The Hy-Tones


Howie CaseyThe band also had a regular booking at the Majestic Club in Ellesmere Port town centre every Wednesday night. We'd heard about the club and went over to see what it was like. It was an old cinema and was pretty bleak, so we saw the manager and made a deal with him that if we could increase the size of the audiences we would get a rise in pay. Records were the standard entertainment at the Majestic in those days and it was apparent that the regulars there were more than receptive to the live rock 'n' roll played by the band. The manager of the Majestic promised the band an increase in pay if we could succeed in increasing the membership. Over time, the manager's wishes were fulfilled and the venue became more and more popular with the locals.

I can remember that the band members each received 30/- (£1.50 in today's currency), as well as the roadie's fee. After a few months of regular gigs, we became very popular and did succeed in attracting an increased attendance, which resulted in playing to full houses. When we thought the time was right, we approached the manager for the promised increase but were met with a flat refusal. We told him that we'd play for two more weeks, hoping he'd change his mind, but he never did.

Anyway, the band wanted to try getting some bookings closer to home, which was relatively easy, as it happens. However, the venues offered had few facilities for accommodating a band - they were also a lot smaller than the Majestic and didn't have the same appeal. On the other hand - venues like the Locarno and the Holyoake for example were huge by comparison and offered superior stages and so on.

These venues allowed the musicians to concentrate on playing the instrument rather than having to worry about banging into the guy standing next to you. (If you remember the Cavern, in the 50's and 60's and the size of the stage, you will understand the thread of the argument). With all due respects to any former skiffle group member who reads this, there were some very good ones around in those days, the Atlantic Skiffle Group is one that comes to mind, but the Hy-tones were not a skiffle group, we were a rock 'n' roll group. we did play some skiffle, most early groups did at that time, it seemed to come between jazz and rock 'n' roll, I thought it was great. Good old Lonnie Donegan!

I remember one night, while waiting to go on stage, I think that we were about the third group to go on and we were watching the other groups to see what they sounded like. I pointed out to the guys how untidy some of them looked, good music, but their presentation needed to be sorted out, so I suggested that we should try and make the Hy-tones look better when on stage. One thing I can say about the group is that we were all very good friends and if any problems came up, we would always get together and try to sort them out. We all agreed, so we went out and bought some nice new jackets, a nice new pair of trousers each and dickey bows. We tried to find some white moccasin shoes, but couldn't find any, so we had to wear black. 

This would have been in the early days of the group, sometime in mid-1958, looking back I can't think of any other rock group, in or before '58 that did this, so maybe the Hy-tones were the first, or one of the first rock 'n' roll groups to wear uniforms on stage (in the Merseyside area). In my opinion, even today a group looks much better in uniform than without. but of course it's the sound that they produce that matters, but I still think they look better, also I can't think of a rock 'n' roll group in those days that had a sax player (again in the Merseyside area), so maybe, just maybe, the Hy-tones had another first. The only other rock 'n' roll group I can remember that had a sax was the Undertakers, but I think they were in 1960 or '61?

Some other groups of the day that we played alongside were Karl Terry & the Cruisers, the Remo Harmony Quartet, Rory Storm & the Hurricanes, the Quarry Men, Ian & the Zodiacs and the Kansas City Five.

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