merseycats

 

bumblies

By Dave Ferguson

Dave BumbliesAround 1962 with the Liverpool scene well under way everyone wanted to be in a band, I was in my last year at Hillfoot Hey Grammar school in Woolton. For the first time we had a school dance and a band called the Renegades played some amazing new heavy beat  music. I remember thinking I got get into this. I had taken up the guitar a year earlier but couldn't play too well.         

 

The boys at the dance were talking about some new band called the Beatles; the guy at the centre of the conversation was Tony Bramwell who was a year ahead of me at school, but already a roadie to this new weird but sensational band. Tony went on to become a major player in the development of Apple. On the long journey home to Broadway in Norris Green (About an Hours ride on the No 81 Bus). I was born in the year of the bulge 1947, which basically meant all the returning soldiers from World War2 hadn't had a shag for years and got randy producing millions of little brats like me, which in turn meant you were sent to any school that could fit you in. In my case, the bloody place was 20 miles from home. That's my excuse for fluncking my GCEs) I had plenty of time to think about the music. Gotta be in a band, I thought. My best mate Mike Parker lived two doors away and already had the gear; a Hofner Verithin and a Vox AC15. Next door the other way lived John Hayton who played drums in the 44th Boys Brigade.

 

And so the Bumblies were born, well actually, the first name we thought of was the SoundTracks, but Mike was a big fan of the comedian Michael Bentine who performed his TV show with some little space puppets called Bumblies and he so he suggested the name which had a more "Beatlee" sort of ring. The first practice was at a church hall on Queens Drive, I can't quite remember the name of mike parkerthe church but it's at the junction of Queens Drive and Muirhead Avenue. So there we were one acoustic guitar, one Hofner Verithin a snare drum and the biggest friggin Bass drum in the history of Rock music, complete with the name of the band on the skin The 44th BB. John did'nt have a pedal so he just booted the bass drum, unfortunately fashion at the time dictated that we all wore "Winklepickers"  so after about 3 bars the toecap of his winkle appeared through the skin in between the words Property of and 44th BB!!. And that was the end of the practice, as we all legged it before the Vicar found out.

And that was pretty well the end of the Soundtracks, as John would'nt commit to getting a drum set. Depressed, we thought that was it, but somehow, we bumped into a very cool looking dude called George Robinson. You'll remember that great line in Sultans of Swing "You check out guitar George he knows all the chords". Well check out this Guitar George he had all the gear; the collar less jacket, hair down to his knees and most importantly a brand new Fender Precision bass. Could he play? Who cared, he was in. Our first practice was at the Clubmoor Conservative Hall which was at the back of Broadway where Mike and I lived.

The first few gigs were not that great and my greatest memory of those dim distant days was being covered in blood at the end of the night. George was a glazier and his fingers were normally cut to ribbons... so playing next to George was a very hazardous business.

George was very much into the Rolling Stones and I was a Beatlehead, and I think that was the main reason for me moving on.

mike parkerMike continued on with the band and we remained close friends until his untimely death in 2002. I bought Mike's Gibson and his Stratocaster off the estate and they have pride of place on my Guitar wall at home.

 

I went on to play with The Six Foot Four (That was a bit of a problem as I'm 5ft 3in )), The Politicians and The Countdowns, but if I'm really honest, none of those bands ever recaptured  the excitement of three wild kids dreaming the dream....if only for a short while.

As for me, I finished playing in 1968 and my guitar followed me round the world to Australia on to Spain and finally back to where I once belonged, Liverpool. Two years ago the bug returned and I now play with Merseycats every Thursday and do a few Gigs for charities.

George retired a couple of years ago, after performing for a number of years with his lovely lady Kate as the Cryin Shames Duo around Europe, but as I write we have just decided to do couple of revival gigs for 2009, hopefully with the bands best Drummer Charlie Gallagher...and well you never know...Shay Stadium here we come.

 

What follows now is George's story, From Bumblies to Cryin Shames, written before he retired.

 

I believe that in the days when George and Jon Bennett fronted the band, they were the best band ever to come out of Liverpool...with perhaps just one exception!!!

 

"Keep rockin in the Free World"

Dave Ferguson January 2009

 

 George Robinson Cryin Shames

 

By George Robinson

 

I was born in Norris Green, Liverpool on December 26 1943 and attended Broad Square School and then on to Roscoe Garfield.

