I Saw Them Standing There. Continued

The same edition of the newspaper included three photographs under the banner headline of BEATLEMANIA. One of the photographs included a number of girls screaming in Tempest Street at the side of the Gaumont Cinema as they waited near the stage door. The caption read:

'After a long vigil, the shrill screams from these teenage girls herald a momentary glimpse of their idols, the Beatles, as they left the stage door of the Gaumont after the show last night.'

The other two photographs showed (a) George Harrison arriving at the Gaumont before the show and (b) Ringo Starr leaving the Gaumont after the show. In both cases reference is made to the need to escape the attentions of fans.

Another small article appeared in the same newspaper entitled DEEP DROWNED THE MERSEY SOUND and described a short interview by the paper's columnist, Paul Hill, with John Lennon. In the interview John was asked if the Beatles would prefer to be back in Liverpool playing for their own pleasure. His response was:

"No, I don't think so. We would say in the old days 'Well we won’t play such and such a number', now we have to play our hits. But then it would be much harder to play new numbers every night."

In response to other questions from the reporter, John Lennon said:

"We don’t know how long we will last. We sing a lot of straight numbers now and we can do them all right, but we don’t like most of them. We copied in the early days from American artists and our style was a mixture. There will always be copyists. Everyone was copying the Shadows, then we came along with something new and so we are copied now."

It was also reported in the newspaper that the performance by the Beatles was:

'impossible to hear properly because of the screams so they could have been good. bad or indifferent, but nobody knew.'

Much of the above is confirmed by local people who were in the audience for one or other of the two performances on that night:

"It was just impossible to really hear them. I had been at the Gaumont in the March when they were on the bill and they were great. I assumed that they were as good the second time but I heard absolutely nothing."

"The screaming was incredible. If I remember right there was hardly a male in the audience, or so it seemed. It was just mob hysteria."

"It was as bad outside the theatre. There were thousands of people around Snow Hill. The traffic could hardly move and the number of police around the Gaumont was incredible. I reckon there were more kids outside the Gaumont than inside most of the evening. I don't think the town had seen anything like it since the Wolves won the Cup in 1960."

"I was only a young teenager at the time and I had no ticket but I went along with some of my friends from the Girls High School. We just wanted to be there. I was a passionate fan of the Beatles, especially Paul."

Similar manifestations of Beatlemania were reported daily in the tabloid press. It seemed that the Beatles had become almost the main source of news in this country. The charts similarly were dominated by the Beatles and other Liverpool groups like Gerry and the Pacemakers, the Searchers and Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas. In fact seven of the most successful singles of 1963 were recorded by Merseyside groups.

The incredible rise of the Beatles during 1963 and of other Liverpool and Manchester beat groups completely changed the attitude of the British record industry to provincial popular music. It caused most of the record companies to send their A&R men out from Denmark Street northwards, in search of the next 'hit-making group'.

The beat group had become the symbol of British popular music. It was probably the logical outcome of the skiffle craze, American rock 'n' roll guitarists like Buddy Holly and Eddie Cochran, the end of HP restrictions in 1960 which made the 'requisite' line-up of electric guitars, drum kits and amplifiers more widely available to the budding musicians and the lack of any real excitement in mainstream British popular music. The beat groups offered a local alternative to youngsters who 'grabbed' at it and soon made local stars of the groups. It is hardly surprising that the numbers of beat groups which emerged all over the country, including our own area, during the years 1963 to 1964 was quite phenomenal. It is quite strange that in June 1962, Roy Orbison, the American singer, said at a London press conference:

"You don't seem to have the kind of rhythm groups that we have in the States - and I'm sure that's what the kids want: strong, beaty rhythms that make them jump."

How right he was!

The A&R men scoured the country and 'discovered' groups all over the place and in many cases, signed them up. Many of those groups became the archetypal 'one-hit' or 'no-hit' wonders. One city which received a number of visits from record companies was Birmingham which had a large number of very active and proficient beat groups, including:

Rockin' Berries
Mike Sheridan and the Nightriders
Carl Wayne and the Vikings
Denny Laine and the Diplomats
Gerry Levene and the Avengers
Keith Powell and the Valets
Pat Wayne and the Beachcombers
Carl and the Cheetahs

The scene in and around Birmingham, including Wolverhampton, was thought vibrant enough for a monthly newspaper, Midland Beat, to be published. The newspaper cost 6d (5p). It was edited by Dennis Detheridge and on its first front page it announced BRUM BEAT HITS CHARTS announcing the success of the Bruisers and the Redcaps in reaching the Top 50. The first editorial included the following claim:

'Liverpool started the ball rolling. Now the Midlands is ready to take over. We have the groups. Let's hope they have the luck the Merseysiders have enjoyed.'

