows. Normally when performing on stage, we invite guests to vocalize selected songs, since the audience isn’t used to instrumental concerts, especially those who have no idea about songs of the ’60s. We have a particular group of fans. Those who are into the Shadows definitely enjoy our shows.”
The Youngsters have stayed close due to the friendship formed since childhood. Mr Kwanchai admits that group members do not always get along. Disagreements about music and life have come up occasionally. To arrange rehearsals, however, members will set a day aside every two to three weeks to practise, so that the Youngsters can better demonstrate the power of music to create friendships and make the community more harmonious.
Mr Kwanchai has a message for young musicians who are impressed by the songs of the ’60s. “I don’t think we’ll still be performing Shadows music in 10 years’ time. At 80 I won’t want to stand on stage for an hour and a half at a time. We are looking for the new generation to preserve this genre of music. If we know someone who really loves what we are doing, we’re eager to share techniques and experience with them. They will then be the ones who pass along this music across the borders of time.”