Tommy Quickly: A Manager Recalls

By David Bramwell, MBE, MSc, PhD, FLS  

Tommy QuicklyI have many memories of the 1960's in Liverpool, there was surely no better place to be at that time. A couple of years ago I went to a Ringo Starr & the All Starrs concert in Tampa, Florida and memories came flooding back. I recalled the first time I ever met Ringo at the Cavern when I was handing out CND leaflets and was, due to him, forever after known as 'ban the bomb.'

Here are a few thoughts on the period and especially some reflections on Tommy Quickly.

Tommy Quickly, a much maligned person, was considered to be one of NEMS failures, but I have always felt that it needn't have been that way. I have often thought about why Tommy didn't make it as he had at least as much talent as many of those who did.

I do believe there were several reasons. The principal one, I suppose, boils down to the fragility of his character - he was immature for his age, almost illiterate and something of a rabbit. One of our main problems was keeping him out of the hands of irate fathers!

He, himself, had a domineering father, Pat Quigley, who was something of a bully and it was impossible for Tommy to do anything without counting on him. Tommy was, in fact, quite physically frightened of him. In the Challengers, however, he found a refuge amongst a group of better educated people: Rob Gilmour was up at Liverpool University, Ray Pawson and Pete Wilson were both grammar school boys and all three (unusual for the groups of the time), could read and write music. Pete had studied classical guitar and he and I wrote several songs performed by the group (I never kept any of them).

David Bramwell graduating in 1966 I remember the first time that Brian Epstein saw Tommy. It was at the Queen's Hall, Widnes and I had persuaded Bob Wooler to give the group an audition there. Brian was immediately enthralled by Tommy. He commented to us (Bob and I) that he thought he had the same sort of "impish personality as Gerry Marsden" but right from the start he considered the Challengers to be 'ugly' and wanted to minimise their influence. He even asked them to change the name of the group to Tommy Quickly & the Stops. It was Brian who came up with the name Tommy Quickly, though it didn't need much imagination in view of his real name.

I stayed on a few months as manager of the group but eventually had to give up because of pressure from my University tutor who was noticing that I was spending too much time away from lectures, etc. Brian, who had asked me to stay on and look after Tommy, was not pleased but signed him up anyway, splitting up the Challengers who went on to back Steve Aldo.

I have always felt that splitting Tommy from the group was a major mistake and the few times I saw him afterwards, he always seemed rather insecure, bewildered and not sure what was happening to him. I later learned from the Remo Four, who backed him for a while, that he was quite heavily into drugs and I suppose that was the main cause of his downfall as even a few pints made him difficult to handle at times and under the influence he was often unable to sing in tune despite having a good voice given the right material.

Though it is easy with hindsight to speculate on what went wrong, I believe the first mistake was the separation from the Challengers - but once Tommy went into the recording studio I also have my doubts about the material he was given.

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