The Tower Ballroom

(cont.)
   

Billy Kramer on the Little Richard showEpstein was later to produce the Hurricanes on record and also later to sign Kramer and team him with Manchester's Dakotas. He was also to sign the Big Three whose drummer Johnny Hutchinson filled the stopgap when Best was sacked. Epstein considered signing the Merseybeats and they eventually became a NEMS band and he signed the Four Jays who became the Fourmost. Jackie Lomax, lead singer with the Undertakers, later became an Apple artist, recorded by both Paul McCartney and George Harrison.

On 23 November the Beatles appeared on the bill of the 12th Annual Lancashire and Cheshire Arts Ball. Also appearing were Billy Kramer and the Coasters, the Llew Hird Jazz Band and the Clan McLeod Pipe Band.

The Beatles last Tower appearance during 1962 was on 7 December when they topped the bill on a line-up of seven local bands.

Bob Wooler was to present a special Easter Monday Show on 14 April 1963 headlined by Gerry & the Pacemakers. The other acts were Billy Kramer & the Dakotas, Peter Jay & the Jaywalkers, Shane Fenton & the Fentones and Jimmy Powell Takes Five.

The Beatles final appearance at the Tower Ballroom took place on Friday 14 June 1963 on a special NEMS Enterprises presentation of their 'Mersey Beat Showcase' series. The Beatles were supported by Gerry & the Pacemakers and five other groups.

The building was destroyed by fire in 1969 and only the shell was left. It was demolished and a housing estate now occupies the former site.

Chris Huston, former member of the Undertakers, recalls when the group was booked for an Operation Big Beat promotion in 1962:

Joe Brown poster"The evening was exciting because we were playing on our home turf. The Tower Ballroom was a huge place and always drew a large crowd, although even a crowd of 1,000 or 1,200 barely seemed to throw a shadow across the dance floor. We got there early, around 6.30pm, and waited while the PA was set up so that we could get a little bit of practice in. I don't think the concept of a fully-fledged 'sound-check' had come to fruition in those early days. After all, there were certain limitations to what you could do with four microphones and four volume controls with a couple of 12" speakers at each side of the stage.

"The PA system was supplied by Alpha Sound, which was Liverpool promoter Brian Kelly's company. He supplied the PA's for practically all the major clubs and dances on Merseyside. Renting or leasing them to the various venues. By today's standards the PA system that was used at the Tower was laughable. It consisted of a black painted, open-back wooden speaker enclosure at each side of the stage, each having 2 x 12" speakers. That was it! There were no stage monitors at all. This being another concept whose time had not yet arrived. Luckily, guitar amplifiers weren't all that big either, so there was a sort of tenuous balance between the instruments and the vocals, although the instruments always seemed to win out, in the end.

"The Strangers opened that night. 'Joe and the Strangers.' Joe, the leader was a good all round musician/singer and we did quite a few gigs with him and his group, including a Star Club gig. Joe 'Stranger' had the unique distinction of being the only musician that Horst Fascher ever beat up. Boy that was a night...and another story! And yes, Paul did sit in on drums with the Strangers at the Cavern, once. I was there for that one too.

"Rory Storm played that night. I've read a lot of stories and accounts about Rory Storm & the Hurricanes but none of them seem to capture what he was about. To be honest, I'm not sure that I can even explain it myself, but I'll try: Rory was, first and foremost, a natural performer. He'd started his career under his own name, Alan Caldwell, and formed the Alan Caldwell Skiffle Group in the late Fifties. From there they became the Raving Texans and finally, Rory Storm & the Hurricanes.

"He was a different person when he had an audience in front of him. He no longer stuttered, as he did during normal conversation. He had a wonderful onstage presence that belied his shy and inoffensive offstage demeanor. He was a really nice person who never seemed to have anything bad to say about anybody.

"Rory didn't have a noticeably great voice, but somehow that didn't seem to matter. His personality more than made up for any of his other deficiencies and the girls just loved him. The group's song list was interchangeable with almost every other Merseyside group, being an eclectic collection of current vocal and instrumental hits interspersed with whatever blues and R&B song that we could collectively find. I say 'we' and 'collectively' because it seemed like every other group had it in their show.

"The big difference was that, if Liverpool had a 'show band', Rory Storm & the Hurricanes were it. They dressed in colourful day-glo jackets which they'd bought for their yearly Summer season gigs at Britain's legendary 'holiday camps', Butlin's in Pwllheli and Prestatyn, in North Wales. With Rory fronting them, they were a great group to watch.

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