Jeff Martin - The
Story Starts Way Back
By Jeff Martin
There was a fantastic show put on by Brian Epstein at the Tower Ballroom, New Brighton. The top star was Little Richard. Bob Wooler introduced him while I presented the Beatles on stage.
Mecca and Top Rank were the top two in venues across the country and Top Rank offered me the management of the Majestic Ballroom, Chester. I continued as a DJ at Chester, where we used to have 1,500 customers three or four times a week. There was a live band plus Pete Dee and his music, together with visiting groups from the Merseyside area. After two years at Chester, Top Rank wanted me to move around the country. I found this slightly disappointing, particularly at some of the venues such as the Majestic, Stoke On Trent. At the Majestic, Luton I met Brian Epstein for the first time when he brought Billy J. Kramer & the Dakotas.
I changed companies to Mecca Ltd under the direction of Eric Morely, a desperate and miserable man, even the Miss World contests didn't cheer him up!
I won't talk about Mecca, Morely's management was more interested in bingo than real musical entertainment. Bingo did crash eventually, they are recently trying to revive it - but why don't they come back to live music and get people together in clubs and ballrooms again?
Until recently I was still in the entertainment field with two companies where I used my experience presenting dances/socials and generally making sure everybody was happy and enjoying themselves. We still have the memories of the 1960s and 1970s and many radio stations playing all the oldies in digital crystal clear sound, so that's a little better now compared to Radio Luxembourg fading in and out and the boring BBC in the 1960s!!
Editor's Note: Jeff Martin was just the show business name for Geoff Brown, who now lives in Windsor, Berkshire, but still has happy memories of the Mersey Sound era. Apart from Jeff and Bob Wooler, there were actually a number of other DJs and comperes around Merseyside at the time such as Ron Appleby and Pete Stephens as there were so many venues.
Here are some excerpts from Jeff's early Mersey Beat columns:
Sept 14 1961: You will agree that popular music of today comes to the public eye firstly through the medium of radio broadcasting and a lot of discussion is going on at present as to whether the BBC are doing a good enough job of providing enough popular musical entertainment. In my opinion, the BBC are doing a grand job at the moment with 'Pops' programmes. Saturday Club will be an unrivalled show if local broadcasters try to compete with it; so will such programmes as Family Favourites, The Cool Spot, Pick Of The Pops, Easy Beat, Jazz Club, Go Man Go and, yes, even Housewives Choice.
Apart from the BBC we have ample 'pops' from Radio Luxembourg, Radio Eireann and AFN. I suppose local broadcasting will eventually arrive, whether it's run on commercial lines or by the BBC, but when it does, what is it going to be like? Will it be record after record from 6.30am until
midnight, with advertisements every few minutes? If so, that's not for me.
A while back now I was introducing a Friday Record Night at the Orrell Park Ballroom. I played a disc which I threw aside after its first playing. How I hated it - and I told everyone else the same thing. In fact, it wasn't popular with many others on its release either. But how wrong we all were when the record made the top three. The title, by the way, was 'Marchita' by Karl Denver. I eventually grew to like the song, and I got back my copy for playing. The Remo Four do a better job of it in my opinion than Karl Denver. I always look forward to them doing this number.
The Undertakers, on their first few nights at the OPB, certainly made the jivers stop and open their mouths in surprise at their antics on stage, but they soon
realized that they were not only playing for them to jive to, but they were enjoying themselves at the same time! It's a group who have hit the headlines in just a few short months. One or two people say they are copying the Beatles, but I think these remarks are unjustifiable as the Undertakers style of presentation is so much different to the Beatles. Can't we agree that at times all the Liverpool groups copy a particular version of an artists top hit record.
The Del Renas certainly stand out in my opinion as one of the most fascinating sounds in the Liverpool rock business. Ray Walker has a great voice which he should use to gain professional engagements. He appears to me to be more at home with slow rock ballads than with the noisy high spirited numbers. Good luck, Ray.
Nov 16 1961: This time I would like to bring to you a topic which I hope will bring in floods of letters to Mersey Beat office. In my estimation, dances at all our ballrooms commence and finish too early in the evenings. 7.30pm or even 8pm is far too early to start and 10.45pm to 11.30pm is too early to finish. At the halls I have been present the 7.30 to 8.30 spot is now classed by me as the 'dull hour', especially on weekend evenings when the majority of patrons who have been out during the afternoon and probably wish to start the evening off with a drink or a little television don't wish to arrive at a dance until 9pm at the earliest.
I have studied the appearance of dancers between these 'dull hours'. Perhaps you may study them also this week (that's if you do arrive early. Fifty percent of them disappear out of the hall as soon as they see a deserted
Could a promoter start running dances, more so at the weekends, by starting at 8.30pm and carrying on until 12.30am - or perhaps it's not up to the promoter but up to us - the dancers. Surely we have a right to ask of what we want. I have spoken to many people and the majority wished for an extra hour's dancing after the session finished. Some of them were not worried by early starts as they were not there anyway. I look forward to receiving your comments. Please write your ideas and send them to Mersey Beat.
Dec 14 1961: Good luck to Faron and the Flamingos, who are off to Germany early next year. Eric London, the Flamingo's bass player is not going, but I understand that the
Undertakers' bassist will be replacing him for the trip.
On Monday December 4th, Stuart MacPherson, rhythm guitarist of Jet & the Valiants, received quite a shock. A short from his guitar brought a vivid flash and an electric shock ran right through him and knocked him out cold. A rather frightening experience to those of us who watched the scene. Artificial respiration was applied to Stuart, who was then taken off to hospital. I'm pleased to say that Stuart has recovered and I mention this incident as a warning to groups, and particularly new groups, who think (or perhaps don't think) it's alright to plug bare wires from an instrument to an amplifier or switchboard. A few shillings buys a plug, and in the case of Jet & the Valiants, it would have saved this episode. By the way, I believe the Valiants are thinking of changing their name to Larry & the Centipedes. Flash Larry & the Pluggers seems more appropriate to me!