Escort to a Bluejean
Right afterwards we were whisked off to Granada Studios where we performed ‘Blue Moon’ again on ‘Granada Reports’. Then we went back to the Blue Angel to celebrate. We turned professional the next day.
The prize for winning was – management by a London impresario, a guy called Harry Lowe and a record contract with Decca. The contract turned out to only be a test with a guy called Peter Sullivan who didn’t take up the option, and all Harry Lowe did was hang on to our contract until Jim Ireland bought it off him.
After Jim Ireland took us on things got a lot better as he had a proper organization and the clubs the Mardi Gras and Downbeat and he also looked after the Swinging Bluejeans. We went with the Jim Godbolt Agency in London and secured a recording contract with Fontana. Between the years 1964 and 1966 we made a film called ‘Sound of a City’ along with the Beatles and we recorded six singles but we only charted once with “The One To Cry” which reached number 49.
We never did make an album, but Elvis Costello who I presume was a fan covered both sides of ‘From Head to Toe’ and released it as one of his own singles. Good Old Declan!!!!
We did a nationwide theatre tour in 1964 with Cilla Black – Billy J Kramer – Gene Pitney – The Swinging Bluejeans – Billy Burdon and The Remo Four. We opened the show and only had to do 15 minutes so we had all night to get up to mischief. The main thing that John and Terry got up to was lying in the pit with peashooters and firing peas at Gene Pitney when he was down on his knees singing to the girls.
He was a fantastic bloke. They got caught one night and Mal Cooke the tour manager told them that if they were caught again we’d be thrown off the tour. Anyway they couldn’t resist it and when we were in Portsmouth they did it again and I heard that Mal was looking for them, so I went into the pit to warn them. As I arrived at the pit I heard a rumbling noise and all of a sudden all these girls came over into the pit and landed on top of us. When Mal got there he thought that we were trying to get them out, when in fact we were just trying to get out of the way. Mal was really impressed.
I really loved that tour. We all traveled together on the bus except for the Bluejeans who
traveled in their own car. It was a laugh a minute – Gene Pitney was always trying to talk in a Liverpool accent and his favourite word was “scruffy”. So consequently John and Terry used to talk back to him in a mock Texas drawl earning them the nicknames Texas and Dallas.
Every night Colin Manley (God rest his soul) used to get me in a head lock and hold me until about 2 minutes to curtain up – I was always sweating and red faced before we’d even started. He was a chunky lad then.
About a year later Gene Pitney was on at the Empire with Lulu and me and my mate Kenny “Dixie” Dean went along and after the show went backstage to meet him. We talked for so long that everybody had left the theatre except a little old caretaker and Gene’s roadie. Gene’s roadie asked me and Dixie if we’d help him get Gene to his car as there was still a big crowd outside. He said that there would be a black car waiting outside the front door and if we could get Gene to it he’d be really grateful.
We said yes of course we would. We looked out of the front doors and sure enough there was a black car there with the driver waiting, so we opened the doors and ran for the car keeping the girls off Gene, but when we got there it was the wrong car. So we fought our way back to the front doors but the old caretaker had closed them behind us and was telling us to go away as they were closed. Gene’s roadie managed to get him to open up but not before Dixie and I were scragged.
Back inside they organized a police van to back up to the stage door and Gene made his getaway in that. He invited us up to the Adelphi for a drink so we walked up there. When we got there we tried to enter but there was a bouncer on the other side of the revolving door and he just kept turning it and refused to listen to our protestations. He did that for about what seemed like ten minutes until Lulu came and rescued us. She told him that we were ok and he let us in. I’ve dined out on that story for years.
Not long after that Pete left the band and we got my mate Kenny Goodlass in from the Kirkbys.
Then there were the trips to Germany – the first being a month in Munich. Manfred Weissleder wanted us for the Star Club some time previously but at the time we were too young to get work permits so it was dropped. The club we worked in was called The PN Hit House in a district called Schwabing – it was my first time abroad with the band and for the first two weeks I was really homesick and didn’t like it very much.
Then the Hollies came for a week and things changed. I got laryngitis through singing such long hours and Graham Nash helped us out by singing my harmonies on some of the songs. That’s where the connection with Terry came from. After three weeks I wanted to stay forever. I wish we had, because the bottom had dropped out of the scene back home and work was getting harder to find.
Terry and John decided that they would like Pete back in the band and outvoted me on the issue. It wasn’t long after that when Terry joined the Swinging Bluejeans and Pete was on his way again. We replaced them with Tommy Kelly from Earl Preston’s Realms and Frank Townsend from the Beechnuts.
The next trip to Germany was to Hanover and we had to be a five piece so we recruited our road manager Bruce McCaskill as a fifth member. Bruce was the founder member of the Swinging Bluejeans and also personal road manager to Eric Clapton in later years. After that he became the manager of the Average White Band and went to live in America. Sadly Bruce has also passed away.
We did two weeks in Hanover and then moved on to Braunsweig for another two weeks. I didn’t like that month at all and I was glad to get back home. Shortly after that Frank left and was replaced by Paddy Chambers who had just come back from London after leaving Paddy, Klaus and Gibson.
By this time we’d left Jim Ireland and were now managed by a guy called Roger Stinton, who used to be Billy J’s personal roadie when we met him. He’d made a lot of contacts whilst working for the NEMS
organization and secured us a recording contract with EMI as our Fontana contract had expired. We made the record ‘From Head to Toe’ in a little independent studio in the Old Kent Road. We’d been in London for about a week staying at Roger’s flat in some mews just behind Harley Street and on the day of the recording Paddy said “I’m going into town – I’ll see you at the studio”.
Well we got there and set up and waited outside for Paddy to arrive as it was getting close to start the session. A mini cooper arrived, and who should get out but Paddy and Paul McCartney. I was gobsmacked as he was and still is one of my idols!!