As with most of the Liverpool musicians, it was early rock 'n' roll artists who started my interest in music, especially Buddy Holly and Lonnie Donegan.

I remember studying the picture on the cover of the 'Chirping Crickets' album: the guitar that Holly was holding baffled me - I hadn't seen one like it before; it seemed to be made of plastic.

My first guitar was a cheap second-hand acoustic from Stanley's in Scotland Road. A lot of early skifflers bought guitars at the same place.

My brother-in-law Norman Eastwood was in one of the first Liverpool groups, playing tea-chest bass for the Black Cat Trio + One. They played mostly cinemas and church halls during the late 1950s.

Another lad living near our house, Sidney Nugent, played a few chords, and I learned a bit from him, including the intro to Cliff Richard's 'Move It.'

Tony Waddington also lived nearby - about 1960 he did a great version of 'Be-Bop-A-Lula' on his homemade guitar, and at that time he taught me the intro to 'Rock Around With Ollie Vee.' I still play it his way to this day.

George RobinsonI joined the Casbah in 1959. It was over the road from where I lived. Like many others, I paid sixpence to go and see the skiffle group. I had no idea until later that it was the Beatles.

My working life started in 1960 at the Municipal Buildings, Dale Street. One of my workmates was Don Andrew from the Remo Four. He was older than me and had to teach me the job.

From him I found out what a Fender guitar was, although nobody in Liverpool had one yet, to my knowledge.

Everything in the office was covered in pictures of Yogi Bear, the popular cartoon character, wearing big black glasses and playing a red Fender. Don was a good cartoonist.

My haunts as a teenager were the Holy Rosary and the Orrell Park Ballroom.

It was in 1960, after seeing the Shadows perform, that I decided I wanted to be a bass player (Jet Harris had a real Fender bass with a tortoise shell pick guard).

I became a Shadows fanatic, and still am. I bought every record of theirs.

My first bass was a Fender like Jet Harris: it was purchased at Cranes music shop. It cost £120 on HP; it was slightly more expensive for a Sunburst colour.

The salesman was Joe Butler, bass player with Sonny Webb & the Cascades. All I had to do was learn to play it!

The Beatles had recently returned from Hamburg. That was a turning point for me. I couldn't believe it when I first saw them. I liked Cliff and the Shadows, but overnight I became converted. The Beatles were marvellous - they looked and sounded dangerous. It was a similar feeling that came over me when I first saw Little Richard in the film 'The Girl Can't Help It.' At the time I thought the Beatles were German - I remember a lot of people thought the same.

I liked most of the Liverpool groups around at the time: Cliff Roberts and the Rockers and Denny Seyton & the Sabres come to mind. I loved the Remo Four.

I saw the Beatles loads of times before they made it big. Cavern lunch times were the best.

They still owe me for some toast I paid for in the Jacaranda Club!

I was at the Cavern when George Harrison got his eye blacked. The culprit was one of the Casbah crowd, his name was 'Bruno', and he came from Norris Green. Bruno was angry that Pete Best was being dropped. There was a crowd from the Casbah there that night, and earlier, in the Jolly Miller pub I had heard them saying that there would be trouble.

I formed a group with Mike Parker and Dave Ferguson from Broadway.

 

The name we called ourselves, the Bumblies, came from a TV show starring Michael Bentine. It seemed a good choice at the time. Surprisingly, our first gig was at Broadway Conservative Club - Mike's dad had some influence there. Paul McCartney claims his first gig with the Quarry Men was there. We tried to play rock 'n' roll but weren't very good, however, I did learn a lot.

For some vague reason we saw the name the Bumblies as similar to Beatles.

Nationally the Mersey sound was the big thing.

I joined a group in the early 1960s: Buddy Dean & the Teachers. They were very good and I learned a lot from them also. I don't remember their names, only Richie the powerful drummer. The Teachers didn't last long, unfortunately.

John BennetDuring 1963 I formed a group of my own. John Bennet played guitar, he was a friend of Gus, the guitarist with Karl Terry. John had learned a lot from Gus. John was a marvellous guitar player for the time.

Terry Hines, who lived not far from me, formed the nucleus of the Clayton Squares at the time.

