In the Beginning...
There Was Howie Casie & The Seniors
By Bill Harry
"There were lots of funny little clubs that we played in the town that would open and shut after a few months. People obviously wanted to get drinks after hours, which was, sort of, against the law. People were getting upset and getting drunk and there were fights and stuff."
Recalling his gigs with Wally Hill, Howie says, "We didn't get paid a lot of money as you can imagine, but we used to get the money up in the end from Wally. He used to secrete a lot of money. He used to give me bags of silver because his wife kept a firm grip on the finances and he used to sneak off a bit of extra money because I'd asked for rises over a period of time. Big deal, you know. I think we were getting about two quid each.
"But I remember Wally Hill with favourable memories. He was okay to us. "Derry sort of got us into places like Joe Bygraves' club, the Beacon Club in Upper Parliament Street. We played there. We actually got a bit of a residency as the sort of interval band at the Rialto in Upper Parly and we did a lot of those type of venues. Again, the money wasn't brilliant."
They were also booked to appear on a major concert at Liverpool Stadium on Tuesday May 3 1960, with Gene Vincent topping the bill. It was an event promoted by London
impresario Larry Parnes and local entrepreneur Allan Williams.
"Cass & the Cassanovas and other local groups were on it, we were on it and it was just a one-night thing. We thought it was big time, playing a big gig."
As a result the Seniors were asked to audition for Larry Parnes at the Wyvern Social Club on May 10, along with Cliff Roberts & the Rockers, Cass & the Cassanovas, Gerry & the Pacemakers and the Silver Beetles.
Howie recalls, "There was Larry Parnes and Billy Fury sitting in this rather shabby club, the Wyvern Club, because, of course, it hadn't been converted to the Blue Angel and it was still a drinking club at the time. We did our bit and the various other bands did their bit and there was the band, the Silver Beetles. And I'd never seen them before. Young guys, you know. I'm probably five or six years older than them - and they got up and they didn't have a drummer and they asked Johnny Hutch (Hutchinson) to sit in with them." The Seniors were told they would be backing one of Parnes' artists in the seaside resort of Blackpool. "We were all chuffed and gladly gave up our day jobs. Then, some little time later, we found out that it was all cancelled." Having committed themselves, they were furious and went to see Allan Williams.
"Of course, the story is that me with my fists like Yorkshire hams and Derry went in and threw a bouncer to one side and had Allan Williams pinned up against a wall. It's absolute nonsense. We went down there, irate, upset, but there was none of that. Allan sort of wriggled out of it by saying he'd take the band down to London, to the 2 I's.
"Days or weeks later, we all piled into two cars and went off to the 2 I's in Old Compton Street. We spoke to the guy who ran the place, Tom Littlewood, and he was quite happy for the band to play for nothing.
"There were no sound checks, nothing like that, you just got up and played. There was a guy on stage before us with a Buddy Holly/Shadows type of band (Buddy Brittain). Then we got up with Derry and did our rock and roll 'Good Golly Miss Molly', 'Ain't That A Shame', that sort of thing. We got a bit of stale cake off Tom Littlewood for our pains. "During the time we were on, this German guy, Bruno Koshmider had been in the audience.
"It was a remarkable coincidence. He had a British band playing at his club, the Kaiserkeller in Hamburg, called the Jets, who he'd first found at the 2 I's. Another club the Top Ten had opened and the group had gone there, so Bruno found himself without a band and just a jukebox in the middle of a big club. He was over looking for a replacement and saw in us a similar thing. We weren't like the Jets, but they'd had a black singer called Tony with the band, an American guy. Koshmider had been watching all the bands that were at the 2 I's and picked on us as the band he wanted.
Koshmider looked like a businessman in a dark blue suit with a hat on - and a camera. He always had a camera with him, very dodgy! "We went across the road to a restaurant and there was a German waiter (Georg Sterner) and he translated for us, telling us that Koshmider wanted the band to go to Germany. "So how lucky can you get? You drive all the way to London, go into a tiny cellar and end up with a contract to go to Germany. Brilliant.
"Of course, Allan hadn't arranged any visas. We were thrown off the train on the way there because he told us to say we were tourists. When the police came at the border and we told them we were tourists, they said 'what's all this drum kits and amp and all that?' So we were chucked off the train. I frantically called Hamburg and Koshmider promised that we would get visas and all that. He never did anything about it. We just arrived there and that was that.
Derry was a showman and he did a spectacular performance on stage, which Koshmider referred to as 'mach shau.'
The Beatles arrived and began to perform at the Indra, further up the Grosse Freiheit.
"I saw them at the Indra, 'cause we went to the opening night because we used to start later and then they'd finish early and come to the Kaiserkeller to see us because we'd be on until 2 or 3 in the morning.