Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Why I began Writing

As I get older I spend more and more time living in the past. I may even become so enthused by my recollections that I begin to bore people with repeated stories. I am unable to remember who has suffered in the past, and inflict the same stories on the same people repeatedly. It's been suggested that I have an on/off switch fitted, so when I retired I decided to dedicate my precious memories to the silent page. There my stories could be accessed by those wishing to hear them, and I could be silenced, either temporarily or permanently, by closure of the book. In the early to mid nineteen-sixties I played with a rock and pop band and my murder mystery novel "Satan's Whiskers" is set against a backdrop of that period in my life.

At that time I met with a number of bands, and solo artists,  and some have been given cameo roles in my novel. One memory is of the Liverpool band Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. 

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Alan Caldwell (Rory Storm) with George Harrison and Richard Starkey (Ringo Starr).

Rory Storm and the Hurricanes were one of the most popular bands on the Liverpool and Hamburg club scenes. Storm disbanded The Hurricanes in 1967 and became a DJ, after Ty O’Brian, the lead guitarist, collapsed on stage with appendicitis and subsequently died. Storm died five years later in 1972, along with his mother. They'd consumed alcohol and pills.
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Jon Anderson  replaced my  friend as lead singer of the Accrington based band The Warriors, when he ceased to be a Warrior to become a Phantom.  Anderson  sang lead vocals with The Warriors for five years before forming the progressive rock band "Yes" in 1969, along with Chris Squire and Peter Banks. He later collaborated with the Greek musician Vangelis, to become part of the duo Jon and Vangelis, Apart from writing the musical score for the film "Chariots of Fire," Vangelis also formed the progressive rock band "Aphrodite’s Child," along with singer Demis Roussos.

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Bert Weedon was one of the guitar greats. He was the first British guitarist to hit the UK singles charts with "Guitar Boogie Shuffle" in 1959 and his tutorial guide, Play in a Day, was instrumental in the early careers of many other guitar greats including Hank Marvin and Eric Clapton. I met him after returning a stolen guitar to its rightful owner.  

Bert Weedon  told us of his experiences. He'd purchased his first guitar from a market stall in Petticoat Lane, a notorious market for the sale of antiques and bric-a-brac, in the city of London.  Guitars were such a rarity in those  days that passengers on the bus asked him what kind of musical instrument he was carrying. How times change; in the 1960's every spotty teenager, with a musical ambition, wore a guitar around his neck like a penis extension. Weedon died in April 2012 at the age of ninety-one. 

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After the band, Satan's Whiskers, finished our spot I went for a drink in the bar of a Blackburn nightclub. The bar was empty as people were playing blackjack or roulette in the casino, dancing the night away in the disco, or in the cabaret lounge awaiting Bobby Vee's midnight show. As I ordered a drink Bobby Vee joined me at the bar. At that moment, a group of six or seven girls came into the room screaming with excitement and surrounded me. I don't know who was the more surprised, me or Bobby Vee. 

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The Four Pennies where a local band who were familiar to

Lionel Walmsley sang with The Rockets skiffle band, in my youth, along with one of my school friends who played a tea chest bass. He even stole one of my girlfriends but that's another story.
In the 60's Lionel  formed a new band. The tea chest bass disappeared, along with my school friend, and the guitars became electrified. Lionel changed his name to Morton and  under new management the band changed its name from the Lionel Morton Four to the Four Pennies 

The Four Pennies had a number 1 UK hit with “Juliet” in 1964, following up, in the same year, with two minor hits. “I Found out the Hard Way,” which reached number 14 in the charts, and “Black Girl,” which managed to reach number 20. The following year they charted again with “Until It’s Time for You to Go” at number 19, before the band folded in 1967. Lionel Morton went on to marry the actress Julia Foster, and appeared in the children’s television programmes “Play School,” and “Play Away.” Fritz Fryer, the band’s lead guitarist, went on to work as a record producer for Motorhead.

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My friend sang with The Phantoms, from Haslingden, and when they were in need of a bass guitarist he arranged a meeting with Ray Jones of The Dakotas. The Dakotas had been hired by Brian Epstein to support the Liverpool singer Billy J Kramer and Jones split with the Dakotas after a row with Epstein over royalties. We met him at, a public house situated a short drive from the motorway which brought Jones to the meeting.  Unfortunately nothing was agreed upon and Jones returned empty handed and more than a little intoxicated.

Ray Jones is far right.

Ray Jones played on the number one hits “Little Children” and “Bad to Me,” but was neither impressed by Kramer or the disparity in their earnings. He left the business in 1967 to become a psychiatric nurse. He died in the year 2000 from, what appears to have been, a heart attack.

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I was introduced to The Fourmost at a cabaret club. 

The Starlight Club was a converted cinema on the outskirts of Blackburn. It booked quality acts like Shane Fenton who became Alvin Stardust, and  Arnold Dorsey who was a complete unknown before changing his name to Engelbert Humperdinck.

The band knew the girl I was with and sat at our table during the interval. People approached  for autographs. Some may have assumed me to be a fifth member of The Fourmost, which made absolutely no sense. But a man wielding an eyebrow pencil and a table napkin, approached me in the urinals, and asked me to sign an autograph for his girlfriend.

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Wayne Fontana and I were rivals for the affections of the same girl. 

I went to the bar to buy a girlfriend a drink. When I returned, with a full glass in either hand, I was surprised to find her talking to Wayne Fontana.  It was obvious that Fontana knew her,and was trying to convince her that she should leave with him after the show. I felt I wouldn't stand a cat in hell’s chance of competing for her affections, and was about to withdraw, when she spotted me and beckoned me over.  She introduced me and Fontana said, “Pleased to meet you,” which he obviously wasn't, and  left.

*Born Glyn Geoffrey Ellis in 1945, Wayne Fontana formed the Mindbenders in 1963 with Bob Lang, Ric Rothwell, and Eric Stewart. He had two minor chart hits in 1963, before reaching number 5 in the UK charts with the Curtis Mayfield hit “Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um.” He went on to have two further top ten hits with “The Game of Love,” his biggest hit of the decade at number two in the UK charts. He charted with Pamela, Pamela, after splitting with the Mindbenders, who in turn had a chart hit of their own with “A Groovy Kind of Love” in 1965. Eric Stewart became lead vocalist after the split, before going on to form the band 10cc, along with Graham Goulden, also of the Mindbenders, Kevin Godley, and Lol Cream.

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I met Dave Berry at a nightclub. He wanted somewhere to stay and asked if I could help. I suggested a local hotel but he said  that he couldn't afford it. I perused the yellow pages at the reception desk until I found a local pub with rooms.  I wouldn't have relished staying there myself but Berry appeared to be happy with the arrangement. I hope he was still  happy when he arrived ?

Dave Berry had his first chart success with Chuck Berry’s “Memphis Tennessee,” in October 1963. In July 1964 he charted again with “The Crying Game.” He had two further chart hits with “Little Things” in March 1965 and “Mamma” in July 1966.

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