The Rokes were a successful Italian pop group in the 1960s, composed of English expatriates. Their most successful songs included "Piangi con Me", the original version of "Let's Live for Today" a US hit when re-recorded by The Grass Roots; and "Che Colpa Abbiamo Noi", an Italian language version of "Cheryl's Going Home" by Bob Lind.
The group 'Shel Carson Combo' was formed by Norman David "Shel" Shapiro (born 16 August 1943, Stanmore, Middlesex), whose music career started in London as a guitarist and singer with rock and roll band Rob Storm & the Whispers. After a spell playing in Gene Vincent's backing band during a tour of Britain in 1959, Shapiro decided to form his own band, The Shel Carson Combo, with guitarist Vic Briggs (born 14 February 1945, Twickenham, Middlesex), drummer Mike Shepstone (born 29 March 1943, Weymouth, Dorset), and bassist Bobby Posner (born 6 May 1945, Edgware, Middlesex).
The band performed rhythm and blues in clubs around London and had regular shows at American base camps around the south of England plus a couple of tours in the north including Scotland, before deciding to try their luck in the club scene in continental Europe. In January 1963, they travelled to Germany, where they had a residency at the Top Ten Club in Hamburg with a short stay at the TopTen Club in Hanover. The band were then invited to tour Italy as the backing group for Colin Hicks, the brother of Tommy Steele. Guitarist Vic Briggs left the group, preferring to stay in England, and was replaced by Johnny Charlton (born 3 April 1945, Walthamstow, London). The group toured around Italy with Hicks, increasingly performing more of their own material.
In June 1963, they broke their ties with Hicks and were signed up by Teddy Reno, the manager and husband of Italian pop singer Rita Pavone. They toured with Pavone, appearing as the Shel Carson Combo warming up the fans before Rita did her show. They then gained a recording contract with the ARC label and renamed themselves The Rokes for their first single, a cover version of Big Joe Turner's "Shake, Rattle and Roll", was unsuccessful, but the band established themselves with a club residency in Rome at The Piper Club. The Rokes completed a series of short commercial videos on Italian TV (Algida).On later recordings, they sang mainly in English-accented Italian, often recording versions of American and British chart hits. In 1965, their version of Jackie DeShannon's "When You Walk in the Room" ("C'e Una Strana Espressione Nei Tuoi Occhi"), reached no. 11 on the Italian charts, followed by "Grazie a Te", a cover of "I'm Alive" by The Hollies.
In 1966, they were voted the second most popular beat group in Italy, after further hits with versions of Bob Lind's songs "Cheryl's Going Home" ("Che Colpa Abbiamo Noi") and "Remember The Rain" ("E La Pioggia Che Va"). The B-side of "Che Colpa Abbiamo Noi" was a song co-written by Shapiro, "Piangi Con Me". The group re-recorded the song in English, as "Let's Live for Today", with English lyrics by Michael Julian of Dick James Music. Worldwide sales of "Piangi Con Me" exceeded one million copies, qualifying for a gold disc. It was released in England at the same time as a cover version by another English band, The Living Daylights. The song was heard by American record producers P. F. Sloan and Steve Barri, and successfully recorded by them with The Grass Roots.
The Rokes released four albums between 1965 and 1968, and continued to record successfully in Italy. They also toured and appeared regularly on Italian TV shows and in several of the annual San Remo Festival events. They ventured into psychedelic rock in 1967 with "Il Vento" (by Mogol and Lucio Battisti), also recorded in English as "When the Wind Arises", and recorded a version of The Equals' UK hit "Baby Come Back" ("Non c' Pace Per Me"). However, their records had little success outside Italy due to RCA/ARC's lack of interest on the publicity, and, with changing tastes and declining sales, the group disbanded in 1970 having sold more than 5 million vinyl records and continue to sell CD's compilations and box sets.
Shapiro continued to write songs on his own (all previous Rokes recordings were written together with Mike Shepstone but as Mike wasn't registered with the Performing Rights of Italy, the songs went in Shel Shapiro's name) and produce records, founding his own label in Milan in 1977. Johnny Charlton also remained in Italy, opened his own art gallery, Galleria Charlton, in Rome, and continued as a visual artist, while Bobby Posner and Mike Shepstone returned to England. Bobby Posner bought various Pubs in London and eventually sold these and moved to Hastings on the south coast where he acquired other music pubs. Bobby never stopped playing and performed in very different bands Rock, Reggae, and blues. Mike Shepstone continued to perform in a duo 'Shepstone and Dibbens' touring with AC/DC and continued to write songs for himself and had great success writing for other top artists around the world. In the year 2000 'The Rokes M&B' were born after many phone calls from Italy to Bobby to put back together the Rokes and to tour Italy. Shel and Johnny weren't interested so Mike and Bobby decided to form 'The Rokes M&B' (Mike and Bobby) and have been performing concerts several times a year in Italy since 2000. Bobby moved back to Italy 2013 and now lives with his fiancee Paola Salvadeo at Novi Ligure (AL) and continues to accept contracts for M&B concerts to date.