The Hy-Tones


The great Derry WilkieWe played at the Casbah Club which was under Pete Best's mother's house. He wasn't the drummer with the Quarry Men then. They didn't have a drummer and always asked other group's drummers to drum for them. Our drummer Derek stood in a few times. They weren't anything special, just another skiffle group. I don't want to run them down, but they didn't stand out like Rory Storm & the Hurricanes or Karl Terry& the Cruisers who were, I think, the two best groups around at the time.

I don't think that we stood out until Howie and Co joined us. Everyone was doing skiffle, which was the thing at the time. We were trying to do rock 'n' roll which in a way hadn't taken off them. I personally think that had we all been together in 62/63 instead of 57/59, maybe things would have turned out differently for us - better guitars, better amps, better everything...and skiffle had been replaced by rock 'n' roll. We were there, but the ship hadn't come in yet and when it did arrive, we weren't there. That's life!

Howie was the first of the musicians to join us, and then Griff followed a few weeks later and then Derry. All three were with the group for only a few months before we disbanded at the beginning of 1960.

I think that our finest show was at the Locarno. One of the numbers that always comes to mind is when Howie played 'Rudi's Rock.' Not as good as Mr. Pompilli himself, but it was fantastic. I don't think I will ever forget that night. As you know (if you listen to the record) it is quite a fast number and only a few dancers continued to jive, the rest all gathered around the stage. I don't think that they had ever seen or heard a sax being played like that before. What a guy - and what a sax player!

The end of the Hy-tones was a sad end for me because one of the happiest times of my life was about to come to an end. All our numbers were done from memory, we had learnt them all when we had our regular practive sessions. The problem was we couldn't read music, I think that Howie, Griff and Stan could, I'm not sure about Derry. We were being left behind by a new type of rock 'n' roll. We had very basic gear and the numbers that we used to play had only 3, 4 and sometimes 5 chords in them and were mostly down the bottom of the arm.

As the Mersey sound was gathering speed in the early 60's, new groups were starting up with new types of cut-away guitars and modern amps with echo sounds. Well, I'm sorry to say that was the beginning of the end of the Hy-tones, even the mics were different, they could be adjusted, not only up and down, but to and from the singer, and each member had his or her own mic. We only had one, which used to be dead straight and you had to lean forward to sing into it. I can remember a few guys getting electric shocks from them if their lips touched the mic - and sometimes if their guitar strings touched the mic stand. Everything was basic for us back them. The Hy-tones finally split up in the early 60-'s and a new phase of my life was about to begin in the Navy. But I will never forget the happy days I had with the group and all the good times, the laughs and the fun we had together all those years ago.

A couple of years ago, when I heard that the Hy-tones had a brick in the famous Cavern wall, I hired a 747 and flew down there (actually, it was a bus!) I was very overcome and a bit proud to see it and thought that, in a way, the Hy-tones had played a small part in the history of the Mersey sound.

Later I found out that after the Hy-tones split up, Howie Casey took what was left of the band and formed a group called Howie Casey & the Seniors. Then Howie left and it became Derry Wilkie & the Seniors. That lasted a while and then Derry went with Derry Wilkie & the Pressmen. Brian Griffiths our lead guitarist went with the Big Three. Griff now lives and works in Canada. Good luck, Griff!

I am a member and fan of the Merseycats at D'Arcey Monaghans in New Brighton and go there every Wednesday night to listen to the many rock 'n' roll groups that play there. They play so good that it takes me way back to the time when the Hy-tones used to sweat on stage, all those years ago.

I am still in contact with Jimmy O'Connor - he is on the mic in the photo. I see him every week. I am also in contact with Griff in Calgary, Canada, along with Howie Casey in Bournemouth. I don't see Derek Gill (the drummer) any more. He lives over the Mersey somewhere. Sadly, Derry died a few years ago. Jim and I went to his funeral. Howie couldn't make it, but sent some flowers down. Derry was buried in Wavertree Cemetary.

As for Billy Hughes and Stan Foster, I've tried a few times to get in touch with them, via our local radio station, but with no luck. Billy was about the same age as me, but Stan was three or four years older.

I love to see and listen to young guys playing our 1950s and early 1960s type of rock 'n' roll. After we've gone, these guys are going to carry on where we left off.

Editor's Notes: Stan sent the photograph of the Hy-tones, the only one he could trace. They were the original five members of the Hy-tones in a photograph taken at the Holyoake in August 1958.

From left to right: Billy Hughes (Singer, Lead & Bass Guitar), Jimmy O'Connor (Singer & Rhythm Guitar), Derek Gill (Drummer), Stan Johnson (Rhythm Guitar), Stan Foster (Piano) behind Stan Johnson. He says, "This is the only photograph that we have and was taken by our roadie Bobby Knox, who lived in West Vale, Kirkby. He used to have a Blue Bedford Dormobile, which was very handy with the sliding doors on each side. Regarding the photo, I have often wondered why there is only one photo. I'm sure that Bob would have taken more than one, but he has sadly passed away, so if there were any more, perhaps we'll never know. Bobby was the bricklayer who built the launderette and that's how he became our roadie - or Transport Manager, as he liked to be called.

It's interesting to know that Dinas Lane was the birthplace of the band because Paul McCartney's Auntie Jin lived at 147 Dinas Lane and that's where Paul held his 21st birthday party during which John Lennon beat up Cavern disc jockey Bob Wooler.

The Hy-tones were lucky to get away with playing some rock 'n' roll numbers at the Cavern during its spell as a jazz venue. The Beatles received a curt note from owner Alan Sytner when they played a couple of rock numbers and Rory Storm & the Hurricanes were fined by Ray McFall and pelted with coins by the purist jazz audience when they tried to introduce rock 'n' roll.

Next page in this article
1 | 2 | 3 | 4

Return to main section

psst! magazine
    News, Entertainment and Commentary with a Mersey beat.
    Plug into it (it's free)


All content (unless otherwise stated) © Bill Harry/Mersey Beat Ltd.
Web design © 2002-2019 Triumph PC. All Rights Reserved.