While My Guitar Gently Weeps
The Tragic Story of Rory Storm & the Hurricanes

By Bill Harry  

Rory Storm on stageAnother musician, Pete Fox, told me: "In the interval at the Jive Hive, we all used to go to a local pub called 'the Crosby,' but we all insisted that Rory did not do two things. They were not to tell a joke or order a round. This was because of his bad stammer. A joke took a very long time to tell, and we never even heard the punch line, and if he had to order a round it was time to go back before we got the order."

Compere Ron Appleby was to add another story confirming Rory's status as a self-publicist: "He'd be immaculately dressed in pink suit and pink tie and in the middle of his act, he'd go over to the piano and get out a very big comb. He'd comb his huge blonde quaff. He was very fit and quite often he used to run home from gigs. One day a porter at Bootle station caught a chap writing 'I love Rory' all over the walls. He was asked for his name and it turned out to be Rory himself."

Rory's real name was Alan Caldwell, a former cotton salesman, who decided to form a skiffle group and when he was 18 the 6ft 2in blonde-haired singer opened the Morgue Skiffle Club in the basement at Balgownie, 25 Oakhill Road, Broadgreen on March 13 1958. It was a large Victorian house, formerly a home for retired nurses. Groups began playing from 7.30pm on opening night, including his own band (now called Al Caldwell's Texans) and the Quarry Men, who later evolved into the Beatles. It could accommodate a hundred people. The police came down on April 1 and the club was forced to close on April 22. The Morgue had been open on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Incidentally, it was at the Morgue that George Harrison 'auditioned' for the Quarry Men and then became a member.

At one time George dated Iris Caldwell, Rory's sister and he used to hang around 'Stormsville', hoping that Rory would let him join the Hurricanes, but Rory regarded him as being just a young kid. 'Stormsville' was an open house and Rory's mother Vi was always on hand to make cups of tea and bacon butties or chips for the numerous visitors who included George, Paul McCartney, Jimmy Tarbuck, Bill and Virginia Harry and various others.

When George was in Hamburg in 1962 he sent Rory's mother Vi a postcard that read:

"Mrs Violet Stubb. 

Darling Vi, We are all missing you very much. To caress your teeth once more would be just heaven. Also to hold your lungs in mine and drink T.B. John sends you his lunch, also Paul and Ringworm greet you too.

"It's not too much fun here but only one week to go now, so it's not so bad now. Have tea ready on Sunday 18th.

"Cheerio, love from George and friends."

(Incidentally, Vi was to recall that when Rory was originally trying to think of a name for his first group, one of the names rejected was Dracula & the Werewolves!)

Rory traveled to London on April 11 1958 for a cross-country running competition. When in London he played a jam session at Chas. McDevitt's skiffle cellar. As a result he arranged an appearance with his group the Texans on Radio Luxembourg on April 30 1958 on the amateur Skiffle club programme playing 'Midnight Special.'

In January 1959 he changed the name of the group to the Raving Texans and their line-up comprised Al Caldwell (guitar/vocals), Johnny Byrne (guitar/vocals), Paul Murphy (guitar/vocals), Reg Hales (washboard) and Jeff Truman (tea-chest bass). Spud Ward, a former member of the Swinging Bluegenes, took over from Truman on bass guitar and the group continued as the Raving Texans until July 1959.

Johnny and Rory Storm By this time Rory had met Ritchie Starkey at a talent contest called '6.5 Special.' Ritchie had left the Eddie Clayton Skiffle Group and was playing with the Darktown Skiffle. Rory told him that he was looking for a drummer. Ritchie was interested in joining them and first appeared with the group on March 25 1959 at the Mardi Gras in Mount Pleasant.

There were a number of changes to the group's name during 1959, first to Al Storm & the Hurricanes, then Jett Storm & the Hurricanes and finally, by the end of the year, Rory Storm & the Hurricanes. The new name came about after he and Johnny had appeared on a show with singer Rory Blackwell at Butlin's in August 1959.

On October 11 1959 the Hurricanes entered a Carrol Levis 'Search For Stars' competition at the Empire Theatre, passing the various heats and on Saturday 31 Johnny was able to write in his diary: "Played final and came 2nd out of 150 acts. Winner, singer, 26 points. Al Storm & the Hurricanes - 22 points (recount 16 points, but still second)."

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