Part 2 – 1959
The story so far: Alan Caldwell and John Byrne have formed their own skiffle group, the Texans, in Liverpool but the skiffle repertoire is gradually being replaced by rock’n’roll. They have to be careful with they play it as jazz clubs don’t want rock’n’roll and naturally, the Texans want repeat bookings.
The band is gradually coming together with Chas O’Brien, Wally Egmond and Richard (Ritchie) Starkey joining the line-up. However, they are not yet named Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. Similarly, St Luke’s Hall in Crosby later becomes known as the Jive Hive.
This is a selection of Johnny Guitar’s diary entries for 1959. The complete list shows how busy they were becoming, especially in the later months. Once again, I am not telling you the full story of Johnny Guitar’s love life – there are plenty more girls in the diary itself!
Friday 2 January 1959
Amp broke. Microphone also broken. Up til 4am trying to fix them.
Saturday 3 January 1959
Went downtown and bought new pair of jeans. Played at Prenton cellar party in evening. Stan played bass. Quite good.
Saturday 31 January 1959
Lads came to ours to show me an amplifier. Might buy it though it’s a heap of junk. Al and I went to Martin’s. Girl I was with disappeared, why worry?
Tuesday 3 February 1959
Played at Mardi Gras with Spud on bass. Didn’t go down too well. Never bothered to take Jean home.
Wednesday 4 February 1959
Went to town for interview. It’s a real crummy place, still.
Sunday 8 February 1959
Bought bass off Roy for £3.
Tuesday 10 February 1959
Went with Pat in afternoon to see some chap about a job. Going to Mardi Gras but never got there. Had to return home because of fog.
Saturday 14 February 1959
Got Valentine card. Don’t know who from. Al and I were too late for Martin’s and so we went to Knotty Ash Village Hall. Crummy place.
This was a typical village hall that was to become a regular beat venue. Pete Best’s mother, Mona, promoted some of the shows including several appearances by the Beatles. Ken Dodd has always lived around the corner.
Tuesday 17 February 1959
Alan and I went to Mardi Gras. Got girls to see Harry Ormesher about us. Still no dice.
The Mardi Gras was a prestigious city centre club and they were desperate for a booking.
Saturday 21 February 1959
Played at University panto dance, not bad but things went wrong. Afterwards Al and I went to party by Rialto. Stayed all night with some girl. Put my white mac on floor and found someone had walked all over it.
Tuesday 24 February 1959
Alan, John and I went to Mardi Gras in bow ties. Not many girls there.
Wednesday 25 February 1959
Went to Meadows for interview. Crummy job, but took it.
Thursday 26 February 1959
Got cards from dole. Start work tomorrow. Liverpool Echo calls us “Alan Caldwell and his Jazzmen”!
Tuesday 3 March 1959
Went to Mardi Gras by myself. Picked up girl. Ditched her as I was broke.
Sunday 22 March 1959
Al and I went to see Cliff Richard. Good. Met Valerie and friend. Went to Pier Head.
The show at Liverpool Empire featured Wee Willie Harris, Johnny Duncan and the Blue Grass Boys, Tony Crombie and his Rockets with Jimmy Tarbuck on his first tour as compère.
Friday 27 March 1959
Got up 1pm. Lads called, played records.
Monday 30 March 1959
Cavern. Valerie never turned up. Our amplifier never worked. Borrowed Bluegenes’ amp. Played lousy.
Mickey Ashman played jazz and Dickie Bishop played skiffle.
Tuesday 31 March 1959
Bill and I went to Mardi Gras. Not bad, went with cloakroom girl.
Possibly hoping for a new white mac.
Thursday 2 April 1959
Johnny Carter and his girl came up to help us find a drummer for Crosby.
Saturday 4 April 1959
Alexandra Hall, Crosby. We played terrible. Drummer was no good. Finished at Meadows.
Sunday 12 April 1959
Sold bass for £4.50 and made on the deal.
50% profit in two months!
