Part 5 – 1962 and the rest
Bill Harry ran a Mersey Beat popularity poll, with results published in January 1962. The top acts were (1) The Beatles, (2) Gerry and the Pacemakers, (3) The Remo Four, (4) Rory Storm and the Hurricanes and (5) Johnny Sandon and the Searchers.
Although Johnny Guitar had a diary for 1962, he put very little in it until the end of March. Then he wrote a long entry about Rory Storm and the Hurricanes’ stints in US army bases in France.
Saturday 31 March 1962
Eileen helped me pack and we left for France at 5am. We got to Dover okay but I was sick on the boat. We stayed in the Carmine Hotel the first night and then got fab hotel, the Petite Bar, for £2.10s including a dinner every day. All the Yanks were friendly. They had a bowling alley, cinema, snack bar and the meals were great. The only trouble we had was with the military police over passes.
The club was great and we could go to the beach and get a great tan. Not many girls, never had one at all, but I don’t care because I only love Eileen and hope to get married. The Remo are not going down too well. I went to a club in Rochefort. The French all seem very poor. Our agent, Ted Easton, who is only 27, came down to pay us. A new band arrived to take our place, the Cimarrons from Liverpool, but they are not much good. We played a great night for the GIs and got a great send-off.
Monday 30 April 1962
We left for the Orleans Army Base at noon and got here on Tuesday at 6pm. We played in the club at 7.30pm. It was too late to find a hotel so we had to sleep in the car. We found a great hotel two miles from the camp and right by the beach. It was 4 francs a night.
Wednesday 2 May 1962
The committee sent the barmen to tell us that we would have to finish as we were too loud and too rock’n’roll, but all the guys wanted us and got up a petition. Turned out that everybody loved us except for three old committee members. Anyway, we played at a nearby base and went down a bomb as everybody came there from Orleans.
Thursday 3 May 1962
The committee decided that we could stay, so we started playing again. Ted Easton said we could stay on but we had already arranged to go back home.
Sunday 5 May 1962
We had a great journey home, but I was seasick. We got home on Monday morning. Eileen was here and it was good to be back, played a few dates and then went to see Butlin’s about playing Skegness.
The summer season at Skegness had been announced in the previous edition of Mersey Beat and the line-up was likely to be Rory Storm (22 – ho hum), Johnny Guitar (21 – he’s at it too), Ringo Starr (21 – telling the truth), Ty Brian (21) and Bobby Thomson (20).
Friday 1 June 1962
Travelled to Butlin’s, Skegness. Eileen was already there. We got chalet accommodation, and I’m in with Ringo. The ballroom is okay but we have to play long hours. We went down well. Eileen went off with a Redcoat, Johnny, but that only lasted a week. Eileen was sacked as she was caught asleep in my chalet and I saw her off home.
I was taken off the site, but I got a caravan and then had to look for another one. Anna found me one near to the camp. Eileen came back to stay with me. We also played a few gigs at the Embassy Theatre. Ringo came and lived with me. He sent his girlfriend home. Eileen got a job and then packed it in. On the whole, it was a fair season for us, not as good at Pwllhelli though where we had our own show.
In August Ringo left the group to join the most up-and-coming band on Merseyside, the Beatles. Rory’s sister, Iris: “Rory was very happy for Ringo as he knew this was a big opportunity. He did ask Epstein if Ringo could stay the last three weeks of the season but Ringo wanted to go there and then, which was a shame. He could have stayed the last three weeks, and, as a result, Rory didn’t get the contract for Butlin’s the next year.”
Johnny Guitar: “We couldn’t stand in Ringo’s way because we knew the Beatles were going to be big. We went back to Liverpool and saw Pete Best, but he was so upset that he didn’t want to play with anybody. When we got back to Skegness, somebody said he’d play drums for us. We said, ‘Are you a drummer?’ and he said, ‘No, I’m an actor.’ He was Anthony Ashdown who had been in the film’ The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner’. He got us by for a week or so until a relief drummer could come out.”
Friday 31 August 1962
We finished at Butlin’s, packed everything into the transit and had a farewell drink at Anne’s. We left at 10 on Saturday morning and got home at 4.30pm. Bobby joined the Dominoes and Ringo the Beatles. We got Wally back and got Gibson Kemp as our drummer. He is very good but the group itself is not very good at the moment. We have no new songs and we will have to improve. Eileen has a job at the Tatler. We are not playing many dates, have not much work and Sammy Leach owes us money. We wanted to do another three months in France but that was refused.