The rhythm guitarist in our group was a lad named Dougie, I'm sad to say I don't remember his other name, but he had a Fender Stratocaster. The vocalist was Joey Kneen. We used the name Bumblies again. Various drummers came and went, we were quite ambitious and maybe people who were more easy going than we were found it hard to work with us. Finally, we got Charlie Gallagher, a brilliant drummer who was with the Calderstones. He brought the very competent Phil Roberts along on keyboards, so Dougie had to leave because we didn't need a rhythm guitarist any more.

Sadly, Pete Maxwell, the guitarist who had formed the Calderstones, was killed in a motorcycle accident shortly after.

We started making a name for ourselves around Liverpool, gaining a residency at the Rumblin' Tum in Hardman Street. Neil English, the owner, was very 'hip' and into Blues and Jazz. He helped us a great deal, allowing us to practice at the club, and he brought great records for us to learn from.

I saw Neal recently at the Albert Dock; he has a clothes shop there.

Please Stay 1966



We were also getting to be pretty good musicians. The year was 1964. The line-up was George Robinson, bass; John Bennett, guitar; Phil Roberts, keyboards; Charlie Gallagher, drums; Joey Kneen, vocals.

cryin shamesI believe we were one of the best on Merseyside at that time, we had a huge following, despite the fact that Bob Wooler kept us out of the Cavern.

Other groups at the time were the Roadrunners, Kruzads, Them Grimbles, Hideaways and the Clayton Squares. Billy Kinsley was also back on Merseyside with the Kinsleys.

They were the competition and they were all very good, although I think we all lacked the experience of the earlier groups.

Chris Curtis, for instance, amazed me with his comments regarding the technicalities for the Crickets music. He understood it.

Rory was still around at the time, but I think he knew he had missed his chance. We all liked Rory and got on really well. I still think about him.

The next major event for us was Charlie Crane joining the band. Charlie had been around for a while with various bands, when he joined us we were complete. Joey was a good rocker, but Charlie could sing ballads - together they were excellent.

Norman Eastwood was managing the group at this time. He did well considering he was only dabbling part time. He eventually quit work as a printer at Liverpool Letterpress and became our road manager.

We played at the Sink, Iron Door, Orrell Park Ballroom, St Luke's, Heaven and Hell and the Grave, all the popular venues, sometimes two a night. The money was pathetic but I remember the times with fondness.

I had heard about Joe Meek and got his phone number from the London phone book - it was as simple as that.

He was very pleasant on the phone and we talked for a while. When I went to London I went alone, called in, and did a demo (I played guitar and sang 'Bright Lights, Big City'). The others would not come, I think it was Easter and they all had plans. Meek's advice was "get a group and come back." I did. A few weeks later I went with Joey, and the others followed on a few days later. Meek was as good as his word, and we recorded a number of songs.

Meek was ecstatic at our arrangement of 'Please Stay' and agreed to record it. Decca subsequently informed us that in their opinion the record would be a big hit. This led to changes within the band. It was decided by Meek that we should replace John Bennett with Richie Routledge, the guitarist with Liverpool based Aztecs. Richie was only sixteen, yet he fitted in well, and handled the success like a veteran.

We had to work on presentation. It was also decided that the name Bumblies was dodgy, due to the fact that Michael Bentine had copyrighted the name. After much thought, we became the Cryin' Shames. We chose the name simply because it could be abbreviated to 'Shames', like 'Stones', who we also admired.

cryin shamesWhen 'Please Stay' was released, it sailed into the charts. Brian Epstein invited us to the Adelphi Hotel and made us an offer of management, but due to disagreements concerning Brian Harvey of Music Echo who had designs on managing us, we turned this offer down.

Later that same week Meek was at Nems offices with Eppy and telephoned us. He desperately wanted to work with Nems, but we were emphatic. Unfortunately, one of our members told them both to 'F-off'. Meek broke down and cried in front of the Nems staff. I know this was a fact and he never forgave me because he thought I was the instigator in the revolt. It was shortly after that he shot himself to death. Refusing to sign with Nems was probably our biggest mistake, and may possibly have contributed to Meek's depression.

Not signing with Nems had repercussions for us. The record suddenly stopped moving and TV appearances were cancelled. 

However, although our success only lasted months, it was a wonderful time.

The Scaffold made our clothes; they had a boutique (there's a Sixties word!) in Dale Street. They also did our hair at the same premises. We were actually featured on TV having our hair styled.

