The Temperance (Temperence? - ref certain album covers) Seven were founded at Christmas 1955 by students at the Chelsea School of Art, though the band mythologized its foundation as dating from 1904 at the fictitious Pasadena Cocoa Rooms, Balls Pond Road, North London. The three founder members were Paul McDowell (who originally played trombone), Philip Harrison (who originally played banjo) and Brian Innes (drums). Gradually the band evolved into a nine-piece ensemble with a light-hearted and humorous performing style, although they were all serious musicians. The name "Temperance Seven" was suggested by Douggie Albert, of the Alberts fame. The Alberts were cult figures in the art scene in the mid 1950s and were forerunners to the sort of humour that became Monty Python. (This was not the band's only link with Monty Python; see below). The Temperance Seven was a subtle play on words – the number seven being "one under the eight". That there were nine members or "one over the eight" implied intemperance.
In 1960 they recorded "Ukulele Lady" with vocal refrain by Peter Sellers, produced by George Martin. It was featured on Parlophone PMC 1131, a 12-inch album called Peter and Sophia (Loren).
In 1961 the Temperance Seven achieved national fame with the #1 hit "You're Driving Me Crazy", arranged by Frank Skinner and produced by George Martin. It was quickly followed by "Pasadena", which reached No. 4 in the UK Singles Chart. They toured the UK widely that year, often in shows promoted by their manager Ralph Peters and their performances acquired a set routine beginning with the last few bars of "Pasadena" (which became their signature tune) and ending with the stirring strains of the "Gaumont-British News". By the summer of 1961 their fame was such that they appeared at the London Palladium for a two-week top of the bill performance. This was arranged by Ralph in combination with an appearance at that year's Royal Variety performance.
Before the band became famous, Paul McDowell had also been a member of the Experimental Theatre Clubrevue, with Ian Davidson, Robin Grove-White and Doug Fisher. At the time, they had been performing their show, called "****" (Four Asterisks), at the Edinburgh Fringe, but after the runaway success of "You're Driving Me Crazy", McDowell had to quit the group to tour with his band. This prompted Davidson to look for a replacement, and he found Terry Jones, future Python member, who thus obtained his first chance to be part of the revue.
The Temperance Seven came to popularity during the resurgent trad-jazz era of the early 1960s. Their unique sound, coupled with their musicianship and ingeniously humorous compositions, set them apart from their contemporaries; however, they arrived at the cusp of that era and as popular tastes changed with the emergence of the Beatles, the Temperance Seven gradually slipped into obscurity although the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band and Bob Kerr's Whoopee Band attempted to wear their mantle for several years whilst claiming no affiliation.
The original Temperance Seven were dissolved in the mid 1960s, but the band was resurrected in the latter part of that decade by drummer Dave Mills, who had replaced Brian Innes in 1966 and led the band for several years,firstly as The New Temperance Seven, and was instrumental in arranging their appearances in Hong Kong and Bahrain, where he eventually settled and was replaced by Ian Howarth. The band continued to perform with new personnel and, from time to time, original members made guest appearances. During the 1980s, Chris Hook took over leadership of the band. The personnel have not changed since that time and the band continues to work around the UK. Many members of the original band reunited for a BBC Radio programme about the group in 2003.
The Temperance Seven dressed in a manner appropriate to the style of music they played. Some members also went under preposterous pseudonyms emphasised by the wearing of a minor yet conspicuous item of clothing – Colin Bowles a dog collar and John R. T. Davies a fez. "Josef Kronk", who supposedly arranged The Temperance Seven 1961 LP, was the collective pseudonym for the band. The early personnel included:
Clifford Bevan (tuba [on first recording on Argo RG117], piano, trombone)