The 'This Is Mersey Beat' Story

By Bill Harry  

This is Mersey Beat coverWith the emergence of the Beatles, followed by Gerry & the Pacemakers, the Searchers and other Liverpool groups, the media began to talk of 'the Mersey sound' of 'the Liverpool sound.' It was never called Mersey Beat. Mersey Beat was a registered name and was copyright since I registered it as a limited company in 1961. At times I gave permission for people to use the name - hence, the Mersey Beats group. Brian Epstein also asked my permission to use the name for a series of six one-night package tours in 1963 which he wanted to call 'Mersey Beat Showcase.' The term the Mersey Sound continued to be used in all references to the sound. There was even a famous Daily Worker (the Communist newspaper) quote: "The Mersey Sound is the voice of 80,000 crumbling houses and 30,000 people on the dole." However, I may have inadvertently led to the paper's name being used to replace those terms when John Schroeder and Geoff Frost came to Liverpool to record local groups with a mobile recording unit. John asked me to record a vocal introduction to the LPs and I ended it by saying "This, then is Mersey Beat." When it came to name the albums, John then thought it appropriate to use that tag, which I agreed to, and the albums were called 'This Is Mersey Beat.' When the albums were about to be released I asked John to write about the recording sessions for Mersey Beat and although he initially referred to it as the Liverpool sound, he also called the music Mersey Beat. Yet it was still to be several years after the original advent of the Liverpool sound that people then began to refer to it as Mersey Beat.

May 23 1963

Oriole's leading A&R man John Schroeder, recently set up a recording unit at the Rialto Ballroom, Liverpool, aided by recording engineer Geoff Frost, who built the unit from spare parts at a cost of approximately £6,000. His intention was to capture the Liverpool sound, recording groups on their home ground, for a forthcoming LP - 'This Is Mersey Beat!'

Groups who recorded with the unit are: Earl Preston and the TT's; the Nomads; Ian and the Zodiacs; Rory Storm and the Hurricanes; Faron's Flamingo's; Derry Wilkie and the Pressmen; Sonny Webb and the Cascades; Mark Peters and the Silhouettes; the Del Renas; the Renegades; the Four Clefs; the Roadrunners; the Executioners and the Mersey Beats.

The first group to record were the Nomads, who are a fairly new group on the local scene. although the backing was satisfactory, the vocals left a lot to be desired and John Schroeder gave the boys suggestions on how to improve their act. It is interesting to note that the group returned for a further recording session the following Sunday and thus were both the first and the last group to record with the unit.

Geoff Frost and John Schroeder at the Rialto recordings Mr. Schroeder was very impressed with the numbers the boys had written themselves and considers them to have a big future ahead of them in the songwriting field. Further proof that their songs have a hit parade quality occurred later in the week when they won the songwriting section of the Beat Group Contest at the Philharmonic Hall.

Another group who made a big impression - Early Preston and the TT's are one of the most under-rated groups in the city. The TT's have been around for some time and have a great deal of experience. They have toured France and have played at the leading venues on Merseyside for some years. Vocalist Earl has the looks and the voice to add extra quality to a first-class outfit - and Mersey Beat has great hopes for the group. Watch for further coverage of their activities in future issues of Mersey Beat.

Rory Storm and the Hurricanes are another group who will definitely appear on the LP. John Schroeder commented that Rory's rendition of 'Dr Feelgood' was one of the most dynamic performances he had recorded during the week. Guitarist Lu Walters also sang an exciting version of 'Beautiful Dreamer.' Rory's drummer Brian Johnson, who will shortly be leaving the group, sat in during the recording of of Ian and the Zodiacs in the absence of their regular drummer. This group also produced some very worthwhile tracks.

Derry Wilkie and the Pressmen had only been together for a few days when they arrived at the recording session - and the same week they were winners in the Beat Group competition winning a Decca recording contract. However, their recordings with Oriole will be issued on the LP - and the sound and earthiness of Derry's voice has been captured.

Faron's Flamingo's and Mark Peters and the Silhouettes were both signed up by Oriole to record singles, and their discs will be issued in the near future. Mark, who writes his own material, has the good looks and vocal artistry to make a big impact nationally.

Faron's Flamingo's are good ambassadors for the Liverpool sound - in fact at the time of the recording they had a decca contract but decided to sign with Oriole.

One humorous event took place when the unit was recording the Flamingo's during the early hours of the morning. The sound of radio cab drivers conversing with each other came over the amplifiers, then there was a puzzled gasp 'What's that, Fred!' when the group started to play. Other groups likely to appear on the LP are Sonny Webb and the Cascades and the Del Renas. John Schroeder was very pleased with the results he obtained and will be writing his own report on the event in the next issue of Mersey Beat.

The mobile unit used in the recording Although less than a handful of Merseyside groups sparked off the biggest National controversy the pop world has ever known - the subject of the controversy, the Merseyside sound, has never yet been given a fair crack of the whip.

The Beatles, Gerry & the Pacemakers and Billy J. Kramer & the Dakotas swept into the charts - and suddenly the attitude of musical papers and D.J.'s changed - they didn't want to hear of any more Liverpool groups...perhaps they considered that the talent from the North held too much competition. This week the country will really begin to understand what the Merseyside sound stands for. This week the groups really emerge.

Lee Curtis & the All Stars and the Big Three had discs released on June 28th.. Johnny Sandon & the Remo Four and the Undertakers saw the release of their first records on July 2nd. on July 6th Fontana releases a disc by Earl Preston & the TT's and on the same day, ten Merseyside groups are represented on a two-album LP released by Oriole.

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