On My Liverpool Beat

By Bill Harry  

On My Liverpool BeatIn 1964 I had a weekly column in a teen magazine called 'Marilyn.' It was called 'On My Liverpool Beat.' I was looking through some old clippings of it the other day and present some of the entries here: FIRST DRUMMER? I rarely see Frank Wibberley these days because he is now with Emile Ford and travels the Cabaret circuits throughout the country. Frank has been playing drums for sixteen years and claims to be Liverpool's first rock 'n' roll drummer. "The very first Rock group on Merseyside were the Rhythm Rockers," he says, "and I was a member of the group." Frank, who was also a member of the Four Aces, joined Howie Casey & the Seniors and was with them for eighteen months. The Seniors were the first Mersey Beat group to record, but disbanded when they were on the brink of success. Frank then joined the Lee Eddie 5 and in time became a member of Emile Ford's backing group.

Merseyside's No. 1 instrumental group are the latest Liverpool signing of Brian Epstein. They are the Remo 4, and frequently provide the backing for Cilla Black and Tommy Quickly on tours. They have also backed Tommy and Gregory Phillips on disc. One of the Mersey outfits to broadcast on Radio Luxembourg, the Remo 4 had a major personnel change in '62, and only two founder members, Colin Manley and Don Andrew remain in the present line-up. Two former members, Harry Prytherch and Keith Stokes, decided to remain semi-professional and formed another group - Group One. Incidentally, Don Andrew has a younger brother who is a member of a dynamic rhythm and blues outfit - the Mastersounds. He calls himself Mal Jefferson.

I was looking at an advertisement for a show which took place on November 5 1962 the other day. It was one of the numerous promotions Brian Epstein presented at the Queens Hall, Widnes, and on the bill were the Big Three, Lee Curtis & the All Stars, Ian & the Zodiacs and Johnny Martin & the Tremors. The blurb announcing the Big Three read: "Little Richard thought 'em great! Joe Brown said they were terrific! Bruce Channel wrote about 'em! Gene Vincent, Cliff Bennett, Mike Berry, Buddy Britten all like to hear...THE BIG THREE!' This reminded me of the tremendous potential the group had...and when they signed with Brian Epstein they had two singles in the Top 30. Since they left him there have been numerous changes and the current personnel are Paul Pilnick. Johnny Hutchinson and Faron. I hope they find success again. The following week, Brian presented Billy Kramer & the Coasters at the Queens Hall - and booked them for several further appearances. At the same venue he discovered Tommy Quickly. His Widnes promotions certainly paid off - in talent discoveries!

Gerry with his skiffle group
No wonder Gerry Marsden is such a professional singer, although he's only young, he's a seasoned performer - he's been in show biz since he was 'so high.' When he was 14, he joined a youth club band called The Red Mountain Boys and later formed a skiffle group - Gerry Marsden & the Mars Bars. His fellow musicians were his brother Freddie, Dixie Dean (washboard) and Jim Tobin (bass). Bookings around this time included a week at the Pavilion in a 'Dublin To Dingle' show, three weeks in variety at Liverpool's Empire Theatre, and appearances at Hope Hall.

When Dixie and Jim left, the Marsden boys were joined by Les Chadwick and for six months they continued as the Gerry Marsden Trio. Pianist Arthur McMahon joined them and the group became Gerry & the Pacemakers. Arthur 'Mack' left the group and they continued as a trio for six months before being joined by Les Maguire. Before becoming stars in their own right they backed numerous recording artists including Fats Domino, Craig Douglas, Joe Brown and Danny Williams.

Chris Curtis of the Searchers was one of the first people to comment on why Hamburg helped a group to improve. "In Hamburg," he told me, "we played vocal group numbers - using four voices. Unfortunately, it's not possible in Liverpool as there are not enough microphones at most venues. We found that in Hamburg we practiced harder because of the highly appreciative audiences. "There is terrific organization there, and playing every night helps a group to improve tremendously." Of course, things have changed in Liverpool since Chris talked to me about their first German trip two years ago. The new Mersey outfits find they have ample microphones at most venues they play these days.

What was the Swinging Bluejeans first disc? Their own composition 'It's Too Late Now?' No! It was that old standard 'The Isle of Capri.' The disc was aired on Radio Luxembourg and the BBC, but was never released. As a matter of fact, the Bluejeans recorded long before the Beatles. 

Early in 1962 they recorded at Oriole for A&R man John Schroeder and the disc 'Isle Of Capri' was to be their first crack at the charts. However, John Schroeder decided that the title was not commercial enough and as it could not be changed due to copyright difficulties, it was not issued.

Their next recording took place later in 1962 when they made an original composition 'Dizzy Chimes' for Joe Meek. But nothing came of it. However, it was a case of third time lucky when they secured an HMV contract. When they had waxed their earlier discs they had banjo and double bass in the line-up and the sound was not considered as commercial.

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