John Lethbridge sent me this account of the heydays of the 2Is by Freddy St John-Lloyd. I found it fascinating reading. It's longer than what I normally present but worth the read.
RANDOM THOUGHTS OF AN AGEING ROCKER[The 2i’s Saga]Halfway through writing these ‘random thoughts’, I was sitting in a restaurant talking music to a musician friend and discussing the ‘old days’ and rabbiting on about the 2i’s, and I found, to my complete astonishment, he had never heard of the place! Now Phill Coe [the name has been changed to protect his innocence] is 35ish and has been around the music scene for several years, and heard [of course] of the Cavern in Liverpool. This revelation has caused me to go back to the ‘drawing board’, and think again about what I’m writing, if he hadn’t heard of it, how many others haven’t? So some background information is probably necessary, so here goes!
The 2i’s was a coffee bar in Old Compton Street in the heart of London’s Soho. It was never intended to be anything else. In the mid 50’s London was suddenly hit by a rash of coffee bars brought about by the advent of the Italian Gaggia Espresso coffee machine, which brought for the first time drinkable coffee to the UK. Suddenly to go to the West End and drink ‘frothy coffee’, as it later became known was the in thing to do. The coffee bars of bohemian Soho attracted a host of young self-styled intellectuals, ‘poseurs’ is a better description, who sat around the coffee bars drinking endless cups of espresso coffee, full of self importance either – ostentatiously playing chess, or can you believe, spouting obscure poetry out loud to the rest of the poseurs. Some even took up guitars, playing folksy music - badly! The 2i’s had a cellar which the owners the Irani brothers [2i’s – get it?], filled with tables and chairs, and to attract customers, encouraged the folksy singers to perform. However as skiffle became the in thing, a fair percentage of these folksy folks evolved into skiffle groups and for some reason the 2i’s became the Mecca of skiffle attracting all the best groups. As ever the cream came to the top, and skiffle became ‘professional’ with people like Lonnie Donegan, The Vipers and Chas McDevitt all making records, which zoomed into the charts!
Just for the record, for those who don’t remember, the Vipers Skiffle Group released 8 singles, 4 of which went into the charts. The most successful was “Don’t you Rock me Daddy-Oh” which went to number 5 [I think], we also charted with “Cumberland Gap”, “Worried Man”, and “Pick a Bale of Cotton”.
With a few notable exceptions such as Chas McDevitt and Lonnie Donegan, ‘pure’ skiffle [if there ever was such a thing], faded away, and those of us that had stayed the course turned to rock, after all both styles were based on the old 3 chord blues structure, which is why so many were able to take up a guitar and accompany themselves. Once you had learned to get your fingers around the ‘3 chord trick’ you could play almost anything. In fact sitting here at the computer I can’t think of any early rock songs, from Blue Suede Shoes to Bye-bye Love that don’t fall under this rule. So dear reader, learn the basic chords and you can play almost everything Presley ever did. ………. However I digress, back to the 2i’s.
The 2i’s had become a sort of melting pot where everybody met when they weren’t working. We’d ‘play for our supper’ on the miniscule stage, after all if you consider yourself an entertainer, that’s what you want to do, pay or not! The management of the 2i’s were happy because they were frequently getting free performances from an eclectic group of top class musicians. The business was not so big then, and there was a nucleus of perhaps 30 musicians and singers so if one of us had a gig, we could quickly put a band together, and because we knew each other so well, it would need no real rehearsal. At this point I’d like to pay tribute to a few of the lesser-known names, before they fade from memory. Sadly some of these are no longer with us. Jet Harris and Tony Meehan, Brian Bennett, Brian ‘Liquorice’ Locking, Wee Willie Harris, Vince Taylor [the best rocker I ever saw] Rory Blackwell [more of him later], Terry Dene, Karl Denver, Roy Young, Lord Sutch and my old mate Tony Sheridan, who later went on to make the German charts with “My Bonnie Lies over the Ocean” backed up by – The Beatles! I had the pleasure of working with Tony a couple of years ago in the well-known club ‘100 Oxford Street’. He always was a great guitarist, but today he is nothing short of breathtaking, I just wish he would get ‘clean’. Mickie Most, who went on to become very wealthy as one of the most successful record producers of the 60’s, had the unenviable job of serving cokes to the ever-thirsty audience.
I walked into the club one night, to see a young lad, guitar in hand up on the stage. The musicians behind him saw me and quietly signalled, “Come up here and get him off”. So full of confidence that only comes of being part of the ruling clique, I got up on stage at the end of his song – “OK son, I’ll take over now!” A few months later that same lad had rocketed into the charts with a song called ‘Move It’, and dear old Cliff Richard is still around, still a nice guy and still in the charts! Oh where did I go wrong? Further down the line we both acquired the same agent manager, and saw quite a lot of each other, and he never let me forget the 2i’s incident.
Cliff’s original group The Drifters were quickly found out as being not good enough, so those 2i’s stalwarts, Jet Harris and Tony Meehan were drafted in to join another pair of lads who’d arrived from Newcastle to make their fame and fortune, Hank Marvin and Bruce Welch to form the new backing group The Shadows. Which neatly leads into another story.
Towards the end of the end of the skiffle era, the Vipers were on tour with Jim Dale, later star of the “Carry On” films who had at that time a record in the charts called “Be my Girl” [now not a lot of people know that!]. Jim and us were sharing the top of the bill with something called “The National Skiffle Contest”. We would arrive at a town, and play the local music hall theatre for a whole week. Local bands would be invited to compete against each other throughout the week, and of course each band would bring it’s own set of supporters. Well, it’s one way of putting bums on seats! We were playing at the Empire; Newcastle on Tyne, and one of the competing bands had a front line of two guys singing in an Everly Brothers style. They went on to reach the final on Saturday night, but although in my eyes the best band, they didn’t win because ‘they weren’t playing skiffle’! Throughout the week I had been talking to the ‘Everly’s act’, and went to commiserate with them after the show. My advice to them was, “Go South young man, you’ll never get anywhere here in Newcastle. If you take the plunge, then make your way to the 2i’s, sort out the manager and tell him I sent you”. Not so long after this the rock n’ roll roller coaster killed skiffle and the Vipers finally broke up. A couple of months later, I was sitting at home watching TV when the phone rang. It was the 2i’s manager. “Freddy, I’ve got a couple of young lads from Newcastle here asking for you”. After a moments pause it clicked. “OK, I’ll be there as quickly as possible”. To cut a long story short Hank Marvin and Bruce Welch spent the next week sleeping on my floor. They eventually got their first job with a group headed up by Pete Chester whose father was a then well-known radio comedian – Charlie Chester. In between time’s they also played in THE VIPERS, my old group [et tu Brute?]!! Wally Whyton the Vipers leader tried to resuscitate the band using electric instruments to bring it ‘up to date’. It didn’t work. Then came Cliff. The rest of the story you all know.
