While My Guitar
The Tragic Story of Rory
Storm & the Hurricanes
By Bill Harry
In the meantime, the above account is only the beginning of Mersey Beat's coverage of the legendary Rory Storm & the Hurricanes. Readers are invited to submit their own recollections and anecdotes of Liverpool's 'Golden Boy'. I will also be tracing the history of individual members of the group that originally began as a skiffle outfit formed by Rory and Johnny Guitar in January 1957. Other members were Jeff Truman on tea chest bass, Paul Murphy on guitar/vocal and Reg Hales on washboard. Spud Ward replaced Truman on bass guitar. Another early member was Jim Turner who later went on to manage the Odd Spot Club and groups such as Faron's Flamingos.
I always remember the classic Hurricanes - Rory, Johnny, Ringo, Ty and Lou. Over the years there were various changes in personnel, here is just a brief breakdown:
When Ringo left to join the Beatles he was replaced by Gibson Kemp. Gibson then left to join the Dominoes in Hamburg where he married Astrid Kirchherr. Brian Johnson replaced him and recorded with the group for the 'This Is Mersey Beat' albums, but then left to join Mark Peters & the Silhouettes. Keef Hartley from a Preston group, the Thunderbeats, replaced him, but then joined the Midnighters whose drummer Ian Broad then tok his place in the Hurricanes. When Broad joined the Seniors, Trevor Morais, former drummer with Faron's Flamingos replaced him - but then went on to join the Peddlers. In February 1964 drummer Jimmy Tushingham joined Rory, Johnny, Lou and Ty. Lou left the group to be replaced by Vince Earl, who was replaced by Dave May. Other bass guitarists followed, including former group leader Karl Terry. By 1967 their line-up comprised the two founder members Rory and Johnny, with Carl Rich on drums, Keith Karlson on bass and Adrian Lord on guitar. This was their last line-up.
On hearing of Rory's death, Derek Taylor was to comment, "He was a first-class band leader quite apart from his singing ability. The last time we met was in 1964, when the late Brian Epstein brought him and his group to London to record 'America.'
"It was a first class piece of work, but unfortunately didn't make the charts. His mum was just as involved in the band as he was, and I think, sometimes, that she was the one who kept him going."
John Cirillo produced an interesting section about Rory Storm on his website and received several letters from people with their recollections. John has given me permission to reproduce them.
The first is from Rod Fountain:
"I recall Rory Storm & the Hurricanes very clearly. They played every night at the 'Viennese Room' at Butlin's camp in Pwllweli in North Wales. I was about 17 at the time. Rory Storm often wore a rather 'Liberace' sparkly jacket at that time and had blonde hair that made the girls wet their knickers. I particularly recall Rory because, as he pushed his way to the stage, he spilled my glass of beer. This pissed me off rather badly, so a small fracas took place and I, along with a couple of my pals, got thrown out (I was an ornery teenager at the time, ready to fight anyone).
"The next day we saw Rory and his group down at the pool and I was keen to show him I didn't take shit from anyone. We were all set for a blood bath, but somehow the hard words and threats didn't seem the same in the morning sun, so, as it turned out, we ended up having a couple of beers with the guys. The Butlin's chalet security were all set to throw us out of the camp for being troublemakers but Rory told them to chill out and let us stay. That night we went again to the Viennese Room and saw the group play for the first time. The number that brought the house down was 'Boys' and it really got the place jumping. That night I lost my virginity to an 'old' 25-yea-old woman who worked in the Viennese Room, so I guess Rory's music really made its impact.
"At that time the Beatles and the Liverpool Beat was not really heard by the rest of the U.K. but those holiday camps drew kids from all over the country and for the first time we began to feel that a British group had found a new sound that we could call 'ours' and not imported from the USA. Prior to that time Elvis and Bill Haley were the only new vibes for the kids to identify with as being their kinda music. The Rory Storm group had something very special...a rich blend of rock and blues and I reckon that if Brian Epstein had seen Rory first the Beatles may have been left a a buncha guys playing in a cellar."
The next letter was from Dave Wells:
"They were a fabulous band and certainly the best showband on the Mersey scene. I used to play with a Wallasey band called the Vibrators (well, they weren't invented them!) and played opening group before them when they played 'over the water' i.e. Birkenhead or Wallasey.
"The line-up when they played with us was always Rory, Lou, Ty, Johnny G and various drummers. I always thought of Ty as the lead guitar while JG played great chunky rhythm. Some of the numbers they featured were 'I Can Tell', 'Johnny B. Goode', 'Reelin' And Rockin'', 'Fortune Teller', 'Heartbeat', 'Say Mama' and 'Hallelujah I Love Her So.'
"I recall they all had different coloured suits (pink, blue, yellow, etc). When we played a gig with them at the open air swimming pool at New Brighton, to finish his act Rory dived off the TOP diving board into the pool!
"We used to get about £12 per night for opening (the whole band) and Rory's average fee was about £30 (Big money!). I also depped a few times for Vince Earl's band the Talismen, when my late school friend (Keith Ellis of the Koobas) was unavailable.
"I am still strumming in the Bristol area where I now live and play in a Rock duo called the Polecats."
The third letter is from Eric Hunter:
"Rory may have been 'sporting enough to let the inevitable happen' (lose Ringo to the Beatles), however, he was unprepared for it and had not lined up a replacement drummer. For the first night at least Rory's drummer was simply a Butlin's redcoat (a member of the entertainment staff). I recall this clearly as I was selling hotdogs outside the Rock 'n Calypso Ballroom, Rory's nightly venue at Butlin's Skegness. The news from Chris (a Redcoat) was that Ringo had left to join another group. He wasn't sure of their name, but thought it started with 'B'.
"Rory & the Hurricanes played at Butlin's Pwllheli in 1960 and 1961 (summer season, probably May through to end of August). They were at Butlin's, Skegness in 1962.
"The highlight of Rory and the Hurricanes week was the weekly rock show in 'Europe's First Air-Conditioned Theatre' (in big letters over the proscenium arch in the Butlin's theatre).
"The first part of the show had a group playing jazz standards. After half an hour their music faded, the lights flashed, the music stepped up a gear, and the stage revolved to reveal Ringo raised above and behind the rest of the Hurricanes, his head shaking wildly as he pounded his regulation drum kit, to the group's opening anthem. And then HE swept onto the stage and like his name, took the theatre by storm. On the concert stage he was a giant. Others emulated Rory in the 1970's and later, but they had the benefit of more sophisticated amplification equipment.
"He was, on stage, a charismatic showman. A glam rocker before the glam rockers. Elton John before Elton John. He used his stage clothes and props to shock, but it was his skill in 'working the audience' that was most remarkable, made more so because he did not have a great singing voice (I know that is subjective, and it didn't stop lesser talents succeeding).
"I worked at Butlin's for six weeks in the summer of 1962 and saw the rock show every week. Incidentally, the group (we didn't call them bands in those days) had a member called Bobby Thompson that summer."