Tuesday 14 April 1959
Phoned Joe Hall about Crosby date at the Hi-Fi Club. He said he could only pay us £2. We cancelled it.
Sunday 19 April 1959
Majestic, Ellesmere Port, Alan and I went. Played okay. Paid £2.15.0d. We get a write-up in ‘Disc’.
Sunday 26 April 1959
Wrote to ‘Oh Boy!’ and ‘Drumbeat’ for auditions.
Tuesday 28 April 1959
Went to Curzon with Hazel to see ‘I Married A Monster From Outer Space’. Never bothered to take her home.
Friday 1 May 1959
Walked out on Marianne in pictures. She gets on my nerves.
Thursday 7 May 1959
Hope Hall, £3. Played okay, went down well and get mobbed by girls.
This was a dissenters’ chapel which became the Everyman Theatre. Around 1962, Brian Epstein had the idea of buying it and starting his own club for the Beatles there.
Letter from BBC, 7 May 1959: “Mr Morris has asked me to thank you for your letter and to say he is very sorry, but he is not auditioning any groups for ‘Drumbeat’ at the moment.” But a glimmer of hope from Jack Good at ITV’s ‘Oh Boy!’ – “Perhaps you will write again towards the end of August.”
Friday 8 May 1959
EllesmerePort. Not bad, went in van. Rhythm Four and Crescents were there.
The Crescents were a four-piece harmony group from Liverpool who billed themselves as “Columbia Recording Stars”. Not quite but they had come second on Carroll Levis’ ‘Search For A Star’ at the Liverpol Empire in 1958. They released a single, “Baby Baby Baby” and “Wrong” but Columbia promoted the wrong side which wasn’t ‘Wrong’. The club comic Bobby Kaye was a Crescent.
Saturday 9 May 1959
St Agnes Ward Labour Club, £4.10s. Played very well. All night party in Princess Avenue. Not bad, but Charlie was sick. Home about 4 in Brian’s van.
Monday 18 May 1959
Pauline wrote to Alan apologising for being keen on me. She asked us to settle it between us. Who cares?
Saturday 23 May 1959
Off work. Broke stones to concrete the path. Roy and Ritchie came down in afternoon to practise for Cavern. Played at Cavern very well.
Saturday 6 June 1959
Al and I went to Martin’s. Four ex-girls were there. Picked up some girls at Cavern all nighter.
Wednesday 10 June 1959
Got Lonnie Donegan EP off Midge for a shilling. Bit scratched.
Friday 12 June 1959
Played at Cavern and played lousy. Took girl to Pier Head. She’d been engaged, so I ditched her.
Wednesday 17 June 1959
Went to Sheila’s. She gave me grey streak for my hair.
Thursday 18 June 1959
Cavern ad in Liverpool Echo said that we were playing. We didn’t even know about it so we couldn’t make it.
Saturday 27 June 1959
Had row with Pat over fan. Got £25 car. Guitar sold, I think. Went to all-night session at Cavern with Paul. We took girls to Pier Head at about 2pm. Good night.
Acker Bilk and his Paramount Jazz Band starring at Cavern.
Monday 29 June 1959
Got Antoria guitar. Man in Prescot Street sold mine for £12.
Saturday 4 July 1959
Got coach to Butlin’s okay. Picked up some girls in ballroom and went to rock gardens and then their chalet.
Back to Pwllheli.
Sunday 5 July 1959
Watched Rory Blackwell and the Blackjacks.
Monday 6 July 1959
Two of the Blackjacks sacked. Rory asked me to sign up with him.
Johnny Guitar talking to me in 1980: “Rory Blackwell was playing in the bar and for some reason, his guitarist got the sack and so Rory said to me, ‘I’d like you to stay, rehearse with us and join the band. To me, that sounded like instant stardom. We did some shows in the theatre and I said to Rory that I might stay but they were a London-based band. Alan said, ‘It’s up to you but we’re best friends, remember.’ In the end, I stayed with Alan and then Alan pinched his name and became Rory Storm. The funny thing is that Rory Blackwell picked up a piano player that same week in Butlin’s and he was Clive Powell, who became George Fame.”
