While My Guitar
The Tragic Story of Rory
Storm & the Hurricanes
By Bill Harry
The Hurricanes were Allan Williams' first choice for a group when he wanted to send a Liverpool band to the Kaiserkeller in Hamburg as the success of Derry & the Seniors meant that Bruno Koschmider wanted an additional Liverpool band, but as they were committed to Butlin's and as Gerry & the Pacemakers also turned it down, he sent the Beatles instead.
Back at Butlin's, the act began to shape up far more professionally and they were playing for 16 hours a week.
In October 1960 they were off to Hamburg, replacing Derry & the Seniors at the Kaiserkeller. They were paid more than either the Seniors or the Beatles.
They were billed above the Beatles and alternated with them on the daily 12-hour stretch which the groups had to play. So each band did 90 minutes on and 90 minutes off. They also received a certificate from Bruno Koshmider, the Kaiserkeller owner, praising them on their performance. Johnny Guitar was to comment, "It was like getting a school report. We were very pleased. The Beatles never had one."
It was during this eight-week session, on Saturday October 18 1960, that the recording session took place at the Akoustik Studio. This was a small recording booth on the fifth floor of a building to the rear of Hamburg's main railway station. Allan Williams decided to have a record cut in what was basically a record-your-voice booth. Williams had been impressed by Lu's voice and wanted to record him. Due to their ability on vocal harmony, Williams asked John, Paul and George to back Lu. Ringo remained on drums because he was familiar with the numbers and Pete Best had gone into Hamburg centre to buy some drumsticks. This was the first time the four who were to become internationally famous as the Beatles, performed together.
Three of Wally's ballads were recorded: 'Fever', 'September Song' and 'Summertime.'
Rory also sang at the Top Ten Club, accompanied by Tony Sheridan.
Rory Storm & the Hurricanes became the star band on the first Beat Night at Orrell Park Ballroom in March 1961 and they began their second Butlin's season at Skegness in Lincolnshire, 161 miles from Liverpool.
When local promoter Sam Leach decided to publicize Mersey groups in the South of England in order to give top agents the opportunity of seeing them perform live, he booked a series of Saturday evenings at the Palais Ballroom, Aldershot. The first, on Saturday December 9, featured the Beatles. The planned advertisement for the gig didn't appear in the local paper and eventually only 18 people turned up. Rory Storm & the Hurricanes appeared the following week and drew an audience of 210.
Of course, London agents were as unlikely to visit Aldershot to see groups as they would Liverpool, so the project was abandoned.
At one time Ringo considered joining the Seniors, but on December 30, 1961 he left for Germany to back Tony Sheridan at the Top Ten Club in Hamburg, enticed by the lure of a large fee, a flat and the use of a car. However, he found Sheridan's eccentric style of performing too hard to cope with (he'd often change songs in the middle of a performance without telling his backing band) and returned to the Hurricanes. While he was absent from the group, Derek Fell from the Blackpool group the Executioners replaced him.
The band also toured American bases in France and appeared at a club in Marbella, Spain, before their third season at Butlin's, again at Skegness. One of their bookings was for a one-month season at an American base in Fontenet, when they had to be accompanied by a female vocalist. They took Vicki Woods, who'd appeared regularly in Liverpool clubs in a double act with her mother. The group performed from seven to ten forty-five each night, with four 15-minute breaks. It was also during this year that Lou left the group for a while when he joined the Seniors.
During the Skegness season Ringo received a letter from Kingsize Taylor offering him £20 a week if he would join them in Germany as a replacement for Dave Lovelady, who was leaving the group to complete his studies. Ringo agreed. Then, one day, John Lennon and Paul McCartney turned up at the camp and offered Ringo £25 a week if he'd join them. The extra £5 sealed it and Ringo agreed to become a Beatle as from August 1962.
Johnny Guitar says that John and Paul turned up at ten one morning and knocked at their caravan door, saying they wanted Ringo to join them. Rory told them that the Hurricanes couldn't work without a drummer and they hadn't finished their season. Paul told him that Brian Epstein said they could have Pete Best. Rory went to Liverpool but Pete Best was too upset. Rory then returned to Skegness and used relief drummers, one of whom, Anthony Ashdown, was an actor.
Once Ringo left the band, the Hurricanes fell into a pattern of losing drummers on a regular basis. In the May 23 1963 issue of Mersey Beat Virginia Harry wrote in her 'Mersey Roundabout' column:
"Hurricanes drummer Brian Johnson is joining Mark Peter & the Silhouettes. Says Brian: 'Any drummer who wants to get anywhere should join the Hurricanes. Young drummers will find the group an ideal training ground - I have improved tremendously since joining them - and look how their former drummers have fared: Ringo Starr is now with the Beatles and Gibson Kemp is with Kingsize Taylor & the Dominoes.'"