Circa 1965 – whilst at the William Ellis School in Highgate, Hugh Cornwell with his best mate Richard Thompson formed a covers band – it never had a permanent name, changing from week to week but "Emil And The Detectives" is the name by which it is referred.
The name is from the title of a 1929 children’s book by German author Erich Kästner, which has been adapted for film several times including the 1964 production for Walt Disney by director Peter Tewksbury which had its UK release in December 1965.
It was during this period that Hugh learned to play bass, with Richard on lead guitar, the groups drummer Nick Jones was the son of the revered Melody Maker jazz critic Max Jones which gave the group access to a source of demos and promos which they used as a source for offbeat and unconventional material, giving their set a distinct edge.
Artists and material they covered included Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Howlin’ Wolf, Everly Brothers (Man With Money), Ben Carruthers and Bob Dylan (Jack O’Diamonds), Kiki Dee (Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing [Marvin Gaye cover]) and Mose Allison (Parchman Farm).
Venues they played at included the Hornsey College of Art and on a boat at Eel Pie Island, Twickenham.
Richard whose guitar influences were Pete Townsend, Otis Rush, Davey Graham and the material of Django Reinhardt and Les Paul, went on to join folk-rock group Fairport Convention.