Sixties City presents a wide-ranging series of articles on all aspects of the Sixties, penned by the creator of the iconic 60s music paper Mersey Beat
|As a folk
act, based on Merseyside, they became a quartet, with Hughie Jones (guitar,
harmonica, banjo) who was born in Liverpool. Cliff Hall (guitar, harmonica),
was born in Orient Province, Cuba, of Jamaican parents. When his mother
died he returned to Jamaica with his father who worked in the plantations.
There wasn’t enough money to provide Cliff with further education and as
a teenager he worked moulding breezeblocks and milking cows.When RAF personnel
came to Jamaica on a recruiting drive, Cliff claimed he was older than he
was, signed up and came to Britain in November 1942 and was stationed in
Worcestershire. He married a Scottish girl Janet Massie in 1947 and the
couple had three children. By 1953 he was working as an electrician in Leeds
and when he was sent to work in Capenhurst in Cheshire he met Tony Davis
and was invited to join The Spinners. Mick
Groves (guitar), born in Salford was to say “I think our strong Liverpool
identity is actually a great tribute to the city. They call it a melting
pot and we all melted together greatly.”
Tony Davis (banjo, tin whistle, guitar, kazoo), was born in Blackburn, but moved to Merseyside at the age of 14. The Spinners had founded a folk club in Liverpool in October 1958 which they called the Triton Club and their live performances formed the basis of their debut album ‘Songs Spun In Liverpool’ in 1962. The Spinners ran the club for 25 years and it continues with new regulars under the name Triton Folk.
group signed with Philips Records in 1963 and recorded eight albums on the
label before signing with EMI Records in the early Seventies. Apart from
performing vintage folk numbers, they also included original folk songs
penned by Hughie in their repertoire, including ‘The Ellen Vanin Tragedy’
and ‘The Marco Polo.’
One highlight of their act was a tribute to their native Liverpool with a song originally written by Peter McGovern in 1962, ‘In My Liverpool Home,’ while Cliff introduced some traditional Jamaican songs into their repertoire. One of the original songs on the debut album, ‘Quayside Songs Old And New’ included the song ‘Liverpool Girls,’ which was penned by Cliff and was his comment on British cooking. He said “My first wife couldn't cook the dishes I liked at first, but I called the song 'Liverpool Girls' so as not to offend her." Oddly, the record company were uncomfortable about promoting a multi-racial group and placed a cartoon on the cover in which all the members appeared to be white! The group recorded over forty albums prior to their retirement in 1988, thirty years after their original formation, having achieved considerable fame in Britain via their many concert and television appearances. They even had their own television show on BBC 1 in 1970 which ran for seven years and another of their own series was aired on BBC Radio 2. They officially retired following a concert at the Philharmonic Hall after a 120 date farewell tour. A year after their retirement they gathered together to lead the community singing at the 1989 FA Cup final and also performed some Christmas shows in1992, 1993 and 1994. There was also a reunion performance at the Everyman Theatre in 2005. During the last 17 years of their career, John McCormick acted as their double bassist and musical director.
When the Spinners decided to retire, he said that The Spinners had become an institution and “who wants to end their days in an institution.” Following their retirement, Cliff moved to Australia with his third wife Dottie (he had been widowed twice) but passed away on 26th June 2008 at the age of 82.
Tony continued performing and Mick became Chair of Education at Wirral Borough Council and later moved to Devon.
Hughie Jones has also continued to perform and has had three albums released, including ‘Liverpool Connexions’ issued on the Fellside label on 14th November 2005. It contained the tracks: Mist Over The Mersey; Moles Of Edge Hill; Down By The Dockyard Wall; Blue And Red; Betsy Of New York; Rent Collecting In Speke; Here’s To Cheshire; Unmooring; Cape Horner; Liverpool Lullaby; Derbyshire; Seth Davey; Shanghai Brown; Dirty Old Town; Safe In Snug Harbour; King Of Edge Hill; Alexander Selkirk Is My Name; Daughter Of Water Street.
Their 1994 CD compilation ‘The Spinners’ contains the tracks:
Lord of the Dance, All Day Singing, Blaydon Races, Last Thing On My Mind, Amazing Grace, We Shall Not Be moved, Guantanamera, Jamaica Farewell, To Be A Farmers Boy, The Foggy Dew, Greensleeves / Lovely Joan, North Country Maid, Liverpool Hornpipe, The Colliers Rant, Dance The Flora, Banks of the Ohio, The Shepherd Lad, Waters of the Tyne, Lamorna, Bucket of the Mountain Dew, When I First Came To This Land, So Long It's Been Good To Know You. It was reissued on 13th January 2008.
|Bill Harry attended the Liverpool College of Art with Stuart Sutcliffe and John Lennon and made the arrangements for Brian Epstein to visit The Cavern, where he saw The Beatles for the first time. Bill was a member of 'The Dissenters' and the founder and editor of 'Mersey Beat', the iconic weekly music newspaper that documented the early Sixties music scene in the Liverpool area and is possibly best known for being the first periodical to feature a local band called 'The Beatles'. He has worked as a high powered publicist, doing PR for acts such as Suzi Quatro, Free, The Arrows and Hot Chocolate and has managed press campaigns for record labels such as CBS, EMI, Polydor. Bill is the critically acclaimed author of a large number of books about The Beatles and the 60s era including 'The Beatles Who's Who', 'The Best Years of the Beatles' and the Fab Four's 'Encyclopedia' series. He has appeared on 'Good Morning America' and has received a Gold Award from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors.|
Article Bill Harry 2012 Original Graphics SixtiesCity 2012