Wednesday 8 July 1959
Passed audition, should walk the final. Played at Rock’n’Calypso in afternoon.
Thursday 9 July 1959
Played ‘The People’ talent contest. Got beaten by some Wigan lads. We should have walked it.
Friday 10 July 1959
Rory Blackwell paid me £5 in afternoon. Bought presents. Went to bar-b-q with girl from Wigan, very nice.
Sunday 12 July 1959
Went to Barbara’s. Took her presents. Had row with her.
Saturday 25 July 1959
Went to Manchester, horrible place.
Sunday 27 July 1959
Saw Lonnie Donegan in ‘Light Fingers’.
This film had been made two years earlier and must have been a summer fill-in as little else was around. It starred Guy Walsh and Eunice Gayson, and Lonnie Donegan performed the title song and ‘Gamblin’ Man’. Lonnie Donegan: “The film was a disaster. I told the director that it wasn’t funny. I suggested that it would be funnier if my face appeared in the corner of the screen commenting on the action. It was turned down but when they saw the reaction to the completed film, they were begging me to do it. I said, ‘No way.’ I sang in a night-club scene and it was the whole Machiavellian bit. The director had written the song I was to sing and he expected me to record it. I also said ‘No way’ to that.”
Sunday 2 August 1959
Lousy day. Slept in til 5pm. I went to Locarno to see about a date. I went with girl but ditched her as I was tired.
Monday 3 August 1959
Went to New Brighton. Met girl. Got back about 9pm and was two hours later for Eric’s wedding, so we didn’t play much.
Tuesday 4 August 1959
Date with girl I met in New Brighton. Went to see ‘Rio Bravo’ and paid nine shillings for seats. Took her home, had a row with her so she walked off.
Wednesday 5 August 1959
Got electric shock off guitar.
Monday 10 August 1959
Went to see Mrs Woods about electric bass but she wanted £9 so I dropped the idea.
Wednesday 12 August 1959
St Luke’s Hall, Crosby, 8.45 to 9.15. Played very good. Paid £3.
Thursday 13 August 1959
Went to see Mrs Woods again about bass. We gave her £5. She signs it over to us tomorrow.
A hire purchase agreement and Johnny was taking over the future payments.
Friday 14 August 1959
I waited at Hessy’s. Mrs Woods was late but signed bass over to us. Went to Cavern, played good.
The beat groups all went to Frank Hessy’s in Liverpool. The agreements stated that instruments must not leave the country but what would the Hamburg scene have been without his instruments?
Saturday 22 August 1959
Cavern. Bass guitar was broken and we didn’t play too good. Rikki complained to Mr Sytner about us playing rock’n’roll. Took Joan to bus stop.
The Texans skiffle group are now Al Storm and the Hurricanes, so the name is almost complete.
Sunday 23 August 1959
Marion Ryan Show, Rhyl. Brian came at 11am, picked up girls in Old Swan, went for Ritchie. I took Joan. We got to Rhyl at 2pm and found bass guitar wires were broken. Wally and I soldered them on but they broke during the first house show. Al and I and Iris and Brian went for tea. We played very well at the second house. We had to wear make-up. Marion Ryan was good and signed a lot of autographs. We got back to Liverpool at midnight and I had a row with Joan.
A significant step forward – a supporting role on a variety bill, topped by 50s hitmaker, Marion Ryan, and the most money they’d earned in a night. They closed the first half and the other acts featured songs from the shows. Rory’s sister, Iris, says, “I was in Rhyl at Princes International Circus with the Digger Pugh Flying Ballet. It was a circus in a theatre and they had Sunday ‘pop’ shows on. I talked the manager into booking them. I think they got £25 for it. The girls and I put make-up on them, and they all complained, especially Ringo, who said he’d never wear make-up again! We also tried to get rid of the grey streak in his hair with mascara.”
