Wells Fargo! A notable band from the country formerly known as Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in the 1970s who fell short of the spotlight. Not to be confused with the American bank. I found this band by casually flicking through my Spotify Discover Weekly (as you do, as everyone does) - but finding their music was nowhere near as easy during their active period.
The band, consisting of guitarist Josi Ndlovu, drummer Ebba Chitambo (who played together in Moove), and later guitarist Handsome Mabhiza and bassist Never Mpofu (and even later George Phiri) were heavily influenced by the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple. The noise that they exhumed was dubbed “Zim-Heavy”, not because it was necessarily heavy music, but because it meant something to the kids who came out to their shows. And whilst this may sound appealing to us, it certainly wasn’t to the Rhodesian government.
Whilst the music was originally apolitical, Wells Fargo went on to release their debut single “Watch Out” which quickly took its course as a pro-democracy anthem. They were labelled “political agitators” and for the short period where the record was available in stores, they were forced to distribute copies of the single with altered lyrics:
“Watch out, big storm is coming” instead of “watch out, freedom is coming”.
The record still sold about 15,000 7” copies until they were targeted and practically chased around their own country by the Special Branch (a Rhodesian security service), bearing in mind if they’d been caught there would’ve almost certainly been many beatings.
The band nonetheless continued their path through Rhodesia until 1980, when the country gained independence and became Zimbabwe. They continued to tour on and off until their breakup in 1989. To my knowledge the whole band remains very much alive, bar Handsome Mabhiza who unfortunately passed away in 2013.
Until recently, the band and their endeavours were just floating about, the music only being available on these rare 7” records, until California based label “Now-Again Records” began work with Chitambo to reissue their powerful, full LP in 2017, and you can now stream the whole “Watch Out!” LP on most major streaming services.
Cheers for having a read of this article, I hope it’s shed some light on a band which is essentially un-googlable! If you want to chat about Wells Fargo, or you have any more questions, feel free to shoot me a message on Instagram (@dcasteaux) or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Take it easy and as always, enjoy the noise.