The 2i’s was a hotbed of both talent and characters. A little earlier I mentioned a guy called Rory Blackwell. Rory was what one could unkindly describe as a ‘nearly man’. He fancied himself as both a singer and a drummer, but truthfully he wasn’t that brilliant at either, however ‘a character’ he definitely was. Determined to make a name for himself one way or other, he announced to all and sundry that he was going to get into the Guinness Book of Records by breaking the world record for marathon drumming! He was going to drum non-stop for 24 hours! Personally I can’t stand drummers at the best of times – they’re too noisy, and always want to do long boring ‘drum solo’s’; full of arms flying all over the place, and crashing cymbals, which for some reason the crowd seems to love, and during which they invariably lose the original tempo. Think about it dear reader – Rory proposed to do 24 hours of banging and clattering, and the 2i’s management seemed to think it was a good idea, but then realised that although a good publicity stunt, no audience could take more than 5 minutes of drumming so there had to be something else, and all the musicians were called in to do shift work, and add some music over the noise. Well, Rory did manage to stay awake for the full 24 hours, with a lot of help from his friends, and did eventually make the pages of the record books, and got his picture in most of the newspapers, I even think there was a brief shot of him on a TV news programme. So, he got his 5 minutes of fame… and why not?
The hot and humid atmosphere of the 2i’s was not only a hotbed of talent. 1957 saw the first worldwide outbreak of Asian flu’. This particular strain of the influenza virus was extremely virulent, and struck without prior warning. The Worried Men was a 6 piece group, with the later named Adam Faith and myself in the front line – at least we started the evening as a 6 piece, then the flu’ bug struck, and one by one members of the group collapsed on stage leaving, after a couple of hours, only 2 standing, myself being one of them. As always there were ‘spare’ musicians around to make up the numbers on stage, and we got through until closing time. I just about made it to my front door, and went to bed for a week. I don’t know whether one of us took the virus into the club that night, or it was somebody in the audience, but somebody that night did their best to spread it around London. It really does annoy me nowadays when some people claim to ‘have a touch of the flu’ meaning they’re feeling under the weather in some way. Believe me anybody who has really had full-blown influenza, knows it in a big way. It is potentially a killer, and the 1957 epidemic killed 70,000 people in the USA alone [I don’t know the figures for the UK]. When you’re suffering in bed with it, you really feel as if you’re about to die. The upside to getting it all those years ago is that since that time, I’ve never needed a flu jab. I think that I got some kind of immunity – I hope.
Many years later in the late 70’s I was working for the promotions department of Decca Records, and one day my boss threw on my desk an LP issued in Germany by Teldec [Telefunken-Decca]. “You were a skiffler, see what you can do with this”. I opened it up and to my amazement I saw a track listed by “The Worried Men” with the sleeve note saying “There is no information known about the Worried Men”. What were the odds on that LP landing in the hands of the only person in the Decca organisation who not only knew what it was, but was actually singing on it! It is in fact the very first commercial recording Adam Faith ever made. How do I know it was the first? Because it was also mine. It was made in a pub next door to the Decca studios in Hampstead London, and was part of an LP called “Live at the 2i’s”. The Teldec record was never released in the UK, and I firmly suspect that I probably have the only one in existence. Co-incidence or something else?
I can’t finish the 2i’s saga without another anecdote.
I did anything to resuscitate my failing career, including entering a radio talent contest run by a guy called Carroll Levis. At this time I rather fancied myself as a budding Sinatra, as a matter of fact, I still do, so notwithstanding my previous 5 minutes of fame, I entered in order to get a showcase to get big band work, which I later did. The radio show was recorded in one of the BBC theatre studios with an invited audience. Also making an appearance was a rock group called “The Spacemen”. They were pretty average, BUT the leader, a singer/guitarist with a mop of blonde spiky hair was a terrific personality, so repeat the above Shadows story, only this time we made a date, and I was waiting for him at the 2i’s. Joe Brown appeared on a motorbike with his guitar tied onto his back with string. I introduced him to some of the guys and the club manager who promptly gave him an audition on the spot – which is a euphemism for not having to pay for a performance [cynical - who me?]. Joe of course went on to do very well for himself, and is still working. In late 1956-57, I had a relatively successful, but strictly local, skiffle group working in pubs and clubs in West London called “The Sinners” [oh those names!], and we took to rehearsing at the local YWCA and enjoyed the admiration of all the young ladies staying there. One day I saw a good-looking young lad leaning against a wall watching us. With his blond hair, white T-shirt and black leather jacket he looked for all the world like James Dean – the image he cultivated of course. After rehearsal he came over to me and said he had a guitar at home, and would I teach him a few chords [I only knew a dozen myself]. Of course I was quite flattered and pleased, and we spent quite some time over the next weeks in one another’s houses. The Sinners started to get jobs at some of the better-known coffee bars in the West End, but were obviously really not going any further. Suddenly out of the blue, the young “James Dean”, whose real name was Terry Nelhams, showed up again at my house, and announced that he was forming a group called The Worried Men and it had an “electric guitarist”, would I be prepared to join it? An electric guitar! Wow – he must be good – and he was. At that time I owned a bright yellow 1936 London taxi, now whether or not the offer to join had anything to do with the fact that I had transport or not I really couldn’t say – but, they’d somehow conned themselves into a semi-residency at the Mecca of skiffle, the 2i’s, and they felt they needed someone with experience……… or was it the taxi? The Worried Men became the resident group at the 2i’s for quite some time. Looking back it seems like years, but it was probably only 5 or 6 months, but we became very proficient, and very popular. The crunch came one evening when during a break, Wally Whyton, who was the leader of the Vipers, approached me and said they were going out on a major tour of the ‘Number One’ theatres all over the UK together with Jim Dale, and The National Skiffle Contest – a member of the group was leaving, and would I be prepared to take his place? Now let me try to put this into perspective. For the purist skifflers, the Vipers were ‘nonpareil’; none of this commercial rubbish Lonnie was doing, and they were riding high in the charts, and even the thought of being asked to join them was like all one’s birthdays rolled into one! But the Worried Men were starting to happen. We had got ourselves a recording contract with Decca, and were due to make our first TV appearance on the 6.5 Special a few weeks later! What to do?
