After the demise of the UK’s John Dummer Blues Band, Iain Thompson (bass) and drummer John Dummer joined forces with Hammy Howell (b. 24 October 1954, London, England, d. 13 January 1999, Torquay, Devon, England; keyboards), Horatio Hornblower (b. Nigel Trubridge; saxophone) and singers Rita Ray, Griff Fender (Ian Collier), bass player Den Hegarty and Bob Fish (ex-Mickey Jupp) as revivalists mining the vocal harmony seam of rock ‘n’ roll. Dave Kelly, an ex-Dummer guitarist, was a more transient participant. Bursting upon metropolitan clubland in the late 70s, Darts were championed by pop historian and Radio London disc jockey Charlie Gillett who helped them procure a Magnet Records contract. Their debut single - a medley of ‘Daddy Cool’ and Little Richard’s ‘The Girl Can’t Help It’ - ascended the UK Top 10 in 1977, kicking off three years of high charting entries in the singles lists that mixed stylized self-compositions (e.g. ‘It’s Raining’, ‘Don’t Let It Fade Away’) with predominant revamps of US hits such as ‘Come Back My Love’ (Cardinals), ‘The Boy From New York City’ (Ad Libs), ‘Get It’ (Gene Vincent) and ‘Duke Of Earl’ (Gene Chandler).
After the eventual replacement of Hegarty with Kenny Edwards in 1979, their records were less successful. Without the television commercial coverage that sent the Jackie Wilson original to number 1 a few years later, Darts’ version of ‘Reet Petite’ struggled to number 51 while ‘Let’s Hang On’ - also 1980 - was their last bona fide smash - and ‘White Christmas’/‘Sh-Boom’ the first serious miss. With the exit of Howell (to higher education) and Dummer (to form the ribald True Life Confessions), Darts were still able to continue in a recognizable form but were no longer hit parade contenders. As leader of Rocky Sharpe And The Replays, Hegarty hovered between 60 and 17 in the UK singles list until 1983 when his post as a children’s television presenter took vocational priority. Keeping the faith longer, Ray and Fish produced a 1985 album for the Mint Juleps, an a cappella girl group who had been inspired initially by Darts.