As may be evident by the extremely proficient musicianship even as early as A Can of Bees, all of the Soft Boys had been playing music for years even before they got together as "Dennis and the Experts" circa 1976. This is a brief history of their careers before the Soft Boys, such as is known! Apparently Andy, Morris, Rob Lamb and Wang-Bo were all in The Ducks on the Wall Gang; Chris left to join Kimberley and The Waves and The Ducks on the Wall became Dennis and the Experts. For further info, please see the Robyn Hitchcock Chronology and the Nigel Cross 1987 interview.
The Soft Boys were:
Robyn Hitchcock - vocals, guitar, songwriting
Morris Windsor - drums
Andy Metcalfe - bass (until April 1979)
Kimberley Rew - lead guitar (circa 1977-1979)
Alan "Wang-Bo Trotter" Davies - guitar (until March 1977))
Jim Melton - drums (until 1979 when he left to form his own group)
Matthew Seligman - bass (after September 7, 1979)
Gerry Hale played violin on A Can of Bees
Rob Lamb - Led the band before Robyn; currently living in Australia
Sean Lyons - sat in for Kimberley for some gigs of the Jaunuary 1994 UK reunion tour.
February 1972. Robyn, aged nineteen, made his first folk club appearance along with Richard K. West, probably in London.
August 1972. Robyn, Martin Mayer, and others formed The Beetles. Though they only played seven gigs in the next two years, the band seemingly metamorphosed into The Symptoms.
December 31, 1973. The Symptoms played their final gig, at the London British Council. The Symptoms were Robyn Hitchcock, Martin Stanway-Mayers (as he came to be known), Patrick "Patch" Fisher, and Simon Kunath. Robyn was on guitar and vocals, Martin on bass, Patch and Simon on drums.
1974. Robyn moved to Cambridge and played the folk clubs solo and with whoever he can get to join him. This is a time of many bands and band names. From a bio reprinted in A Pox Upon the Media:
"When Syd Barrett gave up music for art, another Cambridge musician emerged to take on his mantle. Robyn Hitchcock started out as a solo performer and busker before becoming a member of B.B. Blackberry and the Swelterettes, then The Chosen Few, the Worst Fears, and Maureen and the Meatpackers. It was with the last named that Hitchcock first recorded (in 1976), although the results were not released until much later. His next group, Dennis and the Experts became The Soft Boys in 1976..." 
From 1974-1976, Robyn did a lot of busking and played the various folk clubs in Cambridge. In 1975 he got a weekly gig playing the Portland Arms every weekend. Musically speaking, Robyn was doing things very differently from those on the scene at the time, and it took a while for him to get the nerve to talk to people like Andy Metcalfe, an experienced bluegrass musician. Robyn Hitchcock's Worst Fears was also known as just "The Worst Fears" and sometimes "Maureen and the Meatpackers." This was an intermediary group between "whoever [Robyn] could get to go onstage in the folk clubs", and the Soft Boys. The band lineup was made up of Robyn's housemates at the time: Simon Kunath was on drums and his sister Rosalind and another person named Anst on vocals. James A. Smith did some performance art stuff sometimes. Some of these people make guest appearances on "Live at the Portland Arms". Eventually, of course, Robyn did talk to Andy Metcalfe, and was introduced to Morris Windsor by James A. "The Great One" Smith. Things sort of came together when Rob Lamb loaned Robyn his band...
Dennis and the Experts, headed by Rob Lamb and formed sometime around late 1976, had pretty much the original Soft Boys lineup: Rob Lamb, Andy Metcalfe, Morris Windsor, Robyn Hitchcock. Robyn joined on Oct 13, 1976. The name changed to The Soft Boys on November 27, 1976 (after Rob Lamb's departure; he was replaced on guitar by Alan Wang-Bo Davies). Chris Hamburger (as he was then known) recorded the first Soft Boys demo in Robyn's living room in March 1977. He was kind enough to contribute this:
During the period you're asking about I was in 'The Ducks on the Wall Gang' with Morris, Alan Davies, Rob Lamb (once or twice) a bass player whose name I can't remember and Andy on Keyboards (whose last name also escapes me). I was also doing solo gigs, and it was in Clare College Cellars (the folk club) that I first saw Robyn perform (solo acoustic). Then I joined The Waves with Kimberley and Co.
On November 27, 1976 Robyn wrote "Give it to the Soft Boys" in rehearsal and announced on stage "We're the Soft Boys," and the rest, as they say, is history...
 I think there are several errors here; "Gave up music for art" is not an exactly accurate way of putting it; nor do I think Robyn intended to continue Barrett's legacy, he was simply a kindred musical spirit. The Maureen & the Meatpackers tape was never released; it was "held hostage" by Rosalind Kunath, according to Robyn in the Forced Exposure interview.
If you have corrections or additions to this brief history, please write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org !
|July 1970||Robyn writes "Baby" with Martin Mayer|
|Sept 1971||Robyn writes "Chug a Lug" solo|
|Feb 1972||Hitchcock/West||Robyn's first folk club gig|
|Aug 1972-||The Beetles||Robyn, Martin Mayer, Simon Kunath, ?|
|- Dec 1973||The Symptoms||Robyn, Martin, Simon, Patch Fisher|
|1974-1976||(many!)||Robyn performs with anyone and everyone in Cambridge|
|1975(?)||The Ducks on the Wall Gang||Rob Lamb, Andy Metcalfe, Morris Windsor, Chris Hamburger, Alan Wang Bo Davies|
|1976||Dennis and the Experts||Same as Ducks on the Wall Gang minus Hamburger and Wang-Bo; Robyn may have replaced one of these members (probably Wang Bo)|
|1976||The Soft Boys||Wang-Bo replaces Rob Lamb on guitar|
|1977||The Soft Boys||Kimberley Rew replaces Wang-Bo on guitar|
|1979||The Soft Boys||Andy leaves; Matt Seligman replaces him on bass|
|1980||The Soft Boys||Kimberley and Robyn in guitar volume "arms race"; Kimberley leaves, later records The Bible of Bop with the dBs as his backing band, then re-forms the Waves, adding Katrina Leskanich on vocals.|
|1981||The Soft Boys break up but continue playing separately.|
|1984-1994||The Egyptians||Robyn, Andy, Morris and (for the first two years) Roger Jackson.|