The Diaries of Johnny Guitar

By Bill Harry  

Elvis Presley in 'Love Me Tender'Some years ago Johnny Byrne, former member of Rory Storm & the Hurricanes, passed on to me part of the diaries he had kept from the late 1950s, together with permission to use them for my Mersey Beat project. To some people they may seem slight, with entries being confined to a few words or sentences per day - but this is how a lot of small diaries of ordinary folk used to be in those days. The pocket diaries whose tiny pages only allowed for a few words per day, but were typical of that time: John Lennon was able to spoof such diaries in 'The John Lennon Diary', where each day the entry was the same, a monotonous catalogue of the 'got up', 'went to bed' variety, except for Saturdays in which he euphemistically 'slept' with the wife.

Personally, I find Johnny's diaries to be of important sociological significance, particularly as, despite the brevity of the entries, they provide an intriguing insight into the everyday life of a teenage musician in Liverpool during the birth of the Mersey sound. It is also a diary of youthful romance.

Going out with a girl or 'courting' in those days meant numerous trips to the cinema. One of the local papers, the Liverpool Echo, was a broadsheet whose front page was filled with classified advertisements for entertainment, listing literally scores of cinemas throughout Merseyside. There was also a tabloid newspaper in Liverpool at the time, the Evening Express. 

Entering the CavernThese entries run from the beginning of 1958 until the end of 1963. I have added my own notes in part to clarify names, places or situations to add some further flesh to the bones of Johnny's personal odyssey into the world of rock 'n' roll music. I have also included the notes Johnny made at the end or beginning of each year, his list of names, phone numbers and contacts. I decided to include them because they also give an insight into the dealings of a young Liverpool musician and the telephone numbers no longer exist, so no privacy will be contravened.

Johnny was a member of the legendary Liverpool outfit Rory Storm & the Hurricanes.

1958
January
1. Day off work. Raining hard. Went to collect amplifier.
2. Back to work. Practiced in cellar for Cavern.
3. Playing at Cavern. Didn't do too well. Saw Helen and had chat.
5. Went to Regent with Pam.
7. Practiced in cellar for Cavern. Alan's birthday.
8. Playing at Cavern. Good reception.
11. Alan's party.
12. Went to Cavern.
13. Saw 'Not Of This Earth.' Good.
14. Practiced in cellar.
16. Saw Helen. Went to Tatler.
17. Bought shirt.
18. Went to Cavern.
19. Snow.
25. Saw 'Gone With The Wind.' Very good.

February
1. Went to Cavern.
2. New girl started.
7. First date with Pat. Went to Carlton. Snowing heavily.
8. Saturday. Went with Jill to pictures.
9. Went to Jean's house and had a good time.
10. Went to Curzon with Pat.
12. Date with Pat.
14. Lathom Hall Dance. Los Toros were playing.
15. Student's Panto dance. Went with Pat. Very good.
16. Southport club. Got good reception.
17. Went to Carlton with Pat to see 'Night Of The Demon.' Corny.
18. Wrote to Stanley Dale's skiffle contest.
23. Went to Cavern with Pat. Had big row.
25. Went to Regent with Pat.
28. Went to Carlton with Pat. Paul got car.

March
1. Went to 'Loving You' with Pat.
2. Went to Empire to get instructions. Jim Dale was there.
3. Jim Dale skiffle contest at Empire. Practiced.
4. Went to Curzon with Pat to see 'The Giant Claw'. Corny.
5. Heat. We're on at 7.45. Got through to semi-finals.
6. Empire. Semi-finals. We got through again.
7. Empire. Finals. Darktown won the contest.
10. Went to Regent with Pat to see 'Invasion Of The Hell Creatures.' Good laugh.
11. Snowed. Went round to cellar. Ken and Murphy put up striplight. Cost £3.
12. Clearing up cellar for opening tomorrow night.
13. Margie Skiffle Cellar reopens. Pat went. Good night.
14. Went to see 'Lucky Jim' at Regent with Pat.
15. Art school dance. Not too bad. Took Pat.
16. Went to cellar in Wallasey called 'La Boheme.' Pat was ill.
18. Met cousin Joe on bus. He had red guitar. Went to Regent with Mike and Greg.
19. Childwall High School dance for girls. Good night.
20. Playing at the Morgue. Pat went. Good night.
21. Supposed to see Pat at Regent but she never turned up. So saw 'The One That Got Away' with Mike. Good picture.
22. Playing at La Boheme. Took Pat.
23. Took Pat to Cavern.
24. Went with Pat to Curzon to see 'The Dead That Walk.' Corny.
25. Playing at Morgue. Took Pat.
26. Went to Temple to see if there was a chance of dates. Told to write to Manchester by manager.
27. Southport - never went. Played at cellar. Took Pat. Got a big crowd. Bluegenes were playing.
28. Went to Curzon with Pat to see 'The Pride And The Passion.' Good.
29. Playing at La Boheme, but on arriving found it was an error. Took Pat. Express write up.
30. Went to Curzon with Pat to see 'Just My Luck.' All right.

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