Cass and the Cassanovas
Some Early Memories

By Brian Hudson  

Johnny Hutch had no drum kit of his own at the time, so he borrowed mine. When he returned the drums to me shortly after my return to Liverpool, the bass drum was different. I was told that my drum kit had been damaged in a vehicle accident that occurred when the group was returning from a gig. It seems that the bass drum, like the vehicle in which the group was traveling, was a write-off. My original bass drum, like the rest of the kit, had been a poor instrument and the second-hand replacement was, if anything, a little better.

Cass had something to do with an Arts Ball that was held in St. George's Hall. He invited me to participate in this charity event and I recall playing drums there. I remember the feeling of incongruity as I played in that vast, monumental hall, a place better known for oratorios and organ recitals than jazz or rock, but I can't recall which band I was with on that occasion.

A couple of scant entries in my University diaries indicate that I actually played drums in St. George's Hall twice, the first time at an Arts Ball on Friday, May 15 1959, the second on Friday December 16 1960. The band or bands in which I played on these occasions may well have shared the bill with some of Liverpool's top groups, but I have no recollection of any of them. I expect that when the rockers were on I retired to the bar with my fellow jazz musicians.

Arts Ball flyer by Bill HarryShortly after leaving Cass & the Cassanovas, I left the Falkner Square flat I shared with Adrian Barber. Life there was not very conducive to academic studies. Sometimes in the mornings I found the floor strewn with sleeping people, individuals and couples, who had returned with Adrian after late nights at Liverpool clubs. I had to pick my way over them to reach the bathroom and kitchen and prepare myself for my day's work at the University.

I continued to live in the area, however, and saw Adrian, Johnny Hutch and Johnny Gus from time to time. Cass vanished from the Liverpool scene. Apart from seeing him briefly on TV, I saw Cass only once after our Liverpool days.

In the summer of 1962 I was walking along a street in London's Soho when Cass ran out of a pub and greeted me enthusiastically. He'd been inside when he saw me walk past the door. I was delighted to see him again and joined him in the pub where, over drinks, we enjoyed catching up with the news.

Cass told me that things were going well for him and that he had a business interest in a Soho club, the Blue Gardenia. Hoping to see him again I asked Cass to write his phone number in my diary, which I have to this day.

Unfortunately, there must have been some mistake because when I phoned the number that he'd scribbled in my diary, I reached a London police station. The officer at the end of the line seemed pleasantly amused when I explained to him how I came to make the call.

Later, when I was returning from a friend's wedding in Wales, a woman friend and I reached London very late one Saturday night. I suggested we go to the Blue Gardenia club and see if we could see Cass. It was a night spot of a very different kind that I'd visited previously. I'd not seen men dancing together before - and I was struck by the popularity of mohair sweaters among the club patrons.

My enquiries about Cass were not well received. I was told in no uncertain terms that he had nothing to do with the place and that his present whereabouts were unknown. For me, they remain unknown to this day, but I am now proud to tell people that I was a founder member of Cass & the Cassanovas, a group that pioneered the Mersey Sound even before the start of the Fabulous 'Sixties.

Editors Note: The article is copyright Dr. Brian J. Hudson and adapted from a forthcoming biography 'How I Did Not Become A Beatle'. Brian, now at the Queensland University of Technology in Australia, has published two previous books, 'Cities On The Shore' (Pinter, London, 1996) and 'Waterfalls Of Jamaica: Sublime And Beautiful Objects' (University Of The West Indies Press, Kingston, 2001).

I will soon be able to put Brian in touch with Cass, who now lives in Germany and Adrian, who now lives in Hawaii.

Cass did manage the blue Gardenia club, Soho. On December 9 1961 the Beatles dropped in to see him following a gig in Aldershot. They set out from Aldershot at 1a.m. and when they reached the club, John, Paul and Pete got up on stage while George was having a chat with someone who'd recognized him.

Incidentally, Brian contributed an article on jazz which was published in an early issue of Mersey Beat.

The flyer for the December Arts Ball was one I drew as a favour for Allan. I was often asked to design various things and designed the Big Three logo and painted it on Johnny Hutch's drums and also designed the Joe Brown/Beatles Tower Ballroom poster for Brian Epstein, in addition to designing most of the adverts in Mersey Beat.

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