Meet the Singer: Derry
By Derry Wilkie
July 23 1964
As my American friend, AL ARONOWITZ put it; I’m the first spade singer in town.
Four and a half years ago I started singing with a group called THE SENIORS. Great boys, fab musicians who were very highly rated among groups.
We were playing for some time; we were popular; we even held our own against THE BEATLES in those days – we were good friends.
We were the first group to go to Germany – Hamburg, you know. We didn’t know what we were starting – we slept in the gutter to do that.
And the Seniors were the first group from Liverpool to make a record. Bit proud of that, even if it didn’t get anywhere.
We got so fed-up of people taking advantage of us that we packed up as the Seniors.
It was heartbreaking coming back to town after that. You do have your pride, you know what I mean.
Spent a great six months with a group called THE PRESSMEN because BILL HARRY started me singing again. Great group, great sound. History repeated itself, we made more records – none of them got released, they weren’t commercial enough, they were rhythm and blues.
Hit hard times again with the Pressmen – split up again.
It breaks your heart to do this if you’re like me, because I love the people in my groups. And now I’ve got a new group, the fabulous (that’s so true) THE OTHERS, and at long last we’ve found someone who’ll be honest with us and will be signing with him in the near future.
Editor’s Note: Derry Wilkie was always one of my favourite artists in Liverpool. He was warm-hearted, immensely reliable and friendly – but also tough if trouble waved its head. I remember Derry had the largest hands I had ever seen.
There was the story that a group of thugs were after him and came to the Iron Door club with hatchets, banging on the door to get in. Derry escaped by finding a small way out to the rear.
At one time I was so fascinated by Derry’s story and his triumph over hardships, that I began to interview him for a book we were going to write together which I called ‘Black Scouse.’ Unfortunately, he left Liverpool and we weren’t able to finish it. The tapes were lost some years later in London.
Virginia and I met up with Derry again in London and his escapades continued to amuse. I remember at one time he staggered out of the Cromwellian Club, completely tipsy, and didn’t have any money to get home, so he stole a bike and wobbled along the road, crashing into the back of a police car which had stopped at some traffic lights!
We lost track of Derry for many years. We heard that he was living in Italy for some time. Then I heard his voice shout to me at Baker Street Station. I was on the up elevator and he was going down on the other side. “I want to form a new group. We’ve got to get together for a bevvy” he shouted. That was the last time I saw him.
Derry was born Derek Davis in Liverpool on 10 January 1941. His first group the Seniors called themselves Derry & the Seniors, then, later, Howie Casey & the Seniors. Derry joined the Pressmen in 1963 but the band split in two and Derry and saxophonist Phil Kenzie formed the basis of Derry Wilkie & the Others, The group toured the U.K. and Germany but disbanded after two years.
Sadly, Derry died on 22 December 2001.
It would be fitting to pay proper tribute to a great singer, so I’d appreciate stories and anecdotes from any of his friends and fellow musicians.