Well its now history that I went for ‘instant’ stardom, joined the Vipers, and rather left Terry and the boys in the lurch. But……. that’s showbiz!
Some little while later Terry also left the group to pursue a ‘solo’ career. A TV producer named Jack Good took Terry under his wing and thought he would try to make a star of him. Jack was the producer of 6.5 Special, which was the only TV show dedicated to the new music of the era. Terry was in Jack’s house and they were discussing a more ‘stagey’ name for a pop star. Jack’s wife was expecting a baby, and they had made a list of girls and boys names. They cut these names up and put them into a hat, and pulled out Adam Faith! That’s how it happened folks! I’ve got to relate another story here about Adam Faith and myself.
Under Jack Good’s wing, he had made a couple records and some TV appearances, which really didn’t do very much. Both he and I started to go into decline, with my career practically in freefall. Suddenly one day there was a knock at the door and there stood Terry. To say the least I was surprised because since our split we weren’t actually the best of friends.
“Jack’s doing a new TV show called ‘Oh Boy’, and he asked me to see if you were interested in making up a double act with me for the show? This must have been somewhere around 1960 so several years had passed since our split. “Why not?” I replied, after all it was another payday, and heaven knew I could use one. So we spent the next couple of weeks working on a dreadful song that Jack had picked out for us, the title of which I will not disclose! Came the day, and we showed up at the studio dressed in identical jackets, trousers and ties, and did our piece. It was terrible – Terry’s voice and mine had never really blended and this was no exception. So we went our separate ways – again.
A couple of months later Adam Faith suddenly rocketed into the charts going to number one with a song called “What do you Want”, and he was off on tour earning money. Me? I was also on tour as a supporting act to an artist called Emile Ford who had at the time a big hit called “What do you wanna make those eyes at me for”.
My manager/agent at the time was a guy named Tito Burns who was also Cliff’s manager. Tito’s secretary was married to a songwriter called Johnny Worth, and she knew my mother quite well. They met in the street one day, and she said “You know that song was meant for Freddy don’t you?” My poor old mother had no idea what she was talking about. “What song?” “Terry’s big hit I mean”. She then proceeded to tell my mother that Johnny had gone along to the TV studio to see me, gone into the dressing room where Terry was sitting alone. Have you seen Freddy, I’ve got a song I’d like him to hear.” Terry said, “I’ve got a recording contract let me hear it”. When my mother heard the story she swore she would never speak to Terry again, and she never did. She even went to the extent of switching off the TV if he was on!! So where was I when Johnny came along to sell me his song? In a phonebox calling up my current girlfriend – typical!
Now this story is probably at odds with the official version, but my mother was a simple lady who couldn’t possibly have made the story up, and she didn’t tell me the story until several months had passed in case I should kill him. Bless her! In fairness I must say that I doubt if I would’ve made a hit of the song. Half the appeal was the way Terry sang it, and the public still recall his “Baybeee” even today. However, I have a theory as to why he sang it that way. John Barry, who later went on to score most of the James Bond films, did the arrangement. At that time a Buddy Holly song “Raining in my Heart” was extremely popular amongst the 2i’s in crowd of musicians, it was a B-side and used plucked or pizzicato violins as a featured part of the arrangement. John Barry also featured pizzicato strings for “What do you want”. With all due respect, Terry wasn’t the greatest singer in the world and admitted such. I firmly suspect that when he heard the arrangement he tried to imitate Buddy Holly, and it didn’t come off, but what did happen was a unique sound that I certainly wouldn’t have got.
As everybody knows, Terry went on to make a very successful career in acting. To those who knew him in the early days this came as no surprise. He was a very good-looking guy, and the camera loved him. He had always seen this as his ultimate goal, and in that he succeeded.
THE HAMBURG SZENE[No, it’s not mis-spelt, that’s what the Germans called it]
Now I have a problem, what to say about the Hamburg scene without causing offence? Was it wild? Yes it was! Was it naughty? Oh yes it was! Did we sleep? Rarely! Did we have fun? I can’t remember!!!
Back to the 2i’s in 1960 for a couple of minutes. I was performing one night, when I noticed a big guy standing up near the stage, and when I got off to take a break, he approached, towering over me. “I have a club in Germany, and I would like you to bring your band over to play in it.” Now I didn’t have a band, we were just the usual collection of the in-crowd playing for the fun, but I wasn’t going to tell him that! Playing it cool, I said “how much?” And he named a figure that was about 4 times more than we were earning, plus free accommodation! “What about meals?” No, but free booze. Now that did it, a done deal.
I collected together a group consisting of Roy Young vocals/piano, Tony Sheridan vocals/guitar, and myself making up the front line, a fine lead guitarist named Colin Green, a sax player, drummer, and a bass player. The plan was for me to do the bulk of the singing, leaving Roy to do his Little Richard impressions and Tony to do his speciality spot.
We took a train can you believe, carrying instruments, drum kits, amplifiers etc. eventually arriving after travelling all day and all night [no sleeping car for us], in Hamburg railway station in the middle of the day looking like shit. Now what? The tourist office. “We need to go to the Reeperbahn, how do we get there?” Nowadays of course everybody has heard of the notorious Reeperbahn, the centre of the “red light” district, but then it was pre-Beatles, and its fame was yet to spread. The young lady must have wondered what these English tramps were up to, but gave us directions to get on the U-Bahn [underground]. When we finally arrived at 146 Reeperbahn, the doors were closed. We sat on our instruments in the street tired, dirty and hungry, with no money and of course none of us could speak a word of German. “What have you brought us to Freddy?” Eventually someone thought of a side door, and we got in. Peter Eckhorn, the big German guy I’d last seen at the 2i’s, came down from his apartment, which was situated over the club. “Why didn’t you telephone me from the main station, I’d have come and picked you up?” I didn’t have the guts to tell him that we were broke and had no German money, and we didn’t know how to work the telephone system. Talk about innocents abroad!
