The Hi-Cats

(cont.)
 

Advertisement for the SecretsFor a while rehearsals (or practices as they were called) occurred on an ad hoc basis and by this time all had left school and were working in their first jobs and making regular trips to the Cavern, which was changing its format to cater for this explosion of youth music. It was not unusual for myself, Aussie and Paul McCartney (who just lived up the road) to get the bus together (86A) to town and the Cavern. There was a great deal of friendship (and rivalry) between this group of budding musicians who were finding their way and other groups throughout Merseyside.

The first gig of the new group was at Springwood Hall (All Hallows) church hall, where the vicar was persuaded to allow a teenage dance night (brave man!). Spud Murphy, a great guy and friend of Aussie's, offered not only to run the door but to provide an ice box for Pepsi and Coke, which he sold bottles of at great profit!

The show was a huge success, despite some initial shyness: Vic handling vocals and lead guitar, Aussie on rhythm, Tony on bass guitar and Brian on drums. At least the audience loved it - we were bitten!

Vic lived in Hunter's Lane, Wavertree, three doors away from Wally Hill, a local entrepreneur who put teen shows on at Blair Hall, Holyoake Hall and St Columbas in Widnes, who offered us some bookings. But we needed a name. At this stage a name had not been agreed on for the group and it was while chatting to Bob Wooler (who we met at the Cavern, Hambleton Hall and quite often in Garston) that he suggested 'Hi-Cats' and the name sort of stuck.

The group became established quite quickly, playing mostly chart covers of the day and Shadows type instrumentals, plus some Country Music. Appearances at all the local venues including the Cavern, Iron Door, Birkdale Palace (The Beatles did play there - we were on the same bill!) and so on. An interesting aside: on our second appearance at the Cavern on a lunchtime gig, our drummer became ill and Paul McCartney stepped in and played drums for us during the session.

The Hi-Cats appeared on the 'Here We Go Show' for the BBC in Manchester, a weekly radio show with the Northern Dance Orchestra and a guest appearance from a local group. The producer told us we mustn't speak to the musicians as they were in the Musicians Union! But they did chat to us and treated us quite well, and passed good comment on the better of the two songs we performed - 'Sweet Little Sheila' (the Tommy Roe song).

Vic realized that vocals were our weakness, so a lead singer was needed, enter Wally Staines, to become 'Danny Havic and The Hi-Cats', giving the group a front man to woo the young ladies at the front of the stage!

Currently it is difficult to understand that no one had cars in those days, so transport was a big problem. We had a deal with a gas fitter to drive us around, but every time he had a call out we had to wait hours to be picked up! Salvation came in the form of Roy Cochen (drummer Brian's brother) who turned out to be a neighbour of me and Aussie. Roy had just bought a Bedford camper van, and with judicious tempting of payment he became our driver. A real luxury!

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