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Bill Harry's Mersey Beat Days

 

Liverpool - Bigger Than The Beatles

 

 

Strange to think I’ve been writing about the Mersey music scene since 1961.

 

Billy Harry Liverpool - Bigger Than The Beatles'Liverpool - Bigger Than The Beatles' is actually my 23rd published book, although not the first time I've had a crack at giving acknowledgement to the Mersey groups other than the Beatles.

 

It's true that the success of the Beatles, although bringing great prestige to Merseyside, has tended to overshadow all the incredible music that has persisted over the decades. The media doesn't want to know anything else about Liverpool music but the Beatles.

 

There have been over 3,000 books about the group and every time I have approached television, radio or the press about other Merseyside music stories, they have all been turned down with the suggestion that yet another programme, story or documentary about the Beatles is on the cards.

 

For five years I worked on a television concept called 'Mersey Beat' which was to be produced and directed by Film & General, who made 'Gregory's Girl' and the basic story written by Johnny Byrne, who conceived series such as 'All Creatures Great And Small' and 'Heartbeat.' In fact, 'Heartbeat' was Britain's No. 1 TV series when we approached the BBC with the 'Mersey Beat' concept. The BBC said they liked it and were considering broadcasting it.

 

We waited for three years for them to confirm the decision, then they suddenly said 'no' and simply ripped off the name for yet another tired police series.

 

Sadly, Johnny has since passed away. He was in Liverpool at the time everything was happening and shared the Gambier Terrace flat with Sam Walsh immediately below John, Stuart and Rod Murray

 

Radio Four presented a documentary about New Musical Express, so I contacted them with the idea of them doing a similar radio documentary about Mersey Beat. Another rejection!

 

In fact, the truth is that there is some sort of attitude from the media about Merseyside music, which I have experienced for decades. The London powers-that-be in the Sixties actually went out of their way to sabotage Mersey music and I have presented the evidence in the chapter 'The North South Divide.'

 

Not only did London, which controls the music scene, come to regard Liverpool talent as non persona grata, Merseyside music also had to take a back seat to Manchester. Manchester is basically the Northern capital of the media. They have Granada TV based there, the Northern branches of BBC radio, the Northern editions of the national newspapers and there has always been a Manchester bias in the reporting of events in the North West.

 

I have spent my entire life working in the media and can see a general pattern that perhaps is not so obvious to others.

 

My book is another of my attempts to set the record straight and confirm what the Guinness Book of Records and the British Council have already confirmed - that Liverpool in the world capital of popular music...only you wouldn't realise it if you read the British media.

 

I had to cut out over four extra chapters due to the length of the book, which I can now include in a follow-up publication, but I'll just describe the chapters in the current work:

 

The introduction is a general overview of the Mersey scene in general and the story of the origin of the Mersey Beat newspaper.

 

Before The Boom

 

 

billy furyThe next chapter 'Before The Boom' relates the stories of the Merseyside artists who were successful prior to the Beatles, including Frankie Vaughan, Michael Holiday, Billy Fury (pictured left), Lance Fortune, Johnnie Gentle, Michael Cox (I still need further information on this former Quarry Bank School pupil who now lives down under) and Russ Hamilton.

 

The Capital Of Music

 

'The Capital of Music' enters the 'Cunard Yanks' controversy, which still holds sway and needs further debating. I pose the question 'Why Liverpool?' and explore some of the reasons why Merseyside music developed as it did and the numerous seminal influences ranging from George Formby to Lonnie Donegan, Elvis Presley to Arthur Alexander and how artists such as Bill Haley and Chuck Berry paid tribute to Liverpool.

 

People and Places We Remember

 

 

the blue angel'People And Places We Remember' is a chapter about the venues and promoters which helped to creature such a dynamic music scene, with stories of such pioneering promoters as Brian Kelly, Charlie McBain and Dave Forshaw, with mention of over 300 venues where local groups performed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The North South Divide

 

'The North South Divide' is the tale I mentioned -  how London ruled the roost and had to quickly plug the farons flamingoesgap when the Beatles and so many other artists revolutionised the music scene. This is another good subject for debate and one, I've no doubt, members of Merseycats have debated over the years - for instance, why didn't Faron's Flamingos (pictured left) become the group who topped the charts with 'Do You Love Me?'