Rory Storm was also captain of the charity based Mersey Beat XI but he hardly regarded football as a team game. Billy Kinsley of the Merseybeats: “Rory Storm took all the penalties, all the free kicks, all the throw-ins and all the corners. He wanted a record kept of everything, so his dad was constantly taking photographs. Rory got the ball, lined it up and made sure that his dad was ready with the camera before he kicked it. Once, while he was doing this at Prescot Cables, the promoter Sam Leach ran from the back of the team and took the penalty instead. Rory was enraged because Sam Leach had taken the penalty – and missed. To make matters worse, his dad had taken a photograph of Sam Leach kicking the ball. Rory chased Sam round the ground and we had to continue the game with nine men.” Rory disbanded the Mersey Beat XI in 1968.
15 December 1962
Majestic Ballroom, Birkenhead
The second Mersey Beat poll showed a huge change in local popularity for the local bands. The Beatles were still No.1 of course but they were followed by Lee Curtis and the All-Stars (with Pete Best), the Big Three, Billy Kramer (no ‘J’ yet) and the Undertakers. Rory Storm and the Hurricanes had slipped from 4th to 19th.
When the Beatles appeared at the Majestic Ballroom, Birkenhead, a midnight show was added for the awards. Rory felt he needed to make his presence felt. Ray Ennis of the Swinging Blue Jeans recalls, “If Rory had got the breaks, there wouldn’t have been any Gary Glitter. Rory would do anything for a publicity stunt. He hired Graham Spencer, who was doing the photography for pop magazines, for the Mersey Beat Pollwinners Concert at the Majestic Ballroom in Birkenhead. He said, ‘I want you to come along tonight because I’m going to jump off the balcony.’ The Hurricanes were on stage and Rory went upstairs to jump off the balcony. He did jump but he broke his leg. Graham Spencer was laughing so much that he never got the picture.”
Monday 31 December 1962
Tower Ballroom, OrrellPark Ballroom and Widnes. Got bad electric shock from the mikes and was nearly killed.
Thursday 24 January 1963
Maxine’s, Southport cancelled, so Rory and I go to see Shane Fenton at Majestic.
Shane married Rory’s sister, Iris.
Friday 1 February 1963
Knotty Ash and OrrellPark Ballroom. Deni played with us, very good.
Saturday 2 February 1963
Iron Door, Holyoake, Deni played poor.
Monday 4 February 1963
OrrellPark Ballroom, Majestic. Deni played, not bad.
Thursday 14 February 1963
Majestic, played good. Beatles at Blue Angel, got home at 5am.
Friday 15 February 1963
Got new amp, Vox AC30, got £30 on old ones. Ty got a Fender, fabulous.
Saturday 16 February 1963
Widnes, okay. Geldi, girl from Star-Club, there. Was tired, had row.
Tuesday 26 February 1963
Found out that Eileen had sold our engagement ring for £15. Don’t know what I think of her now.
Thursday 7 March 1963
Peppermint Lounge, fab place.
Tuesday 19 March 1963
Tony Sheridan on Brenda Lee Show at the Odeon, good show. Took Tony to Blue Angel and Tony, Rory and I did some numbers.
Friday 22 March 1963
Beatles LP is good. Gerry Marsden is 21.
The Beatles’ first LP is out and they are already leaving the other bands behind. Oddly, Gerry isn’t 21 until September, but he is enjoying his first hit with ‘How Do You Do It’.
Sunday 24 March 1963
Beatles at Empire, lousy show but Beatles good.
The show also featured Chris Montez and Tommy Roe.
Monday 1 April 1963
Went to see Tony Hancock in ‘The Punch And Judy Man’, good. Got no money.
Wednesday 3 April 1963
Cavern at lunchtime. Played okay, packed.
Judd Lander from the Hideaways, later to play harmonica with Culture Club and the Spice Girls, says, “Rory Storm and the Hurricanes was the first group I saw at the Cavern. Rory should have been a film star. He was larger than life and always had a camel-haired coat draped around his shoulders. Johnny Guitar had a little narrow guitar that I loved. He was a terrible guitarist but he would be playing it aggressively and got away with it.”
