The Merseys

By Billy Kinsley  

The MerseysLate in 1965 Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp came to see us, the Merseybeats, in a pub in London where we were playing. It was becoming the thing to do as lots of known or up-and-coming bands were playing there. They were thrilled at the way we won the crowd as we went on in almost complete silence, but eventually brought the house down!

Kit and Chris, who were very impressed, introduced themselves after the show and asked who was managing us. We told them we didn't have a manager and they offered their services, right there and then.

Liverpool was certainly on the wane and becoming a hindrance by then and we were thrilled that the managers of the Who now wanted to manage us. We then got a new lease of life as everything seemed to be happening again: all the major TV shows, a re-negotiated recording contract and even more press coverage.

However, Aaron and John over-indulged, to say the least and Kit and Chris were losing patience with them. The way things were going, I don't blame them. John went missing a few times and we had to get deps in. One was Gibson Kemp, the other was Kenny Mundye. Aaron went missing on the Isle of Wight and we played as a threesome.

In January 1966 Kit and Chris had a meeting with Tony Crane and said that they weren't prepared to carry on managing us unless we got rid of John Banks and Aaron Williams because they felt they were both going off in their own little world and didn't take the band seriously. They also thought that Liverpool bands with the conventional type of line-up were on their way out.

I wasn't asked to the meeting because John (however crazy) was still my best friend and we'd been at school together and known each other since we were kids. I think they wanted Tony to test the water. Tony then told me that Kit and Chris's idea was to have the Merseybeats become a duo and change our name to the Merseys. I thought it was pretty strange at first (half a band with half a name), but I knew we had to do something about our situation. My first thought was - how we could just leave John and Aaron in the lurch after all we'd been through? Reluctantly, I agreed to the split on the proviso that if Tony and I became the Merseys, then John and Aaron could carry on as the Merseybeats with two new musicians (including Johnny Gustafson perhaps?), but they never got around to doing anything about it and both of them went their separate ways.

When the split came, Kit told them. Tony and I couldn't do it, we were cowards! John went to play in Israel in the early Seventies for Mandy Rice Davies, who had a club in Tel Aviv. He stayed there until March 1988 when he had to come home as he was seriously ill. He was diagnosed with throat cancer and was operated on almost immediately, but sadly passed away on April 20 1988. Johnny Gustafson and I were with him when he died. It was the saddest moment of my life as I'd known John since I was ten years old.

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