The Top Ten Club on the Reeperbahn was the original rock club in Hamburg, if not Germany. They were quite large premises, and had been in the Eckhorn family for many years. It made an ideal club, holding about 300 people, with a reasonable sized dance floor surrounded by tables and chairs. Originally in the 1930’s it was a ‘hippodrome’. It had a large circular sand pit in the middle, and horses pranced around with naked young ladies on their backs. The audience, usually made up of foreign seamen from the port, and ‘working girls’, sat at tables around the side. When Peter took over from his father, he simply boarded over the sand pit to make the dance floor, and changed its name to the “Top Ten Club”. The downside was that as the kids danced, dusty sand rose up through the boards, which didn’t do our throats a lot of good. The now famous Star Club didn’t come into existence until quite some time later, maybe a year to 18 months. It’s a strange quirk of fate that both the 2i’s and the Top Ten came before the Cavern and the Star Club, but because of the Beatles, both have been consigned to the archives, or the memory of people like me.
We were the first English rock band to play at the club, and we were STARS! We opened a couple of nights later, and the queues stretched for 100 yards down the street to the great annoyance of the other businesses, most of which dealt in that forbidden word at that time - SEX. The German kids couldn’t get enough of us – in more ways than one – at the break, we would stand on the stage, and point at the best looking girls and signal to the dressing rooms, and sure enough they’d turn up! At this juncture I don’t think that any further detail is necessary, do you? The availability of women eventually led to an embarrassing situation. I had talked in a friendly way to an ‘older’ lady [she must have been all of 28], and she returned to the club every night sometimes bringing me ‘small’ gifts like a wristwatch. One night she arrived rather drunk, and started shouting, in German of course, at the younger girls. The bouncers had to come over and throw her out. I discovered later that she was telling them to leave her ‘husband’ – me, alone! I then found out that she was one of the ‘working girls’ from a nearby brothel. No wonder she could afford to give away wristwatches.
Our workload was killing. For the next 6 months, we worked seven nights a week from 7 pm until 4 am. We worked an hour, and then had 15mins off. We existed on beer and Benzedrine tablets that were [illegally of course] supplied by the club. The ‘bennies’ had the effect of suppressing our appetites and preventing sleep. After a couple of weeks the combined effect of the surplus of girls, lack of food and sleep meant I hadn’t been so skinny since I was 16. However, it wasn’t all beer and skittles. Doing the bulk of the singing meant I talked like a herniated frog, and could blues shout with the best of them – talk about a whiskey voice, move over Rod Stewart!
Although we came off stage very late, the adrenaline, and the ‘bennies’ meant that afterward we were ready to party, or at least to go and find somewhere to eat. Peter Eckhorn had assigned one of the bouncers, a guy named Horst Fascher to accompany us, after all he needed to protect his investment, being so late at night in that part of Hamburg, could have ended up with us floating down the River Elbe. Very soon after our arrival, Roy Young and myself together with Horst were walking down the road in search of somewhere still open when we met two large drunks coming towards us. They said something in German that of course neither Roy nor I understood. Horst pushed us past the loudmouths and said, “Keep going” – we did, then suddenly we heard smack smack – thud thud. We turned around to see the two of them flat on their backs out cold! “Welcome to Hamburg” said Roy. We later found out that Horst was infamous in Hamburg as a hard man. He wasn’t much above 5ft 7in, but was built like the proverbial brick sh..t house, and he’d flattened both of them with just two punches. Awesome!
“Free accommodation” was part of the deal. Hmmm! For the 6 months I was there, we lived in a rather large attic high above the club. It consisted of 2 rooms, both ‘furnished’ with bunk beds and ex-army camp cots. Not something that any of us were used to. Having been in the RAF, I was probably more suited to this style of living than the others. Not so one [nameless] member of the group, who in the beginning spent several nights crying into his pillow!
Other ‘locales’ in the area, quickly caught on that Eckhorn was doing fantastic business, and decided to ditch sex and join the rock n’ roll bandwagon. Just around the corner from the Top Ten Club, was a street called Grosse Freiheit [Great Freedom], whether this name had anything to do with the activities of most of the businesses I don’t know, but a ‘pick up’ bar called the Kaiserkeller decided to change, and a group of lads from Liverpool turned up there, this was around late 1960. Who booked them, and how they got there I don’t know, but I expect somebody does? Another club opened, then another, and more bands from the UK started to arrive, I remember a group called Rory Storm who had a drummer named Ringo Starr. Of course, none of us spoke German, and we all clan’d together for mutual support. We met in various café’s and eating places, one favourite because it was cheap was the Seaman’s Mission situated on the dockside. Any of the old Hamburg hands will remember it well!
We were all smashed out of our skulls for most of the time on some noxious substance or another; so a lot of what transpired during these ‘lost months’ remain just that. Something of note that did happen however was that a famous German big band leader, turned record producer, Bert Kaempfert signed Tony Sheridan to Polydor Records and recorded the very unlikely title “My Bonnie Lies over the Ocean”, with an up-tempo beat. And who did Tony use to back him up? The Beatles! How this happened is lost in a haze of time, booze and drugs - something tells me that Tony started to play in the Kaiserkeller, but I could be wrong. Anyway to all the Brit’s surprise, “My Bonnie” crashed into the charts. The reason? It seems that all German kids in those days were taught the original version in school as part of their English lessons!
I can’t leave this part without bowing down to pressure from several friends who want me to recall the anecdote of “Pissing out of the window with Paul”. Please don’t ask how, but one night/day [?] we were all, including several members of The Beatles, in our attic, probably to smoke ‘wacky baccy’ when somebody thought it would be a good idea to piss onto the heads of the unsuspecting passers by in the street below! The joke backfired because we were 3 or 4 stories up, and by the time the streams of yellow liquid reached street level, it had dispersed into a fine spray, and - nobody noticed!