Redcaps. One of the groups that the Midland Beat believed would rival the Beatles. They were good
but not that good. (Jim Simpson)
Two other interesting features found in that first edition were R&B COMES TO BIRMINGHAM which described the authentic R&B played by Spencer Davis at the city's first R&B club in Hill Street and MAVERICKS IN ‘FOR TEENAGERS ONLY' which described how Wolverhampton's Steve Brett and the Mavericks had become the resident group on ITV's For Teenagers Only. There was a photograph of the group (Steve Brett/ John Millington/Gary James/Dave Holland). The newspaper was to continue until the end of 1967, keeping its readership aware of the exploits of the groups from the Welsh borders, across the Midlands, to East Anglia.
It was to include news about many of our own groups, thanks to the work of the local correspondent, Roger Bennett. Many of the Birmingham groups played quite regularly in Wolverhampton and the surrounding areas, often sharing the bill with one or other of the town's groups. Clive Mountford who played with both the Tremors and Zyder Zee remembers playing with three of the 'better' Brum groups:

"We played with many of the Birmingham groups but some of them stand out more than the others. We appeared at Bilston Town Hall with Denny Laine and the Diplomats and they were excellent.

It was obvious that Denny Laine had that bit extra. He showed that later with the Moody Blues and Wings. I think Bev Bevan was the drummer then, although he was known as Bev Ralston. He played with the Move and ELO later."

Mavericks. The Mavericks were one of the few local groups to actually get on the box. Here they are seen during the showing of For Teenagers Only. They became resident on the show. To the right of Steve Brett can be seen Dave Holland who was to achieve great success in the United States. (Steve Brett)
"Carl Wayne and the Vikings was another of the more professional of the early Brum groups. They had a tight sound and Carl Wayne had a great voice. We played with them more than once at the Plaza in Old Hill for Ma Regan."

Carl Wayne & the Vikings. One of the best of the early Birmingham groups. Carl Wayne and Ace Kefford were to gain greater success with the Move. (Jim Simpson)
"The Bruisers didn't really have that much success but they were a very good group. I suppose much of that was down to Peter Lee Stirling.

He was one of the few Midland players to write original stuff He became Daniel Boone later and had at least one hit.

We played with them at the Civic on the same bill as the Marauders from Stoke. It was organised by Beatties where I worked"

John Howells recalls the influence which at least one of the Birmingham groups had on the Vendors:

"When Dave Hill joined us we started to play a lot of different stuff because of his ability on the guitar and because we began to take more notice of some of the better class groups from the general area, especially groups like the Redcaps. They had two brothers named Walker who were excellent musicians and singers. They were also one of the first local groups to move away from the uniform dress of the groups."

Dave Jones who played with the Vendors and the original 'N Betweens describes some of his early experiences in Birmingham:

"When I was only about 14 or 15 I used to spend quite a bit of time around the early Brum club scene. I must have looked somewhat older otherwise I would not have got in. It was while I was 'clubbing' that I saw some of the better Birmingham groups like Carl Wayne and the Vikings and Denny Laine and the Diplomats. They stood out and were probably part of the reason that I wanted to play in a group."

"The Redcaps were one of the most successful Birmingham groups to go abroad. They went to Sweden and did really well. It was maybe because they were a set of good looking lads. I know we would never have been anywhere near as successful in Sweden. We just did not have the right sexy image!"

John O'Hara also recalls that quite a number of groups from Birmingham used to come into the Wolverhampton area and in most cases they were pretty good:

"While Wolverhampton had its fair share of good class groups, there were others from Birmingham and Stoke who used to play at several of the local venues who were classy. I remember Pat Wayne and the Beachcombers and the Redcaps as being two really accomplished groups. Pat Wayne did a version of Roll Over Beethoven and the Redcaps recorded a version of Talkin' About You, both Chuck Berry numbers. I reckon they would both stand up even today."

"Denny Laine was one of the most outstanding front men to come out of Brum. He had a stage presence and he obviously regarded himself quite highly and that always helped with the punters, especially the girls."

John Taylor was one half of Hollick and Taylor, the studios in Perry Barr Birmingham where many of the local groups recorded during the 'frenetic' years of 1963 to 1966. He gives some impression of the situation:

"In the mid-60 s we would have three or four local groups in here most days. Sometimes they would come of their own volition, other times they would come because record companies had given them money to use in a studio. In those cases the end-product would be sent to the company, not always to be used. Sometimes the company would do the actual pressing of the record"

"If we look into the diaries from those years we find an incredible number and variety of groups. There are references to groups like the Blackhawks, the Ebonites, Sombreros, Executioners, Challengers, Ambassadors. Chad Wayne and the Originals, Johnny Evil and the Satans, the Shanes, etc. etc. etc."

"Those groups listed are only those for whom we did pressings. There must have been loads more who recorded here but had no pressings done here. At that time there must have been literally hundreds of groups all wishing to be recorded in the vain hope that they would get the much sought after recording contract and make it to the top. Another thing to remember is that we were not the only recording studios in the area so you could multiply our numbers but you would still not really be aware of just how many groups were around about during those years."

Whether the groups had their origins in Birmingham or nearer to Wolverhampton, or virtually anywhere, the intention was always the same - recording contract, chart success, fame and fortune. In most cases the Beatles and the Liverpool groups were used as a model, so most of the beat groups set out to copy the formula - Take a distinctive rocking harmony played on three guitars and a drum kit, add a rigorous work experience on the Continent, find an 'astute' manager, negotiate the recording contract, wait for the hit!!!!

Hollick & Taylor It was at the Grosvenor Studios in Perry Barr that many of the aspiring groups first recorded, including Steve Brett, Carl Wayne, the Cheetahs and Mike Sheridan.

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