Lewis's department store had life sized photographs of all six of us in the windows right around the shop.



We were invited to parties with the big names in the pop world. We mixed socially with the Walker Brothers and we appeared in theatres with our idols. Roy Orbison and Martha & the Vandellas were just two of them.

Nights out were at the Scotch of St James, the nightclub where all the stars went.

We did the Dick Clark Show in the U.S.A. Dick preferred the B-side 'What's News Pussycat' and that was the side played on American TV. It was unreal!

All this happened over a period of a few months, and ended after a few hours.

When the second record missed the charts the Cryin' Shames were forgotten instantly.

I think it was all over for the Liverpool Sound then as well. New groups were appearing: I remember Eddie Cave & the Fix as one of the best.

John Repsch interviewed me, and others, in depth before he wrote the Joe Meek book, then proceeded to write anything that he wanted. I hated the constant reference to Meek's homosexuality in the book, as though that was all there was - Meek never ever bothered any of us, he just got on with the music.

I have written an article for the Joe Meek Appreciation Society and told them that none of the events referred to in the book, regarding the recording of 'Please Stay' were true.

It took a day to complete the recording. Joe Meek was easy to work with on the session: the difficulties did not arise till later.

Contrary to some reports Meek did not hold a gun to Charlie Crane's head, nor did he 'extract' a performance. Charlie could sing well enough without any 'pushing' from Meek.

cryin shamesThe reason we changed the tempo on 'Please Stay' was simply this: in rehearsal I had learned the chords from the Zoot Money version of the song, then Charlie sang the words from a piece of paper, consequently we played slowly so that everyone could pick it up. We liked the sound when played at a slow tempo, and decided to keep it that way; it was very moving the way Charlie Crane sang it.

The main problem with Joe Meek, in my opinion, and at that time, was his inability to recognize other people's views. He realised too late that groups could write their own songs and put useful ideas into the production. Had he taken the Beatles on in the beginning, we probably would never have heard all those great songs. Everyone had to do things his way and record songs written by him or Goddard.

A few weeks after the completion of the recording, John Bennett left the group and Richie Routledge joined. Richie had been with the Aztecs. Richie played or song on all subsequent records.

The album we recorded was not released because 'Please Stay' never achieved a high chart position. This was my understanding at the time, but I do have some of the tracks we recorded on tape in my possession. Time has not been good to them.

Some of the other tracks are in the infamous 'tea chest tapes'. These are the tapes sold off after Joe Meek's death, and are being kept somewhere in London, allegedly in a tea chest and left to rot, and they are the subject of lengthy fighting between John Repsch (Meek's biographer) and the present owner of the tapes.

It was a great disappointment when 'Please Stay' did not make us rich, but I think it was more complex than just short supplies. As regards Brian Epstein, Eppy controlled the whole business then and one doesn't tell the most powerful man in the biz to 'F*** Off!

cryin shamesI don't believe they were the only reasons for our early demise; we were not as talented as some of the bands who had gone before. I don't think any of the second generation bands matched those earlier bands, nor did we have the experience of the Beatles, Searchers, Remo etc. Hamburg gave them something the later groups lacked.

The many and various band members quoted in numerous places are incorrect. When the Cryin' Shames broke up, various people tried to exploit the name and cash in on the limited success that we had enjoyed and worked hard for. 

One person quoted as a member, who wasn't, was Brian Norris. He was the bass player with Earl Preston's Realms. Norris, along with Chris Findlay, Espie, Byrne and Commerford backed Charlie Crane who illegally used the name Cryin' Shames and was forced to change it to Paul and Richie and the Cryin' Shames. A different group altogether.

The only other people who spent legitimate time with the Bumblies were Barry Davidson on harmonica, Jimmy Marr on drums, Dougie (?) on guitar, John Tague on vocals - and they were with us for only a short time.

The real and only Cryin' Shames were the seven members I have mentioned previously.

There were people on Merseyside who envied and begrudged us the small success we had, but were only too glad to jump in and try to capitalize on the name when it was all over, and 'ought to hang their heads in shame' (a quote from Charlie Crane's letter to the Liverpool Echo).

Charlie left the whole 'Shames' thing behind after a few weeks and joined Gary Leeds and Joey Molland as the group Rain. Molland then joined Pete Ham and formed Badfinger.