Sunday 30 August 1959
Alan Thompson asked me to play at Lowlands Jazz Club. After playing, rushed back to Cavern to see if I could find Joan as I was supposed to meet her there. No luck.
The Lowlands was a basement club in West Derby, almost opposite Pete Best’s family home.
Tuesday 1 September 1959
Went to Mardi Gras. Couldn’t get in as the place was jammed tight.
Saturday 5 September 1959
Got a letter from Jack Good about ‘Oh Boy!’. He wants photos. St Luke’s Hall, Crosby and then Cavern. Played good at Cavern and Pat came to take photos. Got back in van and went to St Luke’s. Played okay there. Pat took more photos. Drove back to Cavern and played again.
Monday 7 September 1959
Got photos developed, quite good.
Saturday 12 September 1959
Ritchie could only play first set in Cavern. Charlie and I spent hours in town trying to get bass guitar E string. Got one for £2.17.6d. Put down £.1.10s and will pay rest next week. Played okay in first set. Alan Hardy played the second set for us, not bad.
Sunday 20 September 1959
Played Lowlands for two hours. Quite good, but not very crowded. Got good fee.
Saturday 26 September 1959
Whole group went to C&A’s to get band jackets. Looked good too. Played at Lathom Hall, Seaforth.
Wednesday 30 September 1959
St Luke’s Hall, Crosby, £5. Played okay, very crowded.
Dave Lovelady, later with the Fourmost: “One night at St. Luke’s Hall was an absolute sensation. Rory Storm came in with Wally who had the first bass guitar in Liverpool. There was always a bass on American records, but we’d never seen one, and here was Wally with a Framus four-string bass guitar. The groups crowded around in amazement, and when they opened with ‘Brand New Cadillac’, this deep, booming sound was tremendous.”
Friday 2 October 1959
Walked to West Derby to see new club, Casbah. Quite good. Tried to get a booking but the Quarrymen are playing there.
Mona Best, Pete’s mum, has set up rival club to Lowlands.
Thursday 8 October 1959
Johnny insures his Antoria electric guitar, light tan, fitted with twin pickups, tone and volume control for £31; annual premum, £1.
Sunday 11 October 1959
Went to Carroll Levis auditions. We get through to 26 October. We also gatecrashed Hughie Green’s auditions for Opportunity Knocks! Went to see Cliff Richard, first and second houses, Signed autographs for girls who thought I was Brett Landis.
Bill and Brett Landis were doing okay with ‘Baby Talk’. In reality, Brett Landis was the dance director of the ‘6.5 Special’ film, Stuart Freeman.
Sunday 18 October 1959
Lowlands Jazz club. Took gorgeous little Teddy Girl to the woods.
Tuesday 20 October 1959
Jack Good tells Johnny that there is a waiting list of over 1,000 for ‘Boy Meets Girls’ and he is not holding auditions at present.
Friday 23 October 1959
Cavern Jazz Club, £3.10s. Amplifier went in first number, did without. Phoned to get amp. Got a small one from Bluegenes but not bad. Had to pay 8/6d taxi fare.
Ray Ennis from the Bluegenes: “We had a Selma Truvoice amp with just one 12-inch speaker and three of us used to plug into it. Rory did borrow our amp on occasion but he would have wanted something bigger. Hardly anyone had big amps then. Even Charlie Gracie at the Empire only had a little amp. I remember seeing Bill Haley though and his lead guitarist had a big amp, perhaps four foot by three foot and I was really impressed with that.”
Saturday 24 October 1959
Jive Hive, £6. Big row over ‘Red Roses’ as we never played it.
Cavern DJ, Bob Wooler: “Rory even wrote a song with ‘Red Roses’ in the title, and R is a very difficult letter for stammerers. He sang it without any hesitation and yet once he left the stage, the stutter was pronounced. I used to hate people mocking Rory Storm behind his back for his stutter. They would say to me, ‘Don’t you have a sense of humour?’ – that is how they would excuse it – and I would say, ‘Not of that kind.’”
