The Tower Ballroom
"I can't truthfully say that I remember the songs they played that evening - I don't! What I do remember is that Rory and his group looked great on stage. I remember this because as I was watching them, standing off to one side, near the front of the stage, Johnny 'Guitar' Byrne shouted down to me, "Chris, have you got a guitar chord?" as he momentarily held his Antoria guitar up and inclined his head down towards the jack plug. Apparently, his guitar cable was buzzing because the plastic jack cover had broken and the connections were shorting out. I went backstage and got one of my cables and threw it to him, from the side of the stage. It's strange how little things like this, forgotten for God knows how many years, can come back to you.
"The Merseybeats, formerly the Mavericks, were also on the bill that night. I remember them as a very consistent band. By that I mean that they never seemed to vary, favouring slower songs and ballads, always putting on a good show. Billy Kinsley: bass; Tony Crane: lead vocals; Dave Elias: rhythm guitar and Frank Sloane: drums. Soon-to-be-famous Merseyside D.J. Billy Butler often got up and sang with them.
"Playing at the Tower was a blast. This was mainly because the crowds were always so enthusiastic. I suppose that in all honesty, the degree of excitement and enthusiasm might have been in direct proportion to the large amounts of alcohol consumed. Nevertheless, there was always high excitement at the Tower. This is very important when you are a shit-kicking rock 'n' roll group - i.e.: there has to be some feedback!
"As I mentioned earlier, the place was cavernous, consisting of a wonderfully high ceiling, huge dance floor with banquettes all around the perimeter. There was always a crowd at the front of the stage. Girls mostly. Being the biggest venue on Merseyside it was ideal for the big shows that NEMS put on to showcase the Beatles, with the Big American stars like Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard and Bruce Channel.
"Looking out from the stage was daunting in that I remember thinking how lucky we were that there were a lot of people there and how terrible it would be to have to play to only a few hundred or so people. In size, there was a night and day difference between this place and the Star Club, a converted cinema, where we had played just a few months before. There was, however, one thing that both places had in common, a propensity for sudden violence and I remember quite a few pitched battles at both the Tower and the Star Club.
"I don't remember anything specific or unusual about our performance other than a fight suddenly broke out in the middle of the dance floor and Geoff Nugent, our rhythm guitarist and singer, suddenly started singing 'Roll Over Beethoven', our 'fight song'. This was what we usually did when a fight started although I'm still not quite sure why. I always thought that it helped keep the other patrons busy, dancing. But, upon further examination, this scenario just doesn't hold up and, for the life of me, I can't come up with another one.
"We played at the Tower many times over the next few years. The Tower Ballroom will always be remembered on Merseyside as one of the premier venues. I suppose that is because of the fabulous artists and bands that performed there, during the early days of rock 'n' roll and the Mersey Sound. To play alongside these stars was both an honour and a learning experience.
As a member of the Merseybeats, Billy Kinsley recalls the night he appeared there with Little Richard and the Beatles.
"We were first on and were so excited starting the whole night off that we overlooked a lot of things that proved very embarrassing for us.
"As you may well remember we did a lot of Everly Brothers' numbers in our act and one of them was their version of 'Lucille.' We were halfway through it watching the thousands of people coming into the hall from every conceivable pillar and post, when suddenly right in front of me appeared Little Richard, white towel around his naked chest as he was in the middle of a shave, holding a shaving brush in one hand and more importantly a razor in the other.
He was shouting and bawling, 'You bastards, you plagiarists, you're doing my fucking song!'
"We got the point and with a very red face I turned to the rest of the band and said 'Dizzy Miss Lizzie' quick, and promptly went into that number. The only thing I could think of to shout down to Mr. Penniman was, 'Sorry Little.'
"We didn't see him after the show, which was probably for the best.
"Many years later I told this story to Jerry Allison and Joe B. Mauldin from the Crickets and they loved it as they'd had a very similar experience with Buddy Holly doing one of Little Richard's songs and getting the same kind of verbal assault from the side of the stage."
Editor's Note: At one time, Tower manager Tommy McArdle gave me access to the files in the ballroom, a valuable archive of history which, sadly, was destroyed in the fire.
Brian Epstein also asked me to design the poster for the Joe Brown/Beatles Show at the Tower and I obliged.
There were numerous other promotions at the Tower including a special tribute to the Searchers by the Lord and Lady Mayor of Birkenhead, which I took photos of.
The most memorable moment was when Little Richard appeared. Virginia and I were accompanied by our photographer Led Chadwick and I asked Richard if we could take a photo of him and the Beatles. This took place in the band room and I gathered them all together for the historic photograph. Les also took some other shots for me, including one of Richard with members of the Chants and Sugar Deen with Richard.
Paul McCartney spotted Joe Ankrah backstage and invited him and his group the Chants to the Cavern where the Beatles provided backing for them. At another gig, Paul was so taken with the sight of Iris Caldwell, dancing with the Kingtwisters in a costume which displayed her legs in fishnet stockings, that he began dating her.
The Little Richard Show was also attended by members of the Liverpool Science Fiction Society who had also put Little Richard's photo on the cover of their Space Diversions magazine.
Chris Huston's recollections are from his forthcoming book and remain his copyright. His mention of Joe 'Stranger' refers to Joe Fagin. The Strangers were one of the most underrated groups on the Mersey scene and have still not received an acknowledgement to this day.
Joe eventually went solo and issued his 12" single 'The Pride of Merseyside' in 1987 and found himself reaching No. 3 in the British charts with 'That's Livin' Alright', the theme tune from the TV series 'Auf Weidersehn,Pet.' He also sang the title tune of the TV series 'As Time Goes By' in 1992 and he appeared in the 1985 mini-series 'Blott On The Landscape.' He featured on two tracks of the Zak Starkey/Eddie Hardin album 'The Wind In The Willows' and in 2001 appeared on the CD 'All The Hits Plus More' from Prestige Records and in 2000 on 'The Best of Auf Weidersehn, Pet, Vol 2.'
Virginia and I attended virtually all of the Tower Ballroom presentations and particularly remember the night when Jerry Lee Lewis was on. After the show we accompanied him for a drink and a chat at the Witch's Cauldron. At the time he was being hounded by the press because the news of his marriage to his young cousin was in the headlines.
I believe the Beatles 'fight song' was 'Hully Gully.'