They were once dubbed Colchester's answer to the Osmonds and turned down a record deal for a stint at an East Anglian holiday camp.

That's The Amberlites, the four-piece family group, who earlier this year celebrated their 50th anniversary with a special charity fundraising gig.

It was way back in June 1969 that two pairs of brothers, Lou and Bruce Moodie, 13 and ten, and Mike and Perry Rollo, 15 and nine, first took to the stage at the Playhouse in Colchester.

Lou says: "It was at the ABC for a talent competition which we went on to win but in the evenings we would play the Lexden British Legion Club. We only had about five songs when we first started but it picked up pretty quickly after that.

"In the end we played all sorts of stuff from the Beatles to rock n roll and then because there were quite a lot of dances back then, we also snuck in some ballroom stuff like a quick-step or a foxtrot or two."

After going about a year, the band was joined by another family member, cousin Lynne Moodie, who played the bass guitar and then after Lou's dad managed the group for a while, their uncle Clifford Cater took over, 'driving them everywhere.'

But it wasn't all plain sailing in those early years with another talent competition banning them because they were too young.

"That one took place in Ipswich and it was part of a national competition," Lou adds. "We won our heat and then went on to win the overall trophy, which we got, with our names on it, but then they discovered we were under age, some us not being 18, and so we got disqualified.

"The band that went on to win the competition was Showaddywaddy, which was a little bit galling when we think it could have been us."

After that the band split for a while, each member performing with different bands before their uncle Cliff died young and the four decided to get back together.

"That's when we decided to go professional," he smiles, "to do it properly and we got a spot with Pontin's Holiday Camps, which we did for three years, earning £120 a week.

"It was quite a long season, playing at various camps including Pakefield in Lowestoft and down at Brixham in Devon. At the same time we also did a US airforce in Spain."

Then in 1977 they got a call from a record company.

"They had just signed the New Seekers," Lou tells me, "and were looking for other bands but they were only offering us £20 a week and we were earning £120 with Pontins so we stuck with the money. They also had ideas about how we should look which we weren't particularly comfortable.

"I think about it now and still think we made the right choice. I suppose it could have been our big break but all four of us were already living the dream playing the music we loved all over the country and getting paid handsomely for it."

Since the four, who still live locally, have got together every now and again, mainly for relatives birthdays or to raise money for charity, the latest of which was

their 50th anniversary gig at The Highways Club in Walsingham Road back in August, when they were joined on stage by Lou's wife, Sue on keyboards and Barry Chater, Cliff's son, on percussion.

Lou says: "We used to go around schools in the Seventies raising money for charity and back then it was Cancer Research. Mike and Perry's mum died of cancer so it's a charity very close to our hearts.

"We weren't sure how many people would turn up for our anniversary celebrations but in the end it was packed with 200 people in all. We even had a bloke come down from Newcastle to see us. He was one of the old blue coats at Pontin's so it was great to see him again.

"When we tallied up the final figure it was £1,100, which we were delighted with.

"We have thought about playing another gig and our dream would be to do it at the Playhouse, which is now a Wetherspoons pub. It still has the same stage we played on all those years ago, so that would be something rather special."