IF THE devil has all the best tunes, someone forgot to tell a popular beat combo from Dorset that is steadily growing in scope and popularity.

Dogs Without Collars are a five-piece band made up of vicars from parishes in the north and east of the county.

There is Clive Thomas the Team Rector of Shaftesbury on drums, Graham Perryman, rural dean of Sherborne and Team Rector of the Melbury Team on keyboards and Geoff Boland, the team vicar in Canford Magna on guitar and vocals.

The other two members are Hampreston team vicar Laurie Clow on bass guitar and Blandford rector Tim Storey on guitar and vocals.

“We are very probably the only band likely to split up due to theological differences,” said Tim, who likes to equate his playing to that of Jo Walsh of The Eagles.

“The important thing is that the music comes first. We play a variety of music and we all listen to everyone’s opinions and are aware of them so there is no room for egos to get in the way – despite what the others might say about my guitar solos!”

The Dogs formed six years ago after the bass player was asked to get a band together for a clergy conference. They had such a good time that they decided to keep going, fitting in rehearsals and performances around busy working lives.

On average they play around 12 gigs a year and have so far raised more than £25,000 for charity. Their next appearance is on March 23 at the Crown Hotel in Blandford, where every penny collected will go to the children’s hospice Julia’s House.

The band likes to concentrate on rock ‘classics’, although they are happy to depart from the norm, as their version of Amazing Grace sung to the tune of House of the Rising Sun attests.

“It is a wonderful Blues tune and we like to give it an interesting twist,” explained Tim. “We stick to the classics for various reasons, first and foremost because of the niche we have – we are five vicars and people don’t expect us to be doing this.

“People turn up because they are intrigued and then we have to give them something good, because if we were standing there playing something naff it would be really embarrassing. People will know the vast majority of the songs and what we really love is finishing a song that has everyone up and dancing and then starting into the next one and dragging people back to the dancefloor before they have left.”

Most of the band have music somewhere in their background and keyboard player Graham used to play for Christian rock band Fear of Falling who went as far as to make a tape of their music. It was while they were in the recording studio one day in the early 1980s that the band had a brush with a musician who some might say has something of a God complex of his own.

“It’s a bit of a tortuous link,” said Graham, “but our bass guitarist’s fiancée knew one of U2 and they were willing to help us as an up-and-coming band. They spent a day with us at the studio and gave us some feedback.

“It was something of a highlight for us as they were fairly well-known by that stage and they were wonderful chaps, really good people, young and enthusiastic and idealistic. I have still got the tape from the day somewhere.”

He added: “In the band I play a wide mix of music, but what I really like is prog rock. It has more interesting chord progressions than other music and you get the chance to stretch yourself a bit, which I like.

“I don’t have any grand aims. I don’t want to play at the Royal Albert Hall or conduct an orchestra, that wouldn’t be my thing at all. I am quite happy sitting behind my keyboard, being in the background.”

Some people look askance at a bunch of vicars rocking up to play in pubs around the county and worry about the content of the music they play, but Tim isn’t bothered by such small-mindedness.

“Some people say that the songs we play contain drug references or whatever, but that isn’t the focus at this level,” he said. “If you are going to say that you might as well not enjoy classical music because of the morality of some of the great composers.

“But that’s irrelevant. We go out there and have fun, people enjoy it and music is universal. That’s what it’s all about at the end of the day.”