By Bill Harry
Nicky Crouch is another essential Mersey musician who began performing in a skiffle group in the 1950s and still performs today as a member of the Merseycats (an association of artists who were part of the original Mersey Sound era).
Born in Liverpool on February 9 1943, and brought up in a three story Victorian house at 11 Balmoral Road, Aintree, Liverpool 9 he recalls that his father was away in Burma until he was three and says, "My father used to be into classical music with loads of 78s kept in a tin trunk.
"I used to listen to Radio Luxembourg and anything else that had music in it from as far back as I can remember. Big Bill Broonzy, Djano Reinhart and Chet Atkins especially impressed me.
"I started playing when I was around 12, but didn't play for real until I was about 14. I formed my own skiffle group called the HiHats with Eric London on oil drum bass, Billy Jones on guitar, Herbie Lloyd on washboard, myself on lead guitar and vocals and Trevor Morais on anything he could hit!"
The members had been friends who'd attended the same youth club in Aintree and they used to practice in each other's houses, although mainly at Billy's at 58 Orrell Lane, Aintree and they entered the numerous skiffle competitions held at local venues.
"I met Trevor morais at a cycling club race," Nicky recalls. "He became the drummer because he liked to hit things. Trevor lived with us for a while as he didn't get on with his family and there was also a bit of prejudice that I didn't understand and didn't want to know about.
"My mother bought me a Hofner President and a Watkins 30 amp on the drip from Rushworths. I can't remember how much for, but I do know it was in guineas - and it was a fortune in those days!" He was later to add, "My mother signed for the HP, about 3/6d a week. I think it cost £59."
The HiHats turned from acoustic to electric and in 1959 began to call themselves the Ravens.
"We became the Ravens and got proper uniforms. Robin (no one seems to recall his real name) joined us and we became Robin & the Ravens," it was a group which lasted until September 1961.
"Going to a gig became a major operation now that our equipment was expanding. As none of us had any
motorized transport our usual method of getting there was by bus. We had many heated arguments with irate bus conductors about bringing a tea chest bass, assorted guitars and amplifiers, not to mention a weird collection of bits and pieces loosely termed 'the drum kit', onto the bus. If the gig was within walking distance we would hire all the kids in the neighbourhood, at a tanner a time, to transport our gear on their go-karts, prams, pushbikes or whatever they could find with wheels."
When singer Earl Preston replaced Faron in the Tempest Tornadoes, Faron joined the Ravens.
Recalls Nicky, "Faron and I were waiting for a bus to get home after an appearance at Hambleton Hall. Bob Wooler, who was the compere at the hall was at the stop with us and we got talking and he said, 'From henceforth you shall be known as Faron's Flamingos.' And he turned to Faron and said 'you shall be known as the Panda Footed Prince of Prance.'"