I thoroughly enjoyed watching ITV’s ‘Cilla’.
Christ, the music was bloody great back then. We didn’t realise just how good it was at the time. We just took it for granted. It was simple, unsophisticated, raw and real.
I loved being part of it. And in truth, I would have loved to have been a bigger part of it.
But it was not to be. I was one of the silly buggers who said “No” when we were offered a tour of Hamburg! After all, we were all serving apprenticeships. Why on earth would we give all that up just to play in clubs in a land where they speak German and make hamburgers!
Naive or what!? Hindsight, as they say, is a wonderful thing!
My musical journey started when at the age of fourteen I acquired an acoustic guitar and a Dansette record player at about the same time. My first record was Apache by the Shadows and I pretty much wore it out, playing along to it for weeks until I could play it properly. Then I flipped it over and did the same. After a month my entire repertoire was Apache and Quartermaster’s Stores.
I took my new found talents down to the Youth Club in Ruthin. This lad came up to me and said “I play that with my band. Can you play bass?” His name was Dave Evans. I said “Yes, of course”. Then got back on the bus home, took the top two strings off my guitar and stuck Apache back on the Dansette, this time listening carefully to Jet Harris’s base line.
By the time I met up with Dave at ‘Youthy’ the following week, I still had a repertoire of two tunes but now I was a bass guitarist!
The rest of the band was there. Well, Dennis was there with a set of drums. There hadn’t actually been a band. Dave had spun the same line to Dennis who’d subsequently bought a drum kit out of his mother’s catalogue.
When Dave had said he could play Apache, however, he wasn’t spinning a line. And he had an electric guitar, which impressed everybody in the youth club, including me!
We played Apache, then we played Quartermaster’s Stores. Then we played them again.
Although we didn’t realise at the time, that night The Executioners was born.
Meeting up once or twice a week, we worked our way through the Shadows back catalogue. I built a bass guitar out of a lovely piece of walnut in my dad’s woodworking shed using a bought neck, fretboard and machine heads, and indulged my interest in electronics and built a valve amplifier with a fifteen inch speaker in massive rexine covered cabinet. Dennis added a second snare, additional toms and cymbals to his original three-piece drum kit and Dave upgraded his equipment.
We were the dog’s bollocks.
By now Ray had joined us as rhythm guitarist and we had enough material to entertain at the youth clubs and village hall dances. All Shadows stuff. We even perfected the Shadows “Walk” which helped us all keep time as we played Kon Tiki.
Dave and I wanted to start singing but Ray wouldn’t hear of it. One night when we were playing at Ruthin Picture House, Ray broke a string. When he went off stage to change it, Dave looked over to me and said “Money”? We launched into the song and the kids went wild. From that day on it was out with the Shadows and in with The Beatles.
We got a manager (well, the local greengrocer, who had a van!) and progressed from the village hall dances to British Legion and Working Men’s Clubs, and eventually to Merseyside venues like the Tower Ballroom in New Brighton, The Cavern and The Iron Door.
It was a whirlwind few years. We were often billed as support for The Undertakers – we’d murder the songs and they’s bury them! Three times we were support band for an up and coming teenager called Freddy Starr. Even in those days Freddie was manic. Very funny and a very good rock and roll singer. Also the very best Elvis impersonator I’ve ever heard. On each occasion he had a different backing group: The Starrlights, The Flamingos and The Midniters
We shared the stage with many Merseyside bands, including the likes of The Searchers, The Big Three, The Black Abbots, Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, The Foremost, The Hideaways and The Merseybeats.
We played on many of the same stages as The Beatles but sadly never on the same night. So I never got to meet the Fab Four. I never met Cilla either.
Through it all we had kept our day jobs and eventually careers and marriages won over the music. The band was already in the process of breaking up when the Hamburg trip was offered.
Anyway, no regrets whatsoever. It was fun while it lasted and I’ve had a good life since, filled with a lot of blessings.
And I was never big on hamburgers anyway.