Mersey Memories: Part
Artists & Others Reminisce
By Bill Harry
Faron, Bob & the
Faron is a legendary Liverpool performer who has suffered four heart attacks, actually died for a short time on three occasions and with a seriously damaged heart can no longer drink, smoke and is only able to perform while seated.
However, he was so incensed by what he considered a pack of lies in a certain book about the original Mersey scene by a Liverpool person who shall remain nameless, that he is keen to present his own memories to the Mersey Beat site. It was Bob Wooler who named Faron ‘The Panda Footed Prince of Prance’ and Faron has good memories of Bob, who he says, called himself ‘The Truth Sleuth.’ Bob told him that he was worried about what would happen when he died, saying “When I pass I can’t stop all the lies.”
He recalls Bob always carried a small box of records with him, but those records turned out to be influential because the groups included the songs in their repertoire. Faron says that Bob gave the Swinging Bluejeans his copy of ‘Hippy Hippy Shake’, but got annoyed when they didn’t return it or thank him for it. At one time the Beatles opened their act with ‘What’d I Say’, but since so many other groups were performing the number, Bob gave the Beatles the Gary U.S. Bonds number ‘New Orleans’ and suggested that they open their act with it, which they did. He also told the Beatles to listen to the B side of the Shirelles ‘Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow’: the number was ‘Boys.’
Faron also remembers the time the Beatles opened their stage act with “Oooh My Soul.” Paul would be wearing a scarf when he sang. When John sang Paul took the scarf off and gave it to John and when George sang John gave him the scarf. When they were all singing they laid the scarf on an amp.
When Faron saw the Beatles perform at Litherland Town Hall on their return from Germany, he was impressed by George Harrison’s black cowboy boots with a white image of an eagle on them. George agreed to sell him the boots for £4. He recalls that he was at a party and Ringo Starr, who was still with the Hurricanes, was there. The party got a little wild and Ringo took his pants off. Faron noticed he was wearing the boots he’d paid George £4 for. He asked Ringo about them and Ringo said “I gave him £5 for them.”
Incidentally, Faron says that when he saw them at Litherland Town Hall he became green with envy and due to his jealousy, turned to Bob Wooler and said, “They’ll never make it, Bob.” He also remembers topping the bill above the Beatles at a Huyton cinema.
The chain of events which led the Beatles to appear at Litherland Town Hall on 27 December 1960 began when Faron was still leading the TT’s. Bob had been having trouble with the promoter Wally Hill, who he’d been working for. He needed other work so he asked Faron, who he always called ‘Bill’, if he could introduce him to promoter Brian Kelly. At the time, Faron was Kelly’s biggest attraction, but Kelly said that he didn’t need anyone. Faron insisted he ‘give him a go’, so Kelly did.
Bob transformed the presentation at Kelly’s gigs. Previously, groups would just go on the open stage, set up their gear and play. Bob made sure the stage curtains were closed, then he would plug in his dansette record player, make the announcements, the group would begin to play and the curtains were opened. The presentation amazed people with its professional look.
When the Beatles returned from Germany and didn’t have much work, it was Bob who then talked Kelly into putting them on at Litherland Town Hall, a performance which established their local reputation.
Paul Balmer on Jim Gretty: “He used to give us Liverpool musicians 'free' guitar leads and plectrums. I think Frank Hessy knew this and maybe it was a loyalty device - there were no 'freebies' at Rushworths (the main rival store).
“Jim played the cabaret scene and I remember he acquired a new fangled drum machine in 1971 - he started the drum machine set to 'rock n roll shuffle 1' and preceded to perform his whole set to this monotonous setting - even leaving it on for his announcements. The gig was Holy Angels Social Club, Kirkby.
”In the sixties all the 'posh' clubs in central Liverpool had fitted carpet made from scraps of carpet 'off cuts' sewn together. My dad (who was a painter and decorator) did some work at Jim’s house. We were amazed that Jim also had the same 'fitted carpet' throughout his humble terrace. These were the days when fitted carpets were an unknown luxury.
“Jim was a true character and an essential ingredient of the Liverpool scene - 'Freight Train' in C seemed to be his favourite tune.”