Friday 19 April 1963
Went to see solicitor regarding tax. Played Knotty Ash, police came.
Oh, oh, trouble brewing. Now he was famous, Ringo Starr was having to declare his past earnings including those with Rory Storm and the Hurricanes.
Saturday 20 April 1963
Tower Ballroom empty, but Jive Hive okay.
Tuesday 30 April 1963
Did tax forms
Ringo was considerate. The Hurricanes’ latest drummer, Jimmy Tushingham recalls, “When Ringo made it with the Beatles, he had to declare everything to the Inland Revenue. We got hit with a tax bill which stemmed from Ringo having to declare his bookings with Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. He sent a cheque to Rory to pay the bill and a note saying that he was sorry about what happened.”
Wednesday 8 May 1963
Recorded at Rialto for Oriole. We did ‘Dr Feelgood’, ‘I Can Tell’, ‘Beautiful Dreamer’ and ‘Talkin’ About You’, fabulous sound. I did solos.
Bill Harry had made arrangements for John Schroeder to bring a mobile recording unit to an old ballroom in Liverpool, the Rialto, and tape a succession over local bands over two days. They became the ‘This Is Mersey Beat’ LPs, issued in two separate volumes. They are raw, rough performances, just as the bands were on stage. Three of Rory’s performances were issued but ‘Talkin’ About You’ has never appeared.
Thursday 9 May 1963
Went to Rialto and signed Oriole contract.
But the band never received any royalties.
Friday 10 May 1963
Played okay at Tower Ballroom, Johnny Gentle on.
Ringo’s red suit was passed down the line of drummers who replaced him: Gibson Kemp, Brian Johnson, Keef Hartley, Ian Broad and Trevor Morais. In February 1964, Jimmy Tushingham became their drummer and he stayed until they split up in 1967. He says, “They were a show group. They created a brilliant atmosphere, but when the vocal harmony came in, it was a different kettle of fish. They were limited in the chords they could play in that they couldn’t play sevenths or eighths or whatever. Johnny Guitar was a brilliant rhythm guitarist as far as his right hand would go. He’d turn to me and say, “You’re swinging like a brick, Jimmy. Will you get it up?”’
Sunday 19 May 1963
Saw Gene Vincent at Cavern, okay.
Saturday 1 June 1963
Eileen left, seems like I’ll never see her again. Went to party, stayed with Ida all night, like her a lot.
In 1963, Johnny married Eileen and they had two children.
Sunday 2 June 1963
Jerry Lee Lewis and Gene Vincent at Empire, okay.
What must have been going through Johnny’s mind as he heard the supporting act Freddie and the Dreamers with their first hit, ‘If You Gotta Make A Fool Of Somebody’. The train had left and Rory wasn’t on it.
Friday 5 July 1963
LPs released. Had breakdown in Middlesbrough.
‘This Is Mersey Beat’ LPs
Wednesday 10 July 1963
Ma’s birthday, bought ironing board.
Thursday 11 July 1963
Won £2 on fruit machine.
Saturday 20 July 1963
Majestic, Tower Ballroom and then to Jacaranda and Blue Angel. Ringo was there. Home at 4am.
Wednesday 31 July 1963
Orrell Park Ballroom, German audition. Got three months definite.
Friday 2 August 1963
Bought suede ties.
Saturday 3 August 1963
Ringo, George and Tony Sheridan at Blue Angel
Thursday 15 August 1963
Cavern television, all day.
Documentary, ‘The Mersey Sound’, was screened by the BBC in October 1963.
They also film a contribution for Daniel Farson’s documentary Beat City for Associated-Rediffusion. The group was paid £76, an excellent fee.
Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, Freddie Starr and the Midnighters and Kingsize Taylor and the Dominoes had residencies at the Star-Club.
Friday 13 December 1963
To Locarno Ballroom for Merseybeat poll awards. We were 18th. Okay.
Well, it’s not okay. Not even a leap from the balcony will save them now.
Sunday 30 August 1964
Rock’n’roll wedding day. Early 60s pop star Shane Fenton marries Rory’s sister, Iris, with Duffy Power as best man (surely a bad omen!). Their son, Adam F, becomes a noted drum’n’bass performer and scores the film, ‘Ali G Indahouse’ (2002).
