Cilla Black (cont.)

Cilla dancing on the Cavern stageThe love of her life, as it turned out, was Bobby Willis, a blond-haired baker’s assistant who she met at the Zodiac Club in Duke Street. I do recall, however, that when Bobby dropped her off at night at her home in Scotland Road, she’d then sneak out to meet her mate Pat Davies and the two would team up with George Harrison and Ringo Starr at the Blue Angel.

On 6 July 1961, in the first issue of Mersey Beat, I ran a feature called ‘Swinging Cilla’. It began: “Cilla Black is a Liverpool girl who is starting on the road to fame.” The name was a mistake. I’d been rushing to complete the first issue and my mind had gone blank when writing about Cilla, although I remembered her surname related to a colour and he decided to plump for ‘Cilla Black.’ 

I did remember that I’d rushed down to the State Ballroom in Dale Street earlier that evening where Cilla and Pat were listening to Cass & the Cassanovas. I asked Cilla if she’d completed a fashion column I’d asked her to write for me and she had it with her. After dropping Virginia off I went to the office to begin writing in the early hours of the morning. When it came to writing the piece about Cilla my mind just shut down. Then I remembered the piece Cilla had handwritten in ink for me and assumed she’d signed it with her name. She hadn’t. I published the piece in the second issue, but it was reading her column and realizing her name was a colour that led me to decide on black.

Here is her piece which appeared on Page 6 of Issue No. 2, dated July 20 1961:

Fashion Notes By Pricilla

WHITE. The knitted crochet look, which started in Italy, has at last reached our shores, and you can find it in cotton, silk, ribbon and even straw.

GREY. No longer is grey a dismal, formal form of office wear to be worn only during the day. Grey is now the colour for evening wear.

RED. To be worn at any time of the year, in blazing tones for the Autumn, and in various tones during the other seasons.

BLACK. The slickest word in fashion. This years bare armed dresses are ideally suited to this colour, and for lighter relief a touch of white is elegant and dramatic.”

Looking at the piece, I knew Cilla’s surname was one of these colours and plumped for the last one!

When the first issue hit the streets, Cilla White was pleased with the article and said that she liked the sound of the new name and would use it in future.

Late in 1963, when Cilla was being launched, her press officer concocted a story that Brian Epstein had thought of the name change. He was probably unaware that the proof lay in the issue of Mersey Beat published almost two years before Brian was even aware of her existence. Incidentally, since I wrote regularly about Cilla, the name Cilla Black was also appearing in various issues right from the beginning.

In her first autobiography, ‘Step Inside’, Cilla wrote: “Not all the changes in my life met with the approval of me Dad. Although he was generally happy for me, he didn’t approve of the change of name from White to Black, which began as a misprint in Mersey Beat.”

In an interview in the book ‘Secret Lives’, she said: “The black bit came when a local paper, called the Mersey Beat, had a misprint. They knew my surname was a colour and guessed wrong!”

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