There is no doubt that the 'Cavern' became the most famous club in the world
during the Sixties and the club owner Ray McFall needs to be acclaimed for
everything he did. However, the major success of the 'Cavern' tends to cloud
the vitality of the other Merseyside venues, just as The Beatles overshadowed
every other act. The Beatles, under their original name of The Quarry Men
(two words not one), actually had their first residency in a club which
also had six letters in its name and beginning with the letter C – no, it’s
not the 'Cavern', it’s the 'Casbah' - which was also the first venue the
Beatles appeared in on their return from their first German trip.
highlight in the Beatles chronology is their appearance at Litherland
Town Hall on Tuesday 27th December 1960. Fresh from Hamburg, they
astonished the audience with their new dynamism. Brian Kelly was the
promoter of this event and he booked them for a further 35 dates at
his various other venues, mainly Litherland and Aintree Institute.
Kelly, who also promoted at Lathom Hall, Savoy Hall and Alexandra
Hall booked The Beatles more times than any other local promoter with
the exception of Ray McFall. His contribution as a major Merseyside
promoter has never really been acknowledged as he died many years
ago. Incidentally, Kelly had originally booked the Silver Beats (as
they then called themselves) on Saturday 4th May 1960 at Lathom Hall.
He then advertised them to appear for the following week, but they didn’t
turn up – they’d begun their first-ever tour, backing Johnny Gentle in Scotland!
Wally Hill and his wife ran dances at a few venues, primarily Holyoake Hall
and Blair Hall, while Mona Best, Vic Anton, Sam Leach, Dave Forshaw, Doug
Martin, Charlie McBain and Les Dodd were among several other promoters.
Charlie McBain was the pioneer promoter of the 'Mersey Sound' venues, with
venues such as Wilson Hall, Wavertree Town Hall and New Clubmoor Hall. He
booked The Quarry Men at Wilson Hall in Garston and Paul was to appear publicly
with the group for the first time when McBain booked The Quarry Men at New
Clubmoor Hall on 18th October 1957.
promoted dances on the Wirral and booked The Silver Beetles at The
Institute, Neston and The Grosvenor Ballroom, Birkenhead prior to
their first trip to Hamburg. Also ‘over the water’ was the Tower Ballroom,
the setting for major promotions by Sam Leach and Brian Epstein. It
must be admitted that one of the reasons for the growth of the Mersey
Sound was the proliferation of venues for groups throughout Merseyside.
Apart from the venues mentioned, they played at New Brighton Swimming
Baths, the Silver Blades Ice Rink, Allerton Synagogue, The Majestic
Ballroom in Birkenhead, The Grafton Ballroom, The Locarno Ballroom,
Knotty Ash Village Hall, St John’s Hall in Crosby, Kingsway Club in
Southport, David Lewis club, Mossway Hall, The Odd Spot, The Rialto
Ballroom, Floral Hall in Southport, La Scala Ballroom in Runcorn,
The Plaza in St Helens and scores of others. In the centre of Liverpool,
the Cavern’s main rival was the Iron Door Club, itself formerly a
jazz club, 'The Storyville'. As the Cavern became known as the home
of The Beatles, the Iron Door was known as the home of The Searchers.
The Mardi Gras was a particularly large and exciting venue in Mount
Pleasant, run by Jim Ireland, who also managed The Swinging Bluejeans,
The Escorts, Earl Preston and Cy Tucker, in addition to another city
centre venue, The Downbeat club.
The repertoires of the groups were based on American rock‘n’roll and
R&B numbers and they used to compete to see who could be first with
new songs. Among them were ‘Little Egypt’, ‘Poison Ivy’, ‘Twist &
Shout’, ‘Memphis Tennessee’, ‘All Around The World’, ‘Stupidity’,
‘Dr Feelgood’, ‘Skinnie Minnie’, ‘Yakety Yak’, ‘Alley Oop’, ‘Good
Golly Miss Molly’, ‘Magic Potion’, ‘Johnny B. Goode’, ‘C’mon Everybody’,
‘Roll Over Beethoven’, ‘Searchin’’, ‘Whole Lotta Shakin’’ and ‘Boney
Moronie.’ Their heroes were Elvis, Buddy Holly, Little Richard, Eddie
Cochran, Carl Perkins and Chuck Berry. Oriole Records issued Tamla
Motown Records on their Oriole American label and found that their
biggest sales took place on Merseyside. I used to include a 'Motown'
page, with features on artists such as Little Stevie Wonder, The Contours,
Mary Wells and The Miracles.
The Beatles and other groups used to include Motown numbers
such as ‘Money,’ ‘Beechwood 45789’, ‘Do You Love Me’, ‘Shake
Sherry’ and ‘You Really Got A Hold On Me’ in their repertoires.As
the Liverpool groups reinterpreted the numbers and performed
them in their own style, I referred to it as the 'Mersey-Motown
Sound'.All of the numbers in the repertoire of The Beatles and
other groups were readily available and could be bought in local
record stores. They weren’t brought in by ‘Cunard Yanks’ as
some sources claim.
Out of more than five hundred groups and artists who performed
on the Mersey scene between 1958 and 1965, only the chart artists
are generally widely known – The Beatles, The Searchers, Gerry
& The Pacemakers, Billy J. Kramer and The Dakotas, Cilla Black,
The Fourmost and The Swinging Bluejeans.
There were, of course, many others who had the potential to
become international names but never achieved the success they
deserved. They included The Big Three, Kingsize Taylor & The
Dominoes, Rory Storm & The Hurricanes, The Remo Four, Beryl
Marsden, Faron’s Flamingos, The Chants, Jimmy Campbell, Steve
Aldo, The Strangers, The Dennisons, The Escorts, The Undertakers,
Derry Wilkie, The Roadrunners and David Garrick.
The success of 'Mersey Beat' led to many other similar newspapers
spreading throughout the provinces from Southend to Glasgow, one of
the first being 'Midland Beat' in Birmingham. Aspiring editors contacted
me for help and one of them, who was to produce 'Western Scene' in
Bristol, spent a week with me in Liverpool while I showed him all
the ropes. I counted over 20 publications which were based directly
on 'Mersey Beat', which must have made it the most-imitated newspaper
in the world at the time. As for 'Mersey Beat' itself, by 1965 London
had re-established itself as the musical centre and A&R men were combing
all the other cities – Manchester, Birmingham, Sheffield, Newcastle,
with Liverpool (mistakenly) being regarded as having been drained
of all its main talent.
Brian Epstein wanted me to finish with 'Mersey Beat' and launch a
national music paper for him, so I coined the phrase 'Music Echo',
merging 'Mersey Beat' into it. I had, of course, been promoting groups
from the provinces for a number of years, particularly from the cities
Unfortunately, Brian seemed to have the wrong idea of what a music paper
should be. Although promising me full editorial control, he began commissioning
the type of material which I considered ‘naff.’ Without consulting me he
hired a female P.R. in London to write a fashion column, a London club D.J.
to write a gossip column and I was suddenly flooded with material and photographs
which I considered would be disastrous for the paper and would provide no
competition to the London 'majors'.
I told Brian I could no longer work on 'Music Echo' and so I left, to become
a P.R. myself, and Virginia and I then moved to London where, over the next
18 years, I represented about 30 major artists including The Hollies, The
Kinks, Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull, Procol Harum, Ten Years After, David Bowie,
The Beach Boys, The Pretty
Led Zeppelin, Supertramp, Nazareth, Suzi Quatro, Hot Chocolate and
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