During 1964, Rory Storm and the Hurricanes recorded a single for EMI which was produced by Brian Epstein. The top side, chosen by Epstein, was ‘America’ from ‘West Side Story’ and the band was unsuited for a Trini Lopez-styled romp through the show tune. The B-side was more like it – a good arrangement of the Everly Brothers’ ‘Since You Broke My Heart’ but featuring Wally rather than Rory.
Friday 11 December 1964
Filming ‘America’ for ‘The Five O’Clock Club’ with Muriel Young and Ollie Beak.
There is a demo of Rory Storm and the Hurricanes recorded in Accrington in 1965. Rory sings Carl Perkins’ ‘Lend Me Your Comb’ and Johnny Guitar solos on Booker T’s ‘Green Onions’.
Everything went wrong in 1967. Ty had had an operation for appendicitis and he collapsed on stage, was taken to hospital and died. The band struggled on a few more months but they had lost interest and packed up around April 1967. Rory and Johnny Guitar had been playing together for ten years.
Rory returned to daytime employment and sold stationery, while Johnny became a milkman. Bob Wooler saw something of Rory’s girlfriends. “Rory had a lot of girlfriends. One of the first worked at the Jacaranda. She had been going out with Ringo, who had brought her to Liverpool, and she stayed with Audrey, one of the waitresses at the Jacaranda. When the Beatles were about to take off, Ringo didn’t want to know her, and Rory carried on. Another was an attractive girl who was a waitress at the Blue Angel. He was dating a hooker at one time so his love life was certainly colourful.”
Mike Evans from the Clayton Squares remembers Rory Storm making a guest appearance with them. He asked Rory how he wanted to be introduced. “Just say the Golden Boy is here,” said Rory.
Rory became a club DJ, working with his girlfriend Cathy who was a dancer, and by all accounts, he was content with life.
In 1972 Johnny Guitar, now back as John Byrne, joined the ambulance service where he worked for 26 years. When he was only a few months in the job, one of his associates tells him that they have just collected Rory Storm.
Rory Storm died in September 1972 and the circumstances of his death are a mystery. His sister, Iris, throws some light upon it. “To this day, I don’t believe that Rory committed suicide. The post mortem showed that he only took eight sleeping tablets and one tot of whiskey, and if you take eight tablets, it’s either a cry for help or a mistake. Rory died in his pyjamas and if he was going to commit suicide, it would have been in gold lamé and he would have jumped off the EiffelTower. He definitely would have left a note. My mum found him and she left a note – my dad had died and Rory was dead – she took over 20 tablets and the timing showed that he died before her. To me, he had taken four tablets, gone to bed, couldn’t sleep, come down, taken another four, gone to bed and died.”
It was a tragedy that Rory Storm should have died like this, especially when stardom could have been around the corner. In 1973, Iris’ then-husband, Shane Fenton, transformed himself into Alvin Stardust and had one of the biggest hits of the year with ‘My Coo-Ca-Choo’. Another old-time rocker, Paul Raven, became Gary Glitter. The scene was set for Rory Storm to enter the Glam era and he would have done well.
Johnny Guitar from Rory Storm and the Hurricanes got a shock in 1984 when he went back in the Eighties to Butlin’s, where he had once backed hopefuls in talent competitions: “There was one fellow who always used to get up at these competitions. He wore a long raincoat and hobnailed boots and he’d try to sing ‘SwaneeRiver’. We weren’t keen because ‘SwaneeRiver’ was too hard for us anyway. Everybody would roar with laughter and the poor fellow would never win. I went back to Butlin’s and who should be playing with the band but the same guy with the same mac and the same boots. Twenty years on and he’s still up there. He’s been going longer than any of us.”
So far there have been two plays (‘The Need For Heroes’ and ‘King Of Liverpool’) and a biography (in Dutch!) about Rory. Possibly though the greatest tribute was the creation of the rock’n’roll holiday camp singer, Stormy Tempest, played by Billy Fury, in the film, ‘That’ll Be The Day’. The cast included his former drummer, Ringo Starr, another indication that the character was based on Rory, but surely it won’t be long before some enterprising producers make ‘The Rory Storm Story’. It’s crying out to be made.