While My Guitar
The Tragic Story of Rory
Storm & the Hurricanes
By Bill Harry
In the first Mersey Beat poll, Rory Storm & the Hurricanes received more votes than any other group, but Virginia and I disqualified a number of the entries because they were all written in green ink and posted from the same place at the same time, which meant that the Beatles became No. 1 instead and the Hurricanes stood at No. 4. The following year they had dropped to the No. 19 position. This was probably due to the fact that they were absent from Liverpool for most of the year with their season at Butlin's, their tour of American bases in France and their spell in Hamburg.
As befitted his local status, Rory was featured regularly in Mersey Beat. There were photographs of him leaving hospital, surrounded by nurses, after breaking a limb at a gig, signing autographs for fans at the airport, combing his hair with a giant comb, leading the Mersey Beat X1 soccer team and so on.
He was also renowned for his exuberant stage act. At a 'Beat & Bathe Show' at New Brighton swimming baths on August Bank Holiday 1963, attended by 1,600 people, he twisted his way to the high-diving board, stripped to his trunks, climbed to the top board, diving in as he finished the song. In January 1964, during an appearance at the Majestic Ballroom, Birkenhead, he scaled one of the columns from the stage to the balcony, slipped and fell 30 feet, fracturing his leg, necessitating a short stay at Broadgreen Hospital. While performing at New Brighton Pier, he climbed onto the roof of the Pavilion, started twisting, and fell through the glass skylight! During one of his shows at the Majestic he played five-a-side football with a team from the ballroom, the Top Rank Ravers - the result was a five-all draw!
Once he'd decided to become a singer, Rory turned professional with total dedication. He changed his name to Rory Storm by deed poll, christened the family home in Broadgreen 'Stormsville' and, when some members of his band couldn't play lunchtime sessions at the Liverpool Jazz Society because they had jobs, he formed Rory Storm & the Wild Ones to perform during lunch hours.
A superb athlete, apart from being an exceptional swimmer (he swam the 12 1/2 mile length of Lake Windermere) and golfer (he would go round Allerton golf course dressed only in shorts and golf shoes), he was Captain of the Mersey Beat soccer team and also ran for the Pembroke Harriers.
Rory won the Pembroke Athletics and Cycle Club steeplechase record. He also broke an amateur Swimming Association record for an underwater 73 yards only to find that underwater swimming was not 'classified' by the Association and on another occasion he clocked a mile, as an amateur, in four minutes and seven seconds. He then went on stage the same night to sing 'Walking the Dog'!
When A&R men began to take an interest in Liverpool in 1963, Rory and the group were among the number of bands who recorded for Oriole's two 'This Is Mersey Beat' albums, and Oriole also released a single 'Dr Feelgood' c/w 'I Can Tell' in December 1963. The mobile unit recorded them in primitive conditions at the Rialto Ballroom and they missed the opportunity of proper recording facilities in a studio. However, for some reason the major record companies overlooked them, perhaps because they lacked a manager.
Rory actually approached Brian Epstein and asked him to manage them, but he refused. Later on, Arthur Howes, the promoter of the Beatles' tours, took over as their manager, but he was based in London and they remained in Liverpool.
It seemed that their luck had changed in 1964, when Rory met Epstein at the Blue Angel club one evening and Epstein agreed to personally record the group. This was a coup and they
traveled to London, where Brian produced their record at IBC Studios. They selected the number 'America' from the musical 'West Side Story'.
As Rory explained in Mersey Beat: "We first heard this number when we played in Spain. Everyone seemed to be playing it. We liked it a lot and when we came back to Liverpool we did our own arrangement and added it to our repertoire. We shortened it, used some of our own words and it goes down a bomb!
"At the recording session we played one number after another to Brian Epstein. He kept saying 'No' until we played this and then he gave an emphatic 'Yes.'"
The b-side was the old Everly Brothers number 'Since You Broke My Heart', with the vocals handled by Lou and Johnny.
The session lasted for 15 hours and other numbers they performed were 'Ubangi Stomp' and 'I'll Be There.' Among the session singers were Rory's sister Iris and her husband Shane Fenton. Ringo also attended the session.
'America' was released by Parlophone on December 20 1964, but didn't reach the charts. Epstein only ever recorded one other band, the Rustiks.
Ringo offered his support to his old group and gave them further chances to record, but they didn't take them. Ringo said that he'd fix for them to record whenever they wanted to, but Rory couldn't be bothered finding new material and seemed content to just play rock 'n' roll standards. Perhaps he didn't really want to make the big time. His sister Iris said, "He was happy to be the King of Liverpool: he was never keen on touring, he didn't want to give up running for the Pembroke Harriers...and he'd never miss a Liverpool football match!"