Colin Manley


Colin, Phil Thompson and Ray EnnisRay Ellis tells me: "I first met Colin Manley in 1963 at the Cavern Club in Liverpool when he was with the Remo Four group. The first thing that struck me about him was his very friendly attitude and sense of humour. He was also a very accomplished guitarist.

"The musicianship in those days was very raw, so Colin stood out as he had a natural talent for the guitar and was known as the musicians' musician! We would see each other at the Cavern most weeks doing gigs together. In 1963 some of us had recording success which took us away from Liverpool. Although probably they best guitarist in Liverpool at the time, national acclaim eluded Colin although he was in great demand as a backing musician for a lot of big name acts.

"We met up again in the Seventies when the Swinging Bluejeans were looking for a guitarist. Colin was backing Freddie Starr at the time. When I offered him the job he jumped at the chance as being part of a group would show off his talents and give him the freedom to express himself musically. We had 30 years together touring the world until Colin's untimely death in 2000.

"He is still a topic of conversation in the SBJ's dressing room as we recall the good times we had (and there were many). People still talk about his memorial show at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall. The show was a sell out and it showed the affection the people of Liverpool had for one of its sons.

"Halfway through the set at the Star Club one night, we heard a noise behind us. A drunken sailor was relieving himself against a painted doorway on the backdrop - a kind of New York tenement scene - and with his free hand was urging us on, yelling for us to play some Chuck Berry numbers."

Mal Jefferson, former leader of the Mastersounds, recalls: "I went to Childwall County College with Colin on day release for two years. I got to know him well. His passion for music often came second to his passion for food. His lunch would be the set dinner and pudding, plus two extra portions of chips each eaten between two pieces of bread. His appetite was phenomenal. He once challenged someone to an eating contest in the Wimpy on Dale Street. I bet on him and he won by scoffing 13 Wimpy's.

"I was in showbands in the Seventies and Eighties (reading guitar parts) and Colin used to dep for me. I did loads of vocals, Colin only ever sang Chris Montez's 'Let's Dance.'

"During the height of the Remo Four, he spent six months intensive rehearsal copying Chet Atkins' 'You're Not In Love.' It had a bass melody and a treble counter-melody which Chet, allegedly, played simultaneously. Colin later succeeded and regularly did it live on stage. He was disappointed to hear, years later, that Chet Atkins had actually failed to do it and had overdubbed the second part in the studio.

"That was Colin - perfectionist and eating machine!"

Chris Huston of the Undertakers recalled, "We played just about every week with the Remo Four - sometimes three or four times over a weekend. Looking back, I remember the camaraderie and I also remember how transient the interplay between the bands was, in general. It didn't seem to matter, back then."

Chris also remembered that he was once asked to name what he considered were the best guitarists in Liverpool during the era of the Mersey Sound. He said, "First, the best technical guitarist on Merseyside by any standards was Colin Manley of the Remo Four. He could play and replicate anything. He was a joy to watch.

Colin and Billy Kinsley (photo by Kathy McCabe)"Then there was a guitarist called Brian 'Griff' Griffiths who had something that I could never put my finger on. He had an incredible natural feel that I would have killed to achieve. His style was closer to some of the great players today. He was very underrated, being judged, I suppose, by the overall achievements of the group he played with, the Big Three. He too was the best guitarist on Merseyside in a different way.

"George Harrison was never a fantastic guitarist. He was a clever and creative guitarist, equal to anything that he had to play.

"Johnny 'Guitar' Byrne was a character more than a guitarist. True, he was the rhythm backbone of Rory Storm & the Hurricanes.

"There were several other really good guitarists back then. Guitarists that could turn out a decent original solo or copy any solo off a record: Gerry Marsden (Gerry & the Pacemakers) and Ritchie Prescott (The Pressmen) come to mind. But I don't think that that is the criteria, is it? So, my list is very short and in all fairness incomplete, with Colin Manley for his wonderful technical ability and Griff for his natural magic."

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