Billy Hatton (cont.)

The Four JaysBrian had seen us perform at the Cavern with the Beatles and other top line Merseyside bands and we knew that he was asking local pundits about us. We were told that he was a little wary of meeting us for what we thought was a very odd reason. It appears that Brian had been a little ‘academically challenged’ as a child. He was expelled from Liverpool College for letting his mind wander during lessons and for being below the school’s standards. He failed his entrance examinations for public schools and his parents despaired of their son achieving any academic success at all.

We were told that, when he learned that just three of our group had twenty-two ‘O’ and ‘A’ level GCE passes between us he became quite in awe of our band. Then, after seeing our stage act, he thought that we were all slightly mad. However, when we finally met and he told us of his earlier doubts about meeting us, we assured him that getting all those results meant that we were just good at exams. It was what you did after you left school that set your role in life and he hadn’t done too badly.

When we’d sorted everything out and we were now feeling comfortable with each other, Brian asked us if we would like to sign with his new company NEMS Enterprises. We promised him that we would eventually join him but we would have to wait a while because Brian O’ Hara was about to take his final exams in chartered accountancy and Dave Lovelady was doing the same thing for architecture.

On the other hand Mike Millward was bored to tears with his job in a solicitor’s office and in my case I had just finished my time as an apprentice engineer with the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority and had a secure future ahead of me. So we had two band members who could not wait to turn professional and the other two who were fully committed to gaining their qualifications.

Nobody in their right minds would have expected Brian and Dave to abandon all their years of study to take a chance on the fickle world of show business. In those early days the risks were far too great and the rewards were not as mind blowing as they are today. So we had an enforced wait of nearly six months during which Dave and Brian studied hard and passed their exams. With all our futures now looking secure, we agreed to give showbiz a try and looked forward to our new lives.

Unfortunately, the NEMS giant had already gone six months down the line with the Beatles, Gerry & the Pacemakers and Billy J. Kramer having hit records. By the time we agreed to join the NEMS stable we were late on the scene and I often wonder what might have happened if we had entered the fold at the first time of asking. Would the Fourmost have had number one hit records and the life style that went with them? I am certain that we would have. But it was the band, nobody else, which made those vital decisions and sadly we got the timing totally wrong.

Although he had many happy and fulfilling years in show business, I am sure that we could have become a much more successful group if we had started our careers a little earlier. Mike and I would have done exactly the same thing as Dave and Brian if we had been in their shoes but I often wonder what might have happened if fate had played a different tune.

At the third time of asking we signed with Brian Epstein in May 1963.

Our first outing as a professional group was not an inspiring one, not because of the show but because of the unglamorous side of show business that the audience very rarely sees.

We had a booking to appear at the Imperial Ballroom in Nelson, Lancashire with the Beatles topping the bill. I drove to this momentous occasion in my own car with Dave Lovelady for company. When we had accomplished that milestone in our careers and were heading home, Dave and I were still very much on an emotional high as we drove toward a notoriously dangerous bridge on the A59.

The night was pitch black and quite foggy and before I knew it I was into the first, very tight, bend of the bridge. The adrenaline-filled surprise of it all got me around the bend but I took some of the bridge’s woodwork with me and rearranged the front of my motor.

Talk about beginner’s luck!

The Four JaysWe had both been euphoric a few moments before the crash then seconds later we were sitting in a sad and broken motorcar that matched our spirits perfectly. It was in the early hours of a miserable misty morning and we were in the middle of nowhere. After having pushed my steaming car off the road, we set off on foot towards Liverpool.

Dave and I had been walking for about an hour when a taxi pulled up and the driver hailed us. Unbelievably the guy knew me and, seeing the state that the two of us were in, he took pity on us and dropped two very tired and grateful young men off at their homes.

Dave and I weren’t hurt and the car was eventually fixed but what a start to our new careers! It took the money from several more gigs to pay for the repairs to my car and I knew that quite a few people were saying ‘I told you so!’ to my parents.

That did not matter to me, I was chasing the dream and the doubters weren’t even in the race. We had taken a huge gamble but we were young, enthusiastic and unfettered by the routine of the workplace. This time we were working for ourselves and we were answerable to nobody. We had to win or lose the struggle by using the gifts that he had and it felt good.

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