In 1961 The Beatles returned to Hamburg for 3 months, this time to play in the Top Ten. I guess they must have liked our attic!
On the subject of the Beatles – here’s an odd piece of trivia. They were just about to sign their first record deal with EMI, and Brian Epstein decided they needed to appoint a music publisher for all the original material. In those days, all the publishing houses were in Denmark Street [also known as Tin Pan Alley], situated in London’s West End. Denmark Street is only 75 – 100 yds. long, but contained dozens of publishers from large professional organisations to small one room, one-man bands. It seems that ‘Eppy’, not being familiar with the London music scene, made the mistake of showing up at lunchtime……… wrong! Everybody was in the TPA club for their daily jolt of booze and networking. Being fair about it, an awful lot of work was achieved by face-to-face contact. However, the only person Epstein could find, sitting at his desk eating sandwiches, was an ex-singer now struggling publisher named Dick James who couldn’t really afford the lunchtime booze. The rest is history. He formed Northern Songs for the Beatles, made a fortune, and as Dick James Music later went on to sign up another successful composer, one Sir Elton John…………. And all because he couldn’t afford a pint! FAMOUS PEOPLE
Sometime in early 1960, my agent/manager called me into his office and said, “I’ve got a great job for you Freddy, the Everly Brothers are coming to the UK for the first time, and I’ve got you in as one of the support acts”. I think he expected me to kiss him in gratitude, but I had other plans. Another agent had offered me a lot of work touring the US bases in Europe. The money was good, and we quite fancied touring through France and Germany. Besides which, I wasn’t really a fan of the Everly’s, and told him so - big mistake! After being told in no uncertain terms that I was an ungrateful bastard and how he’d worked his bollocks off to get me the gig, so I thought I’d better talk to the band about it, and begged for 24 hours.
Sometime earlier, I had pulled a band together which included 2 guys from my original ‘The Worried Men’ skiffle group, one of which was Denis Nelhams, Adam Faith’s cousin. As well as the 2i’s we were doing quite well working most weekends at the US services bases all over Southern England. Well the guys thought that the Everly’s tour was the best option, so one Sunday morning in early April we showed up for ‘band call’ at the ‘New Victoria’ close to Victoria Station in London.
All the acts to appear on the show were ‘called’ together, to go through their proposed act in front of the producer of the show, to decide the length of spot and running order. The audience consisted of the producers and various hangers on, and the other acts. We had all gone through our stuff, and I was sitting in the stalls with the guys, when out from the wings came 2 young guy’s wearing identical blue Burberry raincoats, carrying the biggest guitar cases I’d ever seen. Still wearing the coats they took out a couple of enormous Gibson Jumbo guitars, and without further ado struck a single chord and sang “Don’t want your love any more”, the first line of “Cathy’s Clown”! We sat there in stunned silence. I had never heard anything so good in my life, and from that day to this I was an Everly’s fan. When they finished the song, the whole audience of ‘hardened’ professionals stood up and cheered! It was amazing. None of us had heard “Cathy’s Clown” before, because it had been timed for release to coincide with the tour. Needless to say it crashed into No. 1. This wasn’t the end of it though, whilst they were singing, their group came in and set up behind them. Who was it? The Crickets – Buddy Holly’s old band! Buddy of course had died in a plane crash a couple of years earlier. Try to imagine it. The Everly’s and the Crickets? These were legends, people we had only heard from records and the press, and we were sharing the same stage with them.
If you have read this far, you might realise that a certain part of my anatomy was forever getting me into trouble! During the tour, I became quite friendly with Phil Everly. Getting back to the hotel after the show in Doncaster I found my band sitting in the bar with a couple of very good-looking girls. “Shift over you guy’s the star is here”, and I promptly moved in on them, they had of course been to the show. The Everly’s had gone straight to their rooms, so after a couple of minutes chatting, I phoned up to Phil’s room and explained that there was something ‘interesting’ in the bar. He of course was very reluctant to be seen in public with a strange girl, so I took the two of them up to his room. After a couple of drinks from the mini – bar, I disappeared off to my room with the one I fancied.
Well, the girls came on to the tour bus the next morning, and we carried on to the next gig, memory tells me this went on for a couple of days until they finally decided it was time to go home – or we got fed up, I’m not quite sure which. That same night, after I’d finished my spot, I thought I’d call my girlfriend in London. Now most theatres have a telephone backstage for artists use, but for some reason this one didn’t, and I made my way through to the front of the house to use the one in the box office. As I got into the foyer, I saw the theatre manager with a group of people, and I thought I heard my name mentioned. “I must be famous, I guess they want my autograph” and I went up to them. Ooops wrong! Two guy’s who were seventeen feet tall, obviously rugby league players, with hands like dinner plates, grabbed me by the collar shouting where’s my daughter/sister – where’s this Phil Everly? Drawing myself up to my full 5’6”, with my best posh accent, told them I had no idea what they were talking about, and please desist. The manager was also trying to get in between. Of course they were the families of the girls, who luckily for us had gone home that day, and they and the families had crossed in the journey. Eventually the manager and I managed to persuade them to go home, and I breathed a sigh of relief – all over………. Not!
The next day the tour bus arrived in the next town, and the stage door was besieged with reporters. It seems that the families or the girls had contacted the press. Now please remember this was early 1960, we had only just left the 50’s and the “Swinging 60’s” was yet to come, this sort of event, which today wouldn’t raise an eyebrow, was big news. Phil decided that discretion was the better part of valour, and stayed on the bus, I got off, and the bus took off to the hotel. I was surrounded by the press firing questions, and talked all sorts of rubbish like:- “never heard of her”, “we get hundreds of girls following the tour, can’t remember one from the other” etc. The next day there were large articles in all the national newspapers. The Daily Express running a half page featuring a photograph of the girls, and separately of course Phil and myself, headed “So it’s Bye Bye Love” [the cutting is framed on my wall]. Original eh?
At the end of the tour Phil gave me an autographed photograph and wrote “If we’re ever in the papers together again, I hope you get the top billing – but it was fun”. True – true.
As I wrote a little earlier in this chapter, “a certain part of my anatomy was forever getting me in trouble!”
