A Guitar Bridge Too Far

By Billy Hatton  

The FourmostMy mother gave birth to her only son at 7.30pm on 9th June 1941 and I think she was thankful that one son was the sum total of male offspring that she was going to get. We lived in 64b Beloe Street, which was a council-owned flat and part of a tenement block in Dingle, a district of Liverpool.

The flat was rented by my father's mother who was known as Ninny Hatton as opposed to my mother's mother who was called Nanny Humphreys. So, as a child, I assumed that ninnies were paternal grandmothers and nannies were maternal ones. Also, nannies seemed to be fat, jolly, cuddly beings who gave off the scent of soap and bacon butties but ninnies were thin, reedy-voiced and stern individuals with a compulsory facial wart which had at least two hairs sprouting out of it.

My mother did not get along with Ninny Hatton so she needed very little persuasion to leave when my dad thought it would be a good idea to find our own house. We moved to 15 Miles Street where my mam and dad, my sister and me spent the post war years, the birth of rock 'n' roll and the early Sixties.

Dingle was greatly influenced by all things maritime. The seamen, both Merchant and Royal Navy, the dockers who unloaded the ships and 'mislaid' the odd bit of cargo and the hauliers who transported these goods throughout our fair realm were an all important ingredient in the mix that made the area so special. The sailors returning home from the U.S.A. brought the musical heart of America with them in the form of records and magazines. We copied and danced to their music, wore their clothes and acted out the American dream, all on five shillings a week. Then the Swinging Sixties came along and with them the chance for the Yanks to try it our way.

In the early days the music that influenced me the most was country and western. My interest in the guitar came from hours of listening to the artists, who all seemed to be called Hank something or other, and wishing that I could make music like them. My wish came true on my eleventh birthday when I was bought my first guitar. Owning a guitar in the early Fifties was uncommon and there were very few people to teach you, so most budding guitar players were usually self-taught. You can imagine the sort of sounds that we wrenched from the strangled strings. It was bad enough for the artisans who fashioned the tools of our dreams to wish that they had never put chisel to wood. Add to this the howlings that came from our untutored tonsils and the meaning of post war depression takes on another aspect.

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