The Black Knights

By Bill Harry  

The Black Knights - Allan Schroeder, Bill Kenny & Ken Griffiths"I was born in 1942 in Neston-on-the-Wirral. My mother had been evacuated from Wallasey because we lived quite close to the river, a sure target for bombing raids. I remember the air-raid shelter in the middle of our street, great memories of playing in it after the war.

"I became a member of a skiffle group called the Falcons and owe everything to Lonnie Donegan and his little pink book of guitar chords, for inspiration and simplified tuition of enough chords to play those early American blues songs.

"Like most Mersey bands it was a natural transition from skiffle to rock, with rhythm and solo guitar techniques carrying through. Even the one string tea chest bass and the washboard were early learning tools for the next stage. God bless you, Lonnie!

"The Black Knights were the first serious band that I formed. There had been an earlier band called the Corinthians that I was a member of with a few old pals from school - Wallasey Technical Grammar. We played local church halls and the local art college. The choice of guitar was a natural one for me because my parents had bought me a Spanish style one for my 12th birthday.

"As I mentioned earlier, it wasn't 'till the skiffle boom that I started playing with some earnest, with the intention of forming my own band. The choice of name - the Black Knights, just seemed right, with an air of menace and charm. Although the Black Knights were formed and playing regular local venues during this period, I managed to complete my apprenticeship before deciding to become professional.

"Bill had been working at Fords in Halewood and Allan with Wallasey Council as a paving mason.

"Having had various brands of guitars, my final choice was a Rickenbacker short arm, with the greatest action of any guitar available at the time. It cost me the small fortune of £365 in 1964 (must be the equivalent of £1,500 today). I bought it from Strothers Music Store in Liscard, Wallasey on HP and to whom I had to return it in 1966 for not making sufficient payments. I was never home to make them!

"Beside the two songs we recorded, our repertoire consisted of various self-penned material. The two I remember with affection were 'Now I Know' and my own favourite 'Don't Mean A Thing When You Cry.' Regretfully, we did not record these, or any other material.

"The original Black Knights, Bill Kenny, Taffy Jones and myself were all good mates and soon realized we had quite a good sound as a trio.

"Taffy left to move to South Wales with his parents and left an opening for a drummer that we advertised locally for. We were resident at the Witch's Cauldron at the time and it was here that we auditioned Allan, who had just left Cliff Roberts' Rockers. Allan fitted in like a dream with a more forceful sound than Taffy, just what we wanted for our sound.

"The venue was a cellar club, close to the Hotel Victoria in New Brighton, smaller than the Cavern but with its own wonderful atmosphere. It was very well patronized and was open all nights of the week. I can't remember how we got the residency, must have been Norman.

"It was at the Cauldron that we had an audition to be the backing band for Tommy Quickly from Brian Epstein's stable. We backed him once at the Tower Ballroom in New Brighton, never to be repeated, thank God! A backing band we were not, although on reflection it would have been nice to have belonged to Brian.

"The band disbanded somewhat prematurely in late 1965 after our stint at the Star Club and a tour of the U.K.

"Allan and Bill were having marital/health problems and I was getting engaged to Anne whom I had met a few years previously whilst playing at the Plaza in St. Helens. The decision to split was agreed and we never played together again. It was a decision I regret to this day.

"Allan returned to his trade as a paving mason, Bill went into insurance and for my sings I married Anne in 1966 and got a job as a Quality engineer at Fibreglass in Birkenhead.

"Allan and Bill have been retired for a good few years now. Allan plays in a new Black Knights formation still playing the old tunes and is a member of Merseycats. Bill moved to South Wales and sings tenor with a famous Welsh choir and was interviewed by the Billy Butler Show in 2002.

"I joined Plessey again in 1967 and am still there, surviving quite a few takeovers, GEC and Marconi and finally Finmechanica. I have been managing the Drawing Office at our site on Wavertree Technology Park since 1988.

"I have two children, Martin and Sherril and three grandchildren, Cameron, Ella and Josh and am still living in Wallasey Village."

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