The Vipers had a washboard player named John Pilgrim, and Pilgrim for some unknown reason had a monkey which he took everywhere with him and the monkey’s name was ‘Iggins’. Now I promise you, a look from ‘Iggins could scare an SAS man, he was the most evil little beast I’ve ever come across, and would bite anybody just for the hell of it. He would give you the eye, bare his teeth and run across the room chattering wildly. Terrifying! He could clear a room in 2 seconds!
‘Iggins had a taste for beer. I blame Pilgrim for it. Alcohol makes some people mellow, but it turned ‘Iggins from an evil little beast into a raging banshee, much to Pilgrim’s amusement – who was never bitten by the animal.
On one occasion we were staying in a dreary pub somewhere in the middle of Wales. It was dark and as wet as it can only get in mid Wales. It was around Christmas time, everybody else was sitting at home stuffing themselves with Christmas goodies, and we were cursing our agent for getting us such a gig. After the show, we were upstairs in a private room away from the bar [Wales had some curious drinking laws in those days], slowly getting pissed, and Pilgrim and ‘Iggins were sharing a pint of something together. Well, having a lower capacity for alcohol than we did, dear ‘Iggins was the first to succumb. Back went the lips and chattering wildly leaped from Pilgrims shoulder to the next available armchair with the express intention of biting the occupant – and missed. He landed flat on his face with a thump, spread-eagled on the floor, quite obviously the worse for the booze, and turned into a copy of that whirlwind cartoon character ‘The Tasmanian Devil’. He charged around the room attacking anyone and anything in sight, and we all, Pilgrim included, beat a hasty retreat into the corridor laughing our heads off. Some few minutes later, we persuaded Pilgrim to look around the corner of the door – “Oh Gawd!” he exclaimed. At first glance it looked as though he had completely wrecked all the armchairs in the room. There were feathers and cushion stuffing all over the place, and his lordship was sound asleep in the middle of this mess! He had actually only ripped apart one rather large cushion, for which the landlord charged us an exorbitant fee, but it certainly brightened up that Christmas.
Dear old ‘Iggins, he was the stuff of legends, and my wife tells me that I just have to relate one last story about him.
The Vipers were ‘on the road’ somewhere in the North of England. We always stayed in ‘theatrical’ digs. I doubt if these establishments exist any more, but in those days when variety theatres abounded in every town of a reasonable size, the performers had to stay somewhere. Hotels were obviously too expensive for the majority of the ‘turns’, so this odd sub strata of accommodation grew up to satisfy the demand, probably dating back as far as the Victorian era. One night, I was forced to share a large double bed with Pilgrim. Nobody ever wanted to share a bed, but sometimes there was no choice. I awoke the next morning with a typical young man’s early morning problem – a large erection! After a few minutes I became aware that someone other than me was gripping it! “Pilgrim, you dirty bastard I always had my doubts about you”, I thought, and threw back the cover to reveal - ‘Iggins, sound asleep using my pride and joy for a pillow! Well, as I’ve previously indicated, he would bite at the drop of a hat, and I didn’t dare wake him. So I was forced to wake Pilgrim up and show him the situation, and there are no prizes for guessing his reaction. Screaming with laughter he ran to the other rooms to wake up the other guys to see the fun. Me, I didn’t think it was funny at all “Get this effing animal offa my dick!” I was screaming, as all the other guy’s came in. Somebody took a photo, but I never saw it. I don’t think I ever lived that episode down.
Mr. 10 PERCENT?
I did warn you that these were ‘Random Thoughts’, and these notes seem to be ducking and diving in no real chronological order – so now back the Hamburg scene.
I had been singing my head off for about 6 months, when Peter Eckhorn invited me into his flat above the club. We all lived in trepidation of going into his flat because he was the proud owner of a large boxer dog, who took great delight in showing us his teeth. “Freddy” he said, “have some coffee. Helga [his gorgeous girlfriend] will make us some. And would you like some biscuits?” Oh Gawd ……. Now what? I’ve never known him take a soft line when getting rid of staff. “Freddy, you are more intelligent than the rest of them, and your voice is beginning to suffer. Would you like to go back to England and find some more good bands for me?” Intelligent. Me? Well it really wasn’t my fault that I went to the same school that Mr. Tony Blair now sends his kids to, was it? Well the truth was that at the great age of 28, I was beginning to feel the past few years, and in those days ‘pop’ stars were all around 18, so I thought why not? So he offered me a deal paying a good salary, phone bills, and petrol for the car, and I went back, ‘forever’ turning my back on live performances [Hmm….. not quite true, but it’ll do for now] and started on a whole new lifestyle.
I worked out of my parent’s house – after all they had a working paid up telephone and it seemed a shame to waste it; so I started to look around for groups willing to take the plunge. The word of the Hamburg scene was spreading through the UK groups like a jungle telegraph, and I found no trouble in booking several groups for the Top Ten that later went on to fame if not fortune. The Rocking Berries from Birmingham, Wishbone Ash, from the West Country to name but two of them.
Over the previous years, I had had quite a lot of contact with a singer named Emile Ford, who had a group called the Checkmates. I took a call from one of the guys, telling me they had split from Emile, and they were looking for work, and how about Hamburg. I knew they were excellent musicians, so I traipsed over to East London to see them working in a large dance hall called Leyton Baths. They were top class, and I promptly booked them for the Top Ten. Their manager, was an entrepreneur named Don White who had fingers in many different pies, including Bingo Halls. I had by now been signing up bands for several months. Don put forward a proposal that, having the exclusivity for the Top Ten actually put us in a strong position to open a real office as an artist’s manager and agent, and that perhaps we should go into partnership because he could ‘bring to the table’ the asset of sole booking exclusivity of Leyton Baths the largest venue in East London, and management of the Checkmates. He had a long-term contract with the local authority, and had been running a highly successful, twice weekly dance at the Baths for several years. It was a prestige ‘gig’, and well known throughout the industry. So we opened an office at 72 Wardour Street, immediately around the corner from – guess where? The 2i’s! There you go, instant fame…. from singing in Hamburg, to a cigar smoking Mr. Ten Percent in three months. Easy in’it?
