I'd become friendly with the Rolling Stones soon after the Beatles had visited them in Richmond and when I heard they were playing in Southport, phoned their hotel, told Mick I was in the Blue and invited them down. They drove over from Southport in their van, with their equipment, and got up on stage and gave us a show.
The Blue was a compact club, entered through a large copper-coloured door, guarded by a bouncer. The ground floor had a grand piano, various fruit machines and a corner bar, with a door leading onto a patio. The basement featured a larger bar, a stage and a passage leading to the Gent's toilet. The first floor sported two rooms, one with a large statue of a nude woman, the other with Sans Souci, a casino run by Barry Chang, Allan's brother-in-law. The second floor harboured the Ladies room and an office. Live entertainment was provided by resident bands and there were regular jam sessions.
John Lennon and I usually drank in the downstairs bar. At one time I asked him if he had a song he could give to Beryl Marsden, a 15-year-old singer who was Liverpool's equivalent of Brenda Lee.
He said he had one in mind, 'Love Of The Loved.' Next time I asked him about it he was apologetic: Brian Epstein had told him that as manager he would decide who would be given the Lennon &
McCartney songs and he wanted to use them for his own stable of acts.
John had given me over 250 stories, poems and drawings with permission to use them in any way I wished. I began using them in Mersey Beat as columns by Beatcomber. Unfortunately, when we were moving to larger premises on the floor below, they were inadvertently lost. Virginia and I told John one night at the Blue and he cried on her shoulder.
Saturday Evening Post writer Al Aronowitz had introduced Virginia and I to the work of his friend Bob Dylan. When Dylan arrived in Britain for a tour we attended his reception in London. Dylan and I became involved in a long chat and I took him to a phone booth in the hotel and got John Lennon on the phone and arranged for Dylan to visit him at his home. Dylan asked me to show him around Liverpool following his concert appearance at the Odeon.
Virginia and I went to the Adelphi Hotel after the show and he asked up to his room where he introduced us to his manager Al Grossman and we began chatting about Liverpool poets, a poetry-to-jazz concert I'd
organized and how Liverpool poets had their own outlook, which was different to that of the Beat poets of San Francisco. He began telling me about a book he was writing called 'Tarantula.'
He then asked if we could take him out to meet some of the poets, so we went down to the Blue where we met Roger McGough and his Scaffold mate Mike McGear (McCartney). Bob was disappointed to discover that the Blue didn't sell Beaujolais and suggested we return to the hotel, inviting some friends to join us. We went back with Roger, Mike and a trio of girl singers, the Poppies. Later I heard that Dylan had invited the Poppies down to London and produced a record with them, although I don't recall it ever being released.
In the first issue of Mersey Beat I'd written a feature on local singer Priscilla White,
but had mistakenly called her Cilla Black. She told me she preferred the 'Black' and continued to call herself by that name.
One night when Cilla was down at the Blue with her mate Pat I noticed that Brian Epstein was present, sitting under the basement stairs with Andrew Loog Oldham. I asked Cilla if she'd get up and sing and arranged for the group on stage to back her performing the number 'Boys.' Then I asked Brian to listen to her and when she finished the song I brought her over and introduced her to him, and then left them to have a chat. The next day she phoned me to say that she'd had a meeting with Brian and he'd agreed to manage her.
There were various resident bands who played at the Blue, including the Escorts (at the time Ringo Starr's cousin was in the band and it was Ringo who arranged their residency) and the Nocturnes. Alun Owen liked the Nocturnes and they were hired to appear as the Beat group in the stage musical 'Maggie May.' Another friend of ours, 'Geoff Hughes, who worked as a salesman in the car showroom next to the Mersey Beat office, also managed to get a
part in 'Maggie May.' Geoff then went on to have a successful acting career (he was the voice of Paul McCartney in 'Yellow Submarine') as Eddie Yates in 'Coronation Street' and in 'Keeping Up Appearances', 'The Royle Family' and 'Heartbeat.'
Each night there were up to thirty members of the various local groups down at the Blue. There were always lots of girls. I remember Rory Storm and Ringo Starr with two girls, who looked like twins with their jet black fringed hair - Ringo was to marry one of them, Maureen Cox. John Lennon was also going out with another girl, Ida Holly, while he kept his marriage to Cynthia a secret. Cilla and her mate Pat Davies were regulars, as was Marie Gurion, who later married Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues.
Apart from the Beatles, regulars included the Bluejeans, the Hurricanes, Freddie Starr, Billy Kramer, Mark Peters, the Dennisons, the Chants, the Big Three, the Undertakers, the Searchers, Derry Wilkie, Howie Casey, the Mojos and Faron's Flamingos.
At one time Allan used the lid of the piano as a 'board of fame', getting all celebrity visitors to sign it - I wonder what happened to it? Some of the groups became famous, most of them didn't. One or two of the regulars achieved fame in other fields. A West Indian friend who was teaching locally was the late Norman Beaton, who found success as a TV actor in series such as 'Desmonds.' Clive Hornby, drummer with the Dennisons became Jack Sugden in 'Emmerdale', while Vince Early, leader of Vince Earl & the Talismen, became Ron Dixon in 'Brookside.' Lewis Collins, member of groups such as Eyes and the Mojos, became the tough CI5 agent Bodie in 'The Professionals.'
By the end of the 1960s the Angel was closed, but it was reopened as a drinking club under various names. In recent years the club re-adopted the name the Blue Angel and plays hosts to guests at the annual Mersey Beatle conventions.
© Bill Harry