Les Looks Back
By Bill Harry
Mersey Beat: September 17 1964
When Les Braid of the Swinging Bluejeans dropped round to see us the other day we began chatting about the early career of the group, and Les' s memory went back even further as he reminisced about his first interests in music. "I must have been about five years old," he said, "and I used to listen to my father playing 'God Save The King' on an organ he's had for about 25 years...that was the only thing I ever learned for a long time.
"When I was nine I started music lessons and used to play piano at school for puppet shows. I kept up the piano lessons for about two years then got fed up and lost interest in music altogether.
"When I became interested again a few years later I began playing piano by ear. Then I took to playing guitar and string bass.
"During the skiffle days I used to go down to the Cavern. I was down in the club one day when one of the groups appearing there - Johnny Carter & the Hi-Cats, came without a string bass player so I just went up and asked them if I could join the group. They jumped at the chance as there weren't any bass players about in those days.
"During the time I was playing with the group the Bluegenes asked me to do jobs for them, and eventually I was getting more work off the Bluegenes than the other group so I joined them.
"It was 1959 and there weren't all that many groups around. The Beatles weren't heard about in those days and there was more Jazz being played at the Cavern than anything else.
"We used to have a three-quarter of an hour spot every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and later on we had a guest night on Tuesday evenings. The Cavern had been closed on Tuesdays and we made arrangements with Ray McFall about playing on those nights and Ray suggested we have guest groups. "That was in 1961 and the groups we had as guests included Gerry, the Searchers, Billy Kramer & the Coasters, the Dakotas and, of course, the Beatles.
"We began to find numerous bookings outside of Merseyside and generally found the places backward compared to Liverpool. The audiences always seemed to want Top Twenty numbers and didn't seem interested in anything else. You couldn't go wrong if you played something out of the hit parade.
"Yet it was different in Liverpool - which has always been a place on its own - the audiences would listen to the music you wanted to play. If they didn't like it they'd let you know, but they always give you a chance to play something different."
Les then continued to discuss audiences today. "One of the main things a group notices is that audiences differ so much. In Scotland and Ireland they're wild, and the further South you go it begins to get different. London is about the worse place to play. In London they'll appreciate what you're playing, but they're very hard to please."
We asked Les if he'd heard any news of arrangements for the group to travel to the States.
"No, I've no idea when we'll be going over there," he said. "A lot relies on having a record in the charts over there. 'Hippy Hippy Shake' reached No. 24 in the American charts, but at the time we couldn't go over as we had so many
"However, we've had an offer to tour South Africa and we'll possibly be going over there in January."
Les likes to travel, but he emphasizes that tours in foreign countries are not as glamorous as they may seem. "It's certainly an experience to tour in foreign countries," he said, "but it's no holiday. You usually have to travel about 200 miles and eventually get sick of
traveling. You don't get much chance to relax - it's all sleep, travel and play."
Life with a beat group, of course, does prove to be very interesting and almost every group had numerous humorous anecdotes to tell. Les told us of a recent visit to an RAF camp. "We'd heard about the Guard Room at the entrance of the camp and everyone had to stop there and check with the guard - but we decided to have a laugh and just drove straight on past.
"The guard just smiled at us and at the same time jumped into a Land Rover and chased us throughout the camp. He eventually caught up with us, drew behind us and said, 'welcome'!"