Truthfully, I wasn’t a very good agent, I was far too close to the bands and artists, and I was still one of them at heart [and I still am].
To the best of my knowledge, Leyton Baths was the Beatles, and Tom Jones first London gig. We were lucky enough [or was I that shrewd] to book them both for a relatively small fee, selling it to Eppy as the best London venue outside Wembley Arena. The main thing I remember about Tom Jones was – he was much slimmer than he is today, and was a very good rock singer. He also had a rabbit’s foot lucky charm hanging on a short chain from his belt, strategically placed to dangle in the middle of his flies. Of course his hip gyrations caused the foot to swing about in a very inviting manner – if you were a girl of course.
I don’t have too much recollection of the Beatles that night. In fact I had completely forgotten about it, until my old girlfriend from those days reminded me of it in an e-mail she sent from San Francisco where she now lives, last week. As I wrote to her, “I don’t know what I was on that night, but it’s all very hazy” I vaguely remember sitting in the dressing room with the guys, probably smoking wacky baccy, being introduced to Ringo who wasn’t with them in Hamburg when I knew them, the very heavy security we had, and the place being packed to the rafters. I have a strong suspicion it was ‘wacky baccy ‘ that caused it. Oh well!
Sitting at my desk, probably puffing a cigar and full of self-importance, the phone rang. It was another agent buddy of mine. “Freddy, what are you doing at lunchtime?” “Nothing in particular” I replied, “Then come on down to the ‘Bag o’ Nails’, we’re holding a press launch for a new artist”. The ‘Bag o’ Nails’ was a nightclub in Kingley Street, which was parallel to the then famous Carnaby Street. Free booze……? Of course I’ll come along. I showed up, walked into the club and there was the usual collection of ‘free-loaders’ [known in the business as ‘liggers’] crowding the bar and downing drinks as fast as they could before the generosity of our host ran out. All the seats in front of the stage were empty, so feeling slightly guilty; I took my drink and sat near the stage. After a couple of minutes, 3 guys came out – a drummer, a bass player and a guitarist wearing a red Guardsman’s jacket, with a mop of frizzy hair in Afro style. He started to play, and within a couple of seconds everybody had left the bar, and stood in awe. It was of course………..
I, we, everybody was stunned at his talent. He did things with a guitar that nobody had previously seen or heard, and everybody cheered the roof off at the end of the first number. He was sensational. When I got back to my office, I called his manager whose name was Chas Chandler, an ex member of Eric Burdon’s “The Animals” to try and book Hendrix for Leyton Baths and or Germany, but he wanted too much money – quite rightly so as it turned out.
When I mention MORRIS ALBERT… most people say “Who?” But, sing the song ‘Feelings’, everybody knows it. Funny inn’t everyone knows the song but not the singer! Morris both wrote and sang “Feelings” which in 1974 went to number 1 in the US charts, and number 2 in the UK. Morris came to the UK that summer to promote the record; I was working with Decca Records at that time, and was given the task of baby-sitting him. I took him around the radio and TV studios, and my wife and I even took him out most evenings to London’s best restaurants [on Decca’s expense of course] just to make sure he wouldn’t be lonely – tough job, but somebody had to do it!
Now Morris was a really nice young guy, and I liked him a lot, but came from a rich Brazilian family, and when Brazilians are rich, they’re usually seriously rich. Consequently, he had been ‘spoilt rotten’ by his parents, and he was a nightmare to organise. He had no concept of punctuality, and I was forever trying to chase him out of his Ritz Hotel suite in time to make the dates. It got so I had to lie and tell him the ‘gigs’ were an extra 45 minutes – 1 hour earlier to get him there on time. I resolved to try and teach him a small lesson.
It was the day he was due to be presented with a Gold Record to mark 1 million sales, and I had hired a chauffeur driven Rolls Royce Phantom 5 for the occasion. The Phantom 5 is the biggest limousine Rolls make. It’s the same model the Queen is driven around in, when touring various cities. It’s a monster. The Roller parked outside the Ritz, with of course passers-by rubbernecking to see who was in it, whilst I went in to see if he was ready. Of course he wasn’t. I must have called his room half-a-dozen times; I was getting desperate, because even Phantom 5’s get parking tickets. Eventually he came down and I ushered him to the car, swung open the back door, and there sitting inside in full regalia, tiara, sash and all was – the Queen! Morris stopped as though he’d been poleaxed, and backed away from the car, mumbling apologies and bowing constantly. Me? I was sitting on the hotel steps crying with laughter. That’ll teach you I thought. Morris was looking around in desperation wondering what to do next. Needless to say it wasn’t the Queen of course, it was that famous ‘look-alike’ Janette Charles, who I had hired in addition to the Roller. I had worked with Janette before, and I must say that she really does look like the Queen, even when you were up close. I had primed her what to expect, and she sat there looking her ‘regal’ best… poor Morris, he nearly shit himself!
I managed to persuade him back into the car and we drove off though London to Windsor.
Janette is a good professional and always gives value for money She really believes her part, and all the way through the streets of Windsor, she sat in ‘full drag’ in the car window giving the ‘Queen wave’ to the crowds of tourists who were of course completely taken in. Cameras were flashing like crazy as we drove towards the castle. By now, Morris was in his element, completely enjoying himself, smiling and waving to the crowds, behaving for all the world like some South American ambassador. We made our way to a little known corner of the Great Park where we took photographs of Morris receiving his gold record from the ‘Queen’ with the castle in the background. A great day!
Like all good stories this one has a sting in the tail.
One of the photographs was so good that I would challenge anyone to tell me that it really wasn’t the Queen with Morris. It was so good that he took it back to Brazil and hung it on the wall in his home. A journalist arrived to ask him about his tour of Europe, saw the photograph and freaked out. Morris didn’t tell him it wasn’t the Queen, and the next day all the newspapers were full of the photograph, and all the TV stations were after interviews etc. I don’t know how it ended, if he eventually admitted the truth or not?
One final anecdote about Morris. Monika [my wife] and I had been wining and dining him for weeks. Early one evening we were sitting in the back of a chauffer driven Bentley on our way to pick him up. Sitting in traffic near Hyde Park, waiting for the traffic lights, we were feeling tired and jaded, so I opened the bar and poured out a miniature bottle of champagne between us – as a pick me up you understand. Suddenly Monika burst out laughing. There was a Mini waiting next to us, and the drivers face clearly said it all… “Rich Bitch!” If only he knew!
