Steve Day & the
Rod Punt's Odyssey From Wump
& His Werbles to Rod McKenzie
By Bill Harry
The group appeared on several bills with the Beatles, including the Cavern on Wednesday February 21, a Tower Ballroom promotion on July 27 and a further Tower Ballroom gig on Friday December 1, all in 1962. They also supported the Beatles at 'The Beatles Club' night at the Thistle Cafe, West Kirby on Thursday February 1 1962. They appeared at Hamburg's Top Ten Club in 1963 and the group disbanded some months later.
Rod commented, "In 1963 we went to Hamburg and played for Peter Eckhorn at the Top Ten Club with the Original Checkmates and a London band called the Nightwalkers. At the Star Club there was Cliff Bennett & the Rebel Rousers, Johnny Kidd & the Pirates and the Big Three (Four-with Griff). That was enjoyable, but when we came home our lead guitarist Mike Nicholson left to go to University and the band basically broke up from there. Two or three of them formed another band called the Rainchecks, but I went to work at the Devon Coast Country Club in Paignton as a waiter during the day and singing with the band in the ballroom at night. It was strange then because all the Mersey groups were making it and I was saying to people, 'I know them. I've worked with them.'
"I used to make sure that my day off was a Sunday because groups used to come to the Princess Theatre in Torquay and I used to go and see them to say 'hello.' The Fourmost were great and I had some really good laughs with them. In fact, that reminds me: we were playing at St. Luke's, Crosby, one night (Steve Day & the Drifters) and as we were packing up I picked up a live plug and was thrown across the stage unconscious. Billy Hatton gave me resuscitation and the doctors said that probably saved my life. My wife Christine asked him why didn't he mind his own business!
Steve returned to Liverpool for a short time to form Steve Day & the Kinsmen, then: "The Sixties were over for me. I became a compere at the Haig Club in Moreton, then changed my name to Rod McKenzie and became a comedian, winning 'Opportunity Knocks' in 1978."
Editor's Note: When he had settled in Portugal, Rod began to write to me on a regular basis. In one of his letters he wrote: "Regarding Pete Best and my opinion on why he was sacked. I have always maintained that Pete was the most popular Beatle (with the girls) and that he took the limelight off the front three - George, Paul and John. Do you remember that the girls used to hang around his house at all times, day and night, to meet him and I don't think the others liked it (especially John). I also think this was mentioned to Brian and he agreed that the other three were getting overlooked - so he had to go.
"Ringo was no better or no worse, but that's only my opinion. Incidentally, what happened to Ringo's natural silver streak in his hair? Do you remember it? It ran from the crown of his head to his fringe."
Rod also wrote, "We appeared, along with Rory Storm, at the Jerry Lee Lewis concert at the Tower Ballroom. Jerry Lee was on stage and the audience had crowded round the piano to such an extent that he was standing on it and his backing group, the Echoes, were standing on their amps. The supporting groups were all at the back on the raised part above and behind the stage. When he finished there was no way for Jerry Lee to get off the stage, so Rory shouted 'Jerry Lee, up here.' Jerry Lee raised his arms above his head and Rory and I reached down, grabbed his hands and pulled him up and over the top, followed by the Echoes, one by one."
He also discussed the promoters, "Not all of them were liked, but most of them were okay. Brian Kelly was great. He'd book you into Litherland Town Hall and hire you an amplifier (or two), so you would end up with your Tunnel money if you were lucky! Ralph Webster was also great with us and gave us plenty of work. He made the O.P.B. a great venue. Bob Wooler was great - 'Sunday Nights at Hambleton Hall.' - with Faron, the 'Prince of Prance' splitting his trousers before
P.J. Proby could tie a pony tail.
"The groups I best remember when we started off were Cass & the Cassanovas. They used to play on New Brighton Pier in the Summer, Again, they were very good. Cass left and of course the Big Three Were born. Other favourites were Rory, of course, Dale Roberts & the Jaywalkers, the Swinging
Bluejeans (although they were a pseudo jazz/skiffle group who jumped onto the Mersey sound bandwagon) and the Four Jays. I'll always remember Johnny Sandon & the Searchers. Johnny left and joined the Remo Four and the rest was history. he ended up doing the clubs as Billy Beck (his real name) as a comedian. The last I heard was he had a nervous breakdown and was a voluntary hospital patient.
"Most of the venues had their pet groups, starting with the obvious: The Cavern, the Beatles; the O.P.B., the Undertakers; Hambleton Hall, Faron; the Jive Hive, the Four Jays; the Kraal Club, the Pressmen; the Majestic Ballroom, Lee Curtis & the All Stars."
On a sad note, Bill Beck, mentioned by Rod, suffered severe depression and hung himself - as did Brian O'Hara of the Fourmost.
Rod and Christine had retired to Portugal where they regularly invited friends from the Mersey scene to spend some holiday time with them. Rod even became a D.J. on a local radio station and told me of his wish to make a record of 'Alley Oop.'
Then I received a letter from him on August 27 1999, sent from an address in Upton, Wirral: "Many thanks for your letter. Christine faxed it through to me. As you can see I'm temporarily in the U.K. having developed throat cancer (peril of the job). I'm in good company as Paddy Chambers is having treatment as well only with me it was beyond that stage, so they've removed my voice box and vocal chords. I was in hospital two months and been having radiotherapy for six weeks (finished today), so I now have to go for speech therapy.
"They've fitted me up with the latest valve and hopefully I'll be talking again within the next 2/3 weeks, then back home.
"I suppose you heard about Johnny Guitar. Went to his funeral on Tuesday. There must have been over 300 people there. I'm sure you will agree with me that he was probably the nicest (and tightest) people in the whole Mersey scene. Margaret said he was really upset as they had booked to come and see us in September, but he knew he wasn't going to make it.
"I've never seen so many local 'stars' at a funeral since Rory died, which was a great
testimony to the man. Even Les Maguire (of Pacemakers fame) was there - and he's my cousin and I haven't seen him for over 20 years!"
Sadly, my friend Rod passed away himself in September 2000.