I have seen a website which claims that the Cryin'Shames name was changed to Paul & Richie and the Cryin' Shames to avoid confusion with an American group of the same name. This isn't true.

Katie and I have played in Spain. While we were there we met a Liverpool singer who claimed to have sung 'Please Stay' on the record. We have worked in the Scilly Isles where I spoke to a man from Three Butt Lane. He told me he was the bass player on the recording and described it to me in detail, not knowing who I was. That incident would make a story on its own.

I know there is a singer performing in the Liverpool clubs at present who claims he sang on the record.

The deaths index on the Merseycats website cites an ex-Cryin' Shame I have never heard of, alongside the names of Charlie and Joey. If all these people were present, Joe Meek's tiny recording studio must have been like the black hole of Calcutta that day!

Katie and I use the name the Cryin' Shames Duo because it is legally mine. The copyright of 'Please Stay' belongs to me and the other surviving members. Graham Cole, a solicitor from Weymouth pursued the legal problems created by Joe Meek's suicide on behalf of all Meek's groups. It took twenty-five years to get a settlement and still no money has ever been forthcoming. This was the same for the Tornados, Outlaws, Lord Sutch, John Leyton and many others.

I wrote the B-side of 'Please Stay' - 'What's News Pussycat'. That is definitely mine, although I am now forced to share composer rights with Bob Dylan (I ripped off the tune of 'On the Road Again'). I don't mind that! Apparently it is still getting plays on American TV stations, calling it 'Freakbeat' - other Cryin' Shames B-sides also share that distinction.

Katie cryin shamesAs a duo Katie and I play 1950s hits and rock 'n' roll (the music that influenced the Beatles). Katie studied music at Glasgow University and can play almost any instrument. Her specialty is saxophone and she plays keyboards a la Jerry Lee Lewis. For someone so young her favourites, surprisingly, are Johnny & the Hurricanes, Duane Eddy and, of course, the Beatles.

We have played all over the world but we recently moved to Wales and are nowadays happy to stay closer to home.

We did try working in Liverpool but the clubs seem to be all Bingo and Karaoke. Where did all the 60s people go? (They all go to MerseyCats. Editor)

We still do a supporting act at various venues around the country for some of the 60s bands, including the Searchers, the Merseybeats etc and it's nice to speak to them all.

I am doing what I always wanted to do from the very beginning. I play Duane Eddy, Chuck Berry, Fats and Jerry Lee etc. We drive a pink 1959 Cadillac - it's the 50s every day! Perhaps the Beatles will come again!

We have constructed a web site for Johnny & the Hurricanes, the only site on the web they have approved and not forcibly removed. We plan to create other sites for artistes of the era, with their approval.

Another bonus is that a number of people think the Bumblies were the group that recorded 'Nutrocker'. We don't argue and we feature the tune in our act, but I've never actually said it was us! People will expect Tchaikovsky, now I'm from the City of Culture.

Luckily, Katie can turn to Classical Music whenever the mood takes her, and run through the odd bit of Beethoven.

It must be obvious how I feel about events surrounding the Cryin' Shames. All of the surviving members feel the same. Charlie Gallagher says he has never seen his name anywhere on the web, or in any of the books relating to the 60s Mersey Sound. Even the record sleeve of the Joe Meek album, which shows pictures of all the featured artistes, has mistakenly inserted a picture of some other group.

A television show was planning to screen a documentary about growing up in Liverpool during the 50s; one of the contributors to the programme explained in detail how he formed the Cryin' Shames after leaving school. When I wrote to the producer, explaining that this man was never a member of the group, and I would make a fuss, the show was scrapped.

Numerous CDs contain our recordings, but we don't receive a penny. C'est la vie! But my daughter is pleased to see me on vinyl - or is it plastic!

Charlie Crane is now dead, so too is Joey Kneen. Richie, after spending time in Atlanta, Georgia, now has a flourishing recording studio in the Wirral. Phil and Charlie G, are both successful businessmen. John B is in Australia having a great life. I continue to play as the Cryin' Shames Duo with my partner Katie. I am entitled as I was the founder member of first the Bumblies and ultimately the Cryin' Shames

As a footnote, the Cryin' Shames were the last group to top the bill at the original Cavern Club.

 

George Robinson

 

 

 

 

 

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