We arrived at the Ritz, and had hardly got three paces through the doors when there was a loud crash, and dirt and dust started floating down from the ceiling. Having lived in London through WW2, I knew exactly what it was – a bomb! We dashed back outside again. There was a lady sitting on the steps covered in blood, and there was glass from all the expensive shop fronts scattered all over the road. The silence was uncanny. All the traffic had stopped – a bomb had been planted in a waste bin at a bus stop just outside the Ritz, and one person had died. Morris eventually came down from his suite shaking like a leaf, and cutting short his visit, returned to Brazil the next day.
THE STAR MAKERS
Tommy Steele, Marty Wilde, Billy Fury, Jess Conrad, Vince Eager.., the list could go on for at least another dozen people, most of whom have been forgotten. They were all ‘glamorous’ names for glamorous people, and for the most part, inventions of the first and most notorious of the ‘star maker’s’ Larry Parnes. To be a member of the Larry Parnes stable meant instant recognition, a recording contract and for quite a few stardom! I suppose nowadays Pete Waterman is his equivalent, but – thank goodness, without Parnes dubious reputation. Larry specialised in grooming pretty young boys, who for the most part had some degree of talent, and his first signing was Tommy Steele who up until that time had been working as a ships cabin boy.
was arguably Britain’s first Rock star, notwithstanding the fact that he originally played with The Vipers, long before I joined them. One of the surviving members of the Vipers - Johnny Booker, who now lives in Canada sent me an e-mail a couple of days ago saying “Tommy and I used to drive down to Brighton in the summer, and play on the beach, and the girls used to collect money in a hat”. Despite its name, the 2i’s was actually owned by two Australian professional wrestlers, Paul Lincoln and Ray Hunter. One of the ‘nearly men’ hanging around was a pianist singer called Charlie Harris. Charlie would get up and do a few numbers, and was popular with the other musicians, but in those days of pretty young singers, he lacked a certain image to progress. Then Paul Lincoln took charge. Coming from the world of ‘all in’ wrestling, he realised that a bizarre image could also draw crowds and persuaded Charlie to dye his hair a shocking pink! I well remember the day that ‘Wee Willie Harris’ was launched upon the unsuspecting world. There were no secrets amongst the 2i’s in crowd, and Charlie had told us all what he proposed. The 2i’s was at the height of its fame, and Paul Lincoln had no trouble in organising half of Fleet Street to attend the Old Compton Street address one afternoon. Journalists, photographers and musicians alike stood around outside the coffee bar in anticipation. A car drew up and out stepped Charlie – no, it was Wee Willie. He was wearing a red drape jacket, which reached down to his knees, black ‘peg top’ trousers, enormous crepe soled ‘brothel creeper’ shoes, and a black string tie. This picture was topped off by a great mop of pink hair! “Christ, he’s actually done it,” said one of the guy’s. The press loved it and all the papers covered it in a big way. Charlie never made big time, but was arguably one of the most widely recognised of the rock n’ rollers. To the best of my knowledge he is still working today, and a couple of years ago he and I shared the stage at 100 Oxford Street singing the Ray Charles classic “What’d I Say”, backed up by, amongst others, Tony Sheridan on guitar. Good old Charlie……. one of the originals!
THE SEXY SIXTIES
I’ve heard it said that if you talk about the ‘swinging sixties’ you didn’t live through them. Well I’m going to try.
When Frank Bowles called me the other day and said “You’ve got a chapter heading in your manuscript entitled “The Sexy Sixties”, but there’s nothing written under it…..” I was forced to reply that I really couldn’t think of anything that was suitable for inclusion in a respectable golf magazine, but I would see what I could come up with.
The ‘sexy sixties’ as opposed to the ‘swinging sixties’ started with the availability of the birth control pill. Suddenly a whole generation of young women were released from the shackles of fear of unwanted pregnancy that had bound their mothers and grandmothers, and decided they were going to have as good a time as the guy’s, and oh boy, they certainly did, especially those who frequented the rock clubs and bars of Soho. It was rare for any of us to have a steady girlfriend, why should we when there was so much choice?
icon of that time has to be Christine Keeler. She and Mandy Rice-Krispies [Davies] worked as hostesses in the late night drinking clubs that were dotted all over Soho, such as Murray’s Cabaret Club or Paul Raymond’s Revue Bar. These girls weren’t ‘hookers’ as such, their job was to entertain the businessmen who frequented the clubs, and encourage them to drink the most expensive things on the menu. Their instructions were to say “Oh… I only drink champagne”, or “I’d just love a large box of chocolates” for which the poor suckers were charged a fortune. If the girls decided to meet the customer after work, then that was entirely up to them. However, after work quite a few had had enough of ‘buttering up’ fat old men, as many of the customers were, and looked for people of their own age. Don’t forget that for the most part they were in their end teens – 20 was considered quite old, and they and we would meet up after work in a late night coffee bar, the name of which escapes me, half way up Wardour Street. Now I’m not going to claim I slept with either of them, Mandy was only around 17, and I think Christine was only a couple of years older. However I became extremely friendly with one of the ‘showgirls’ - those who stood around on stage showing all. Her name was Annalie, and because she had really beautiful boobs, one of her jobs was to sit on a large crescent moon that made up part of the set, showing them off! “So what?” you might think ………… but. Here is a co-incidence.
In Fuengirola there is a restaurant called The Shakespeare. They used to run an ‘old time music hall’ night featuring a couple named Syd and Dot. Syd was a fine musician. I was talking to him one night, and said he was familiar to me, and we went through all the various options of big bands, TV shows etc, then to my amazement he told me he had been the musical director of Murray’s Cabaret Club, and dug out some photographs taken back then in the club, and there was Annalie sitting on the moon, boobs and all!
Don't know who Bill Kent is or was - but this is him with admirers in the 2Is
Again included for historical reasons - the first picture is from 1959
so long gone they had to put up a plaque
This is the plaque
A later picture - but can't be later than what? 1963? No, it's also 1959 apparently.