While My Guitar
The Tragic Story of Rory
Storm & the Hurricanes
By Bill Harry
For a time they were joined by Vince Earl, former leader of bands such as the Zeros and the Talismen. Then, in 1967, Ty Brien collapsed on stage and was rushed to hospital. There were complications resulting from a recent appendicitis operation and he died at the age of 26.
The group then broke up for a short time, before Rory and Johnny tried to revive it with three new members, but it didn't work out.
Sheila Connor was to tell me, "In the early Seventies my sisters and myself used to baby-sit for Iris Fenton, Rory's sister, who was then married to Shane Fenton. We looked after Rory's nephews Sean and Adam. Iris and Shane lived in Oakhill Park and we attended St. Agnes' School, which was in Oakhill Park (it's no longer there). Rory and Ma Storm, his mother, then lived in Broadgreen Road. They were more often than not round at Iris's. Their house on Broadgreen Road was called Hurricanesville (she meant Stormsville) and was directly opposite Winnie Mac's tap dancing school.
"Iris sometimes helped out there with the classes. Rory's dad Ernie used to visit St. Vincent's Hospice on Broadgreen Road. This was a geriatric home for old ladies. He used to bring them books, magazines, sweets etc. He did this a lot in his spare time. I don't recall ever having a sad time when we were at Iris's as there was always something to do. Rory didn't have long conversations as he had a slight stutter, and tended to sing. I remember one night my sister and myself were sitting watching TV and in came Rory singing "would you like a cup of tea?"
"We continued to babysit and help out at Iris' until Rory and Ma Storm's tragic death."
After his group had split up Rory became a disc jockey in Benidorm (where he also acted as a water-skiing instructor) Jersey and Amsterdam - a strange profession for a man with a noticeable stutter. He also acted as a D.J. at the Silver Blades Ice Rink in Liverpool.
It was while in Amsterdam that Rory received the news that his father had died. He returned to Liverpool to console his mother, Vi, but neither recovered from the shock. Rory was suffering from a chest condition and took sleeping pills to ease it.
Their deaths remain a mystery, although Shane Fenton, his brother-in-law at the time, commented: "Rory became very ill. He had a chest condition, which meant he couldn't breathe properly. He found it difficult to sleep so he'd take his pills with a drop of scotch, which doped him completely. At the post-mortem it was established that he hadn't taken enough pills to kill himself...It had been nothing more than a case of trying to get some kip, but because he was so weak, his body couldn't handle it. He died in the night and his mother found him. She must have felt that she'd lost everything. I think she took an overdose, but I'm convinced that Rory didn't. When you've known somebody long enough, you know whether they're going to do it or not. The whole thing was an accident."
The funeral service took place at Oakvale Congregational Church, Broadgreen on October 19 1972 and mourners sang his favourite song, 'You'll Never Walk Alone.' Among the pall bearers were three former members of his group - Johnny Guitar, Jimmy Tushingham and Vince Earl. He was then cremated with his mother at Anfield Crematorium.
No member of the Beatles attended Rory's funeral. When asked about this, Ringo said, "I wasn't there when he was born either."
Rory Storm & the Hurricanes were to become Liverpool icons, affectionately remembered on Merseyside but virtually unknown outside the area. They were the classic group who didn't make it, the favourite local group with the golden boy singer who were left behind when the recording moguls trawled the Mersey scene.
Johnny Guitar became an ambulance driver. In the 1990s he joined Merseycats, a group of original Mersey band members who perform in aid of local charities, and he launched his own band Johnny & the Hurricanes. Tragically, he died of motor neurone disease in August 1999 at the age of 59. Lou Walters formed a group called Combo, with guitarist Brian Griffiths and later became a psychiatric nurse, while Vince Earl found success as a comedian and later became one of the stars of the television series 'Brookside', portraying a character called Ron Dixon.
Editor's Note: Some years ago Johnny Byrne and I were going to work together on a book about Rory Storm & the Hurricanes. Johnny had the largest collection of Hurricanes memorabilia in the world, which would have been invaluable to illustrate the book. Sadly, he died before we could complete a book deal.
Rory's sister Iris also contacted me, as she was interested in Rory's story being told. I do intend to work furter with Iris on such a project. At one time Iris told me that she had found a tape on which an entire performance of Rory Storm & the Hurricanes at the Cavern had been recorded, while Ringo was still a member. I contacted Abbey Road Studios who were very excited and said they had the technology to enhance any primitive tapes. When I contacted Iris again she said she'd played the tape, which began with Bob Wooler announcing "...and now 'Mr Showmanship' himself...Rory Storm..." and the rest of the tape was a Cliff Richard programme which Vi Caldwell had recorded from the radio, wiping out the original Cavern performance of the Hurricanes.