By Pete Massey
I remember an incident at one gig we did at a dance hall in Lower Bridge Street, Chester when 'rat face' the bass player was to come forward and sing his only song in the set. Now this venue had very dodgy electrical wiring and when he took hold of the microphone stand to adjust it for his height, he got 240 volts up his right arm. He stood there shaking and wailing like a blues singer for about 30 seconds before we
realized it was not part of his act. We yanked the mic lead out of his hand and he went over flat on his back, just like one of those Walt Disney cartoon characters. The audience howled with laughter, but three minutes later he was back on his feet singing his song. A real trooper that lad!
Our repertoire was mostly American rock 'n' roll, rhythm 'n' blues, blues songs from the likes of John Hammond, Lightnin' Hopkins, the Chambers Brothers and Muddy Waters, 'beefed up' so people could dance to them. How did we select our songs? Basically,
anything we fancied. No hard and fast rules, but not being very good singers, we just did what we thought we might get away with.
About that time (1964/5) I was the manager of the Stead & Simpson shoe shop in Church Street, Liverpool. The city then was alive and vibrant, a fashionable place to be, there seemed to be good live music coming from just about everywhere you went. I would often go to the lunchtime session at the Cavern and much to the disgust of the older members of my staff, come back smelling of stale B.O. and smoke, often with plaster on my sleeves from the walls. I remember that two doors away in Church Street stood John Collier the tailors. The lead singer from another prominent band worked there by day, but I can't remember his name - he was a little fellow, so was called 'little' or 'junior' something-or-other and the band.
I feel sorry for the kids of today, there is no way they can experience one half of the fun we had. It must have been about 1962 that I bought my first acoustic guitar. It was a Levin Goliath Jumbo and I had the Frank Hessy music shop fit a pickup and volume control to it. In about 1965 on the advice of Jim Gretty, who worked for Hessy's, purely for folk music, I bought my Yamaha FG180 acoustic (for £37.19.s.6d - with £2 off for cash!) which I still have and play today. It must have been about that time that the Marrowbones folk group was born.
Editor's Note: In 1962 Peter and Gordon went to see the Spinners (the Liverpool folk group) in concert. This inspired them to introduce folk songs into their repertoire. They eventually decided to concentrate on folk music, swapping their electric guitars for acoustic instruments. The two were then joined by Peter's wife Sandra and Gordon's younger brother Graham to become a fully-fledged folk outfit which they called the Marrowbones.
They disbanded two years later when Graham had to move to another part of the country due to his job. Peter and Sandra continued as a duo and Gordon formed a folk outfit called Dobbie's Loan in Scotland.
Nearly 20 years later Gordon returned to the Chester area and teamed up with Peter in a duo.
Adopting their original folk name the Marrowbones, Peter plays guitar, electric bass and vocals. Gordon plays mandolin, bouzouki, guitar and vocals.
Chester was an area I covered in Mersey Beat as I regarded it as part of my 'beat'. I asked Peter to comment on any of the Chester groups between the years 1958-1964. He told me: "I have been racking my brains to remember their names, but of the principal groups of that time the Landsliders is the first group to spring to mind, as this was the forerunner of what was to become Adam & the Apples and eventually the Black Abbots.
Others around the same time included the Roadrunners, the Deacons, the Exchequers and Jeannie & the Big Guys, but there must have been hundreds of others.
I can remember going to the jazz club at Quaintways one evening to see Gary Farr & the T-Bones. In the five or six rows of seats placed just in front of the stage was Bob Turner of the Abbots and quite a few others who played in the local groups. I think we all sat there spellbound, trying to remember the lead guitarists' riffs etc. We used to salivate over the expensive guitars these 'London' groups could afford.
Quaintways was probably the main 'in fashion' venue to go to. I remember seeing top artists like Long John Baldry, the Baron Knights and such like there, but there was also the River Park Ballroom and the Majestic Ballroom. They seemed to book bands like Freddie Starr & the Midnighters, the Fourmost and the Undertakers."