by Tim Dugdill
Formation and early days
The band was formed at Quarry Bank High School, Allerton, Liverpool in 1963, from three students, Laurence (Lol) Ashley (lead and vocals), Geoff Jones (bass and vocals) and Tim Dugdill (rhythm, harmonica and vocals). No drummer was found from the school, but Mike Sloan was recruited, a friend of Tim's and brother of Frank Sloan, the original drummer with the Merseybeats. We were all studying but Mike had left school early and was delivery boy for his Dad's butchers, in those days on a bike with a basket in front, obviously strengthening his legs for increased bass drum battering.
Mike's flair was obvious, emanating from his brother and using his equipment, and we three guitarists originally wanted to be the Shadows but, in the early 60's, changed our minds and wanted to be the Beatles. We all went to as many lunchtime Beatle sessions (sagging school in the process) as we could afford.
First gigs were at Youth Clubs and Schools, going down very well considering we were crap, and we built up a following fairly quickly, especially at Quarry Bank. One favourite place was St. Barnabus in Allerton, nicknamed Barnies, which was most appropriate because there was a 'barney' there every night. Our equipment in those days was all 30 watt, but not so unusual because that was all the Beatles had in those days.
Choice of material
We were fond of R&B music from the outset, why I cannot remember, but that fondness was intensified by listening to the Beatles and the Big Three (All bands in those days thought Gerry and the Pacemakers were crap!!, although we all
recognized Gerry's skill on the guitar). Early influences were Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Buddy Guy, Sonny Boy Williamson and Chuck Berry, all of whom we were to play with as support bands later on - What a privilege.
First Cavern gigs
With almost indecent haste we were to play our first gig on the Cavern, although the first gigs we did at the Cavern were unbilled. I remember that, if Bob Wooler liked you, you could play there for expenses only (about ten bob from memory). At one of the lunchtime sessions Geoff and I had approached Bob, told him how good we were, and he had agreed to 'give us a try.' We had shown him a rather amateur picture of ourselves, and he obviously thought we were 'pretty' enough to go down alright with the ladies.
I remember vividly our first gig at the Cavern. All the equipment and Geoff arrived in a Triumph Herald driven by his mother and the rest of us came on the bus with Mike's drum kit (or, rather, Frank's drum kit, who was not told that the Merseybeats were lending Sloan junior their kit). We must have shown some potential because we were given a list of dates, again for expenses only, to be the rubbish that started and finished the sets either side of the star bands.
We actually had a fan club started, almost in the first year. It was very unusual for a relatively unknown group to have a fan club in those days, and we were fortunate to have an early fan, Hilary, who had the skills and enthusiasm to set it up.
In the Cavern I remember hovering in the band room, especially when the Beatles were on, and feeling privileged if John chose to stub his ciggy out on my head. Pete Best and George Harrison were lovely guys and would acknowledge me, or anyone, in the band room. John would give a grunt if in the mood, but Paul was usually rather aloof, possibly because he was nervous. Of the four, I always thought that Paul was the most nervous and worried before a gig. He regularly had to go to the loo just before their act and invariably forgot to button his fly before going on stage. That gave the reputation of him doing it on purpose for the ladies, and maybe it was, but I believe it was accidental.
Being a support act in those days was pretty disconcerting. The girls in front always had their hair in curlers, doing their knitting, while we were on and, about ten minutes before we finished our first set and the class act was to come on, they would start removing their curlers and combing up the beehive hairdos. When the class act had performed and we came back on, they went home!! Boy, did we feel important!
I remember being there the night after Pete Best had been sacked from the Beatles and Pete's mates, possibly without his knowledge, came to seek retribution from the rest of the Beatles. George got a hiding, but John gave some of it back and then Paddy and the rest of the bouncers sorted it out.
Strangely enough, whilst most groups came to the Cavern better prepared from other gigs, the Cavern was our training ground. We were playing there long before we were really good enough, but you could not get much better training, nor better groups to watch and emulate.