In the early issues of Mersey Beat I wrote an Editorial 'London - Take A Look Up North', which I suppose still applies today.

 

 

The Poetry of the Mersey Sound

 

'The Poetry of the Mersey Sound' tells of the Mersey poets who revolutionised the poetry scene, just asroger mcgough the groups revolutionised the music scene. I also tell of the North's first poetry to jazz concert, which I organised at the Crane Theatre. These days I have been in correspondence with Steve Aldo about his poems, which I’ll be writing a blog about in the near future. Adrian Henri, Roger McGough (pictured right) and Brian Patten made a tremendous impact on the literary world - another plus for that Sixties revolution.

It Started in Toxteth

'It Started In Toxteth' relates the parallel music scene in the city in which brilliant black artists were to The Chantsdevelop - from the Chants (pictured left) to the Real Thing. There is no doubt that prejudice existed in the Sixties, although I personally feel that the main record buyers in the early part of that decade were young girls who were mainly devoted to the cute looks of the young white teenage musicians. The British public generally were prepared to buy records by American black artists, but not British ones. Derry Wilkie, Steve Aldo, Sugar Dean, Alvin Christie are among the other artists mentioned, although I'm still researching talented singers such as Colin Areety. The background to Toxteth with its thriving clubs and shebeens is also explored.

 

The Nashville Of The North

 

sonny webb and the cascades'The Nashville of the North' follows the fortunes of artists such as the Hillsiders (pictured left in their previous incarnation Sonny Webb and The Cascades), Hank Walters and Charlie Landsborough when Liverpool hosted the biggest country scene in Europe - another major movement that time has overshadowed due to the Beatles success. I'm still trying to find that list of more than 100 C&W groups that Hank Walters had.

 

 

Folks Fab Four

'Folks Fab Four' is the story of the Spinners, Britain's No.the spinners 1 folk outfit for more than a quarter of a century. The chapter also explores the Merseyside blues scene at the time. Many people attribute the British blues boom solely to London, although blues music thrived in Liverpool and Alexis Korner himself was to tell me, "The only place in England that a blues guitarist would be able to find recognition is Liverpool." Remember the great blues artists at the Cavern and Mardi Gras - BB King, John Lee Hooker, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGee and Liverpool bands such as the Roadrunners, the Clayton Squares and the Almost Blues.

 

 

 

 

Music is A Religion

 

'Music Is A Religion' is the little known story of the thriving Christian music scene on Merseyside with crossbeatsgroups such as the Crossbeats, reckoned to be the equivalent of the Beatles in the British sixties Christian scene. Merseyside was awash with Christian bands playing at scores of venues - including places such as the Philharmonic and Central Halls, plus ferries to the Isle of Man, packed with 2,000 fans each trip.

 

 

 

 

The Liver Birds

 

 

Beryl Adams (Marsden)'The Liver Birds' tells the story of the literally hundreds of female artists from Liverpool. The chapter was so long I had to prune it mercilessly. Sadly, I left out the female movers and shakers in Liverpool who were not singers, but worked behind the scenes and made their own contribution to that revolution - Virginia at Mersey Beat, Mo Best, Frieda Kelly, Beryl Adams etc

 

 

 

 

 

The Hosts With The Most

 

Bob Wooler, Wally and Kay Shepard, Cliff Roberts'The Hosts With The Most;' relates the fortunes of the comperes and disc jockeys, from Bob Wooler (pictured left with MerseyCats Chairman Wally Shepard, Kay Shepard and Cliff Roberts) and Billy Butler to John Peel and Kenny Everett  - and the final piece is an afterword, looking at the vibrant scene today and listing the amazing number of Liverpool artists who have topped the British charts.

 

I hope the book contributes to the real understanding of the unique events which occurred on Merseyside which led to a worldwide revolution in popular music - yet I still feel I have only scratched the surface!

 

Bill's book is available now at Amazon

 

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