In the Beginning...
There Was Howie Casie & The Seniors
By Bill Harry
"Willie Limpinski, the geschafsfuhrer, decided that the Kaiserkeller would present continual music, so they split the Seniors into two groups. I was given Stuart Sutcliffe and along with Derry and Stan Foster, we had a German drummer. The others, Griff, Billy Hughes and Jeff Wallington were in the other group. The Beatles weren't too pleased about that and I don't blame them, but we used to jam together.
"The crowds in the Kaiserkeller were very good. We couldn't believe it when we first arrived there because we'd never seen a club that big. We were also impressed by the way it was done with boat shaped things and nets and stuff with a biggish
dance floor with a jukebox and bars right at the bottom and so on.
"We thought 'this is great', but we didn't realize where we were going to stay. They showed us to these two tiny rooms, opposite the Gents and Ladies toilets as you came into the club. They were windowless, because it was underground - and airless because there was no air conditioning or anything like that. So that's where we slept.
"There was one room which Derry and I shared which had an iron bed frame with a mattress, which I grabbed - privileges and all that. I slept there with a couple of Union Jacks, would you believe, big Union Jacks, which were my bedding, so I slept under those. There was a big settee which Derry had. In the other room, where the rest of the guys were, poor sods, there were armchairs and settees. They had to fiddle them all round together and they made up a large communal bed. Pretty funky I can tell you - because on top of all that, the fact that it was airless, breathing the smoke and the gunk from the night's revels and so on, we were locked in the club after a certain time. The washing and toilet facilities were gross because all that we had was the use of the Ladies toilet opposite, which had one wash hand basin. The toilets, of course, ponged to high heaven after a whole night of use and that was where we washed and did our ablutions.
"I think there was a sort of bath in place and remember we used to go for baths, beautiful big deep baths. Every so often the funk and smell would get too much, too many flies and things, so we'd go to this place and have a bath.
"The very first night the place was packed and we got on, finished the first number 'Long Tall Sally' and there was a sort of nanosecond of silence and then the crowd just roared absolutely 'cause they'd come to see what we were like compared to the band that had been there before, the Jets, who were now doing business round the corner at the Top Ten. It went down a storm and we were highly delighted. It went on like that all night. The crowd went berserk.
"The crowd did change a lot. There were the regulars who used to come in, but there were lots of tourists who used to go down to that area. So of course you'd get different people in every night from all over Germany, all sorts of people from all walks of life.
"What we found with the crowds at the time was that they sort of congregated, gradually building up round the entrance door. You had to come down the stairs into this wide entrance and the waiters tried to entice them. What we had to do, with them saying 'mach shau', was to leap around like idiots so they'd come in.
"If they came in they'd all come in, sit down and once they'd been flogged a few drinks, that was all right. If one or two walked out, they'd all tend to walk out, so we got into the habit of making sheep noises over the mic. I think it was because we were overtired and had slightly too much to drink." There was the odd fracas in the club. The waiters were a tough lot and they used to beat people up if they refused to pay the sometimes outrageous bill. I saw one guy being hustled by the waiters into the geschafsfuhrer's office and I could guess what was going on.
"I guess I was stupid because these guys were really hard cases and gangsters. I jumped off the stage and went bursting into the office and grabbed this guy who was being beaten severely and ushered him out of the club - and they all laughed. "They thought it was highly amusing that I should do that. If I'd been an ordinary punter I would have got my head beaten in. "There were occasions like that, but in the main it was all right. If there had been too much violence then people wouldn't go in.
"There are stories about the Beatles and Rory Storm competing to break the stage at the Kaiserkeller. I'm afraid that dubious honour goes to the Seniors. The stage was just a framework thing that they'd built about 18 inches high, so we could see above the crowd. We got into this habit of bouncing up and down on it and you could see it was going to go one night. Of course, one night it did and the drums all came forward and fell to the front. It was the spars underneath: the supporting spars that collapsed. "Yes, we used to do this 'mach shau' thing and run all over the place like idiots and Derry was always good at that sort of thing. I didn't know whether it influenced the Beatles or not. They didn't have much room on stage. They were at the Indra and it was a very small stage. Basically, it was a bar that was used for strippers prior to their going there.
"We had a great time in Hamburg, it was terrific and when we left the Kaiserkeller we stayed another month. The band sort of fractured when Derry went off and played with a German Dixieland band and another four of us got into a strip club called the Cassanova Bar and we were playing music for the stripper while the American fleet was in.
"The Seniors were then offered a gig in the Top Ten. Since we had no work permits or visas, Peter Eckhorn told us to go to the British Embassy and sort some visas out. As soon as they saw the state of us they looked at our passports and said 'no'. They confiscated our passports and repatriated us. "We ended up broke, back in Liverpool again, which is a damn shame because we could have gone on playing at the Top Ten and probably would have stayed out there for quite a while."