Monday 26 October 1959
Went straight from work to Carroll Levis concert. We did ‘Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On’ and ‘Brand New Cadillac’. We got through (third out of 15). Went straight to Jive Hive, played good but empty. It’s closing on Mondays. Got soaked going home.
The TV Star Search was at the Empire with heats during the week.
Tuesday 27 October 1959
Al and I went to first and second house for Carroll Levis. Got back at 11, went straight to party (student’s twenty-first) and we played well.
See how keen they are, sussing out the rivals.
Saturday 31 October 1959
Final of Carroll Levis Show. We came second out of 150 acts. The winner was a singer with 26 points. Al Storm and the Hurricanes were second with 22 points. Played good at Jive Hive.
Friday 13 November 1959
Student Union, £10. Alex Welsh’s jazz band was on. No mike so we just used our amp. Played good and went down well.
Saturday 21 November 1959
Played okay at ChildwallCollege. Two radio cabs take us to Jive Hive. Played very well.
Sunday 22 November 1959
Went to Empire at 3pm for Marty Wilde show. Went backstage and Gary Mills was signing plenty of autographs. Went to Cavern after show.
A few months later, Gary became Garry and had a hit with ‘Look For A Star’.
Friday 27 November 1959
Cavern, played lousy due to Ritchie not playing. John B stepped in but went down awful.
Thursday 3 December 1959
Went to Lesley’s house. Her father has seven shops and a car! Had great night.
Saturday 5 December 1959
Jive Hive (8.15-8.45), Cavern (9.15-10.00), Jive Hive (10.45-11.15). Al James took us in van. Went down well at Cavern and played okay at Crosby.
Thursday 10 December 1959
We went to see Cliff Richard at Empire. Al and I went backstage to meet Shadows.
Totally star-struck, they take every opportunity to meet the personalities of the day.
Friday 11 December 1959
Cambridge Hall, Southport. Good hall but we played lousy because amps broke down. About 200 people in, not bad for a first night.
Saturday 12 December 1959
We bought new amp. We played Crosby, went to Cavern, then back to Crosby and back to Cavern for all-nighter. Played excellent.
Jim McIver promoted dances at St. Luke’s Hall in Crosby. “Rory used to jump from the floor onto the piano. He’d practically do the splits on the piano and pour lemonade over himself. He’d jump from the piano and do a somersault back to the mike. Those mike stands had heavy bases, but he did tricks with them.”
Faron of Faron’s Flamingos recalls, “Rory Storm and the Hurricanes was the first band I ever saw and they got me interested in music. Rory was the greatest showman you could ever see. Twenty years ago he was doing what Rod Stewart is doing now, right down to the gold boots.”
Tuesday 15 December 1959
Went with Diane to see ‘Cosh Boy’. Useless.
Again, an old film and in this case, the first British film to have an X certificate. Starring James Kenney and Joan Collins, it believed that we were becoming a nation of thugs.
A momentous day too: Johnny has paid off his hire purchase account for his Antoria guitar with Rushworth and Dreaper.
Tuesday 22 December 1959
Alan and I were one hour late for Civil Service Club on Broadway. Played okay but we had a row with rest of the group. We nearly broke up.
But at the same time Johnny is writing to Butlin’s, Pwllheli following an ad in ‘Melody Maker’.
Wednesday 23 December 1959
Went to Locarno but everyone over 21, so went to Rialto, which was worse, all old codgers.
Saturday 26 December 1959
Jive Hive not very crowded, played okay. Went to Casbah but it was shut. Mrs Best let us into house, stayed all night with Ruth, not a bad girl but she hates our group. Left about 7.30am and walked to Prescot Road.
Sunday 27 December 1959
Played okay at Casbah but had some trouble at bus stop with some little Teddy boys. Went to Sylvia’s party but I left about 2.30am as I’m in work tomorrow.
Monday 28 December 1959
Stayed in and watched ‘Wagon Train’.
Thursday 31 December 1959
Played good at Broadway but terrible fight there. Got lift in van to Tony’s party and got home at 9am.