Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Beatle People: Rory Storm

Rory Storm (21 September 1939 - 28 September 1972) was an English singer and musician. He was born Alan Caldwell in Liverpool. Storm was the singer and leader of Rory Storm and The Hurricanes, a Liverpudlian band who were contemporaries of The Beatles in the late 1950s, and early 1960s. Ringo Starr was the drummer for The Hurricanes before joining The Beatles in August 1962.

The Hurricanes were one of the most popular acts on the Liverpool and Hamburg club scenes during their existence, although their attempt at a recording career was not successful. They released only two singles, the second one being a version of the West Side Story song "America," which was produced by The Beatles' manager Brian Epstein.

When Storm's father died, he returned from Amsterdam to Liverpool to be with his mother at Stormsville, at 54 Broadgreen Road, Broadgreen, Liverpool. On 27 September 1972, Storm developed a chest infection and could not sleep properly, so he took sleeping pills. The next day Storm and his mother were both found dead. A post mortem revealed that Storm had not taken enough pills to kill himself, but it was suspected that his mother had, after finding her son's body.

Early years

Rory Storm was born Alan Caldwell in 21 September 1939, in Oakhill Park Estate, Stoneycroft, Liverpool, to Ernie and Vi (Violet) Caldwell. His father was a window cleaner by profession, and a part-time porter at the Broad Green Hospital, often singing songs to patients. Storm had one sister; Iris Caldwell, who would later date George Harrison when she was 12, and Paul McCartney, when she was 17. Iris would later marry Shane Fenton, later be known as Alvin Stardust. Apart from music, Storm was interested in sports, particularly athletics; he ran for an amateur team in Liverpool called the Pembroke Harriers, and won the Pembroke Athletics and Cycle Club steeplechase record. Instead of being driven home after concerts in Liverpool, Storm preferred to run home. Storm played football regularly and was a good skater and swimmer (once swimming the 12.5 mile length of Lake Windermere). Liverpool F.C. used to train at Melwood and he went to watch them in training, later putting up a large photo of himself training with the team on his wall at home. He was the captain of the Mersey Beat magazine's football team, called the Mersey Beat XI. Storm was born with a stutter (a speech impediment), which did not affect his singing. Because of Storm's bad stammer, his friends never allowed him to tell a joke or to order a round of drinks, as it took too long. He became a cotton salesman (as was Jim McCartney, Paul McCartney's father) before forming a skiffle group.


Storm's first name for a group was Dracula & the Werewolves, but later settled on Al Caldwell's Texans. Still known as Alan Caldwell, Storm opened The Morgue Skiffle Club in the cellar of a large Victorian house at West Oakhill Park, on 13 March 1958. It consisted of two rooms, painted black, that were connected by a long corridor, with skeletons painted on the walls and one blue light. Groups played on Tuesdays and Thursdays for up to 100 people (above the age of 15) starting at 7.30 pm, including Storm's group (later called The Raving Texans) and The Quarry Men, who later became The Beatles. After complaints about the noise, the police closed down the club on 1 April 1958, and Storm reopened it on 22 April 1958. It was in the Morgue Skiffle Club that Harrison auditioned for The Quarry Men, playing "Guitar Boogie Shuffle" by Bert Weedon, before being asked to join. Harrison later asked Storm if he could join his group, but Storm's mother refused, as she thought Harrison was too young.

Storm went to London, on 11 April 1958, to participate in a cross-country running competition. During his stay he took part in a jam session at Chas McDevitt's Skiffle Cellar, which resulted in an appearance on 30 April 1958, on Radio Luxembourg's Skiffle club programme playing "Midnight Special". In 1959, Storm's group consisted of himself on guitar and vocals, Johnny 'Guitar' Byrne (guitar/vocals) Paul Murphy (guitar/vocals) Reg Hales (washboard) and Jeff Truman (tea-chest bass). 'Spud' Ward, a former member of The Swinging Blue Jeans, later played bass guitar. Storm met Ringo Starr at a talent contest called '6.5 Special'. Starr had previously played with The Eddie Clayton Skiffle Group and was then drumming with a group called Darktown Skiffle. Starr's first concert with Storm was on 25 March 1959, at the Mardi Gras in Mount Pleasant, Liverpool.

Rory Storm and The Hurricanes

Storm changed the name of his group to Al Storm and the Hurricanes, Jett Storm and the Hurricanes, and finally, Rory Storm & the Hurricanes. The original line-up was Storm, Byrne, Ty Brian, Lu Walters (b. Walter Eymond) and Starr. Storm and The Hurricanes entered a competition managed by Carrol Levis called, 'Search For Stars', at the Empire Theatre on 11 October 1959 reaching second place ahead of 150 acts. The lineup of The Hurricanes which was finally settled on, until 1962, was Storm (vocals) Byrne (rhythm guitar) Ty (Charles) O’Brien (lead guitar) Walters (bass guitar/vocals) and Starr. The group played at The Cavern Club with The Cy Laurie Jazz Band on Sunday 2 January 1960, and a week later supported The Saints Jazz Band and Terry Lightfoot's New Orleans Jazz Band. Playing rock 'n' roll music was a problem at The Cavern Club, as it was not allowed. When Storm and The Hurricanes played there on 17 January 1960, with Micky Ashman's Jazz Band and the Swinging Blue Jeans, their first song was "Cumberland Gap" (a skiffle song) by Lonnie Donegan but then played "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin On," by Jerry Lee Lewis. The jazz and skiffle audience were outraged, booed and threw copper coins at the group. Ray McFall (The Cavern's manager) fined them 6 shillings, but the coins collected from the stage floor were worth more than the fine.

Storm and The Hurricanes performed at The Liverpool Stadium on 3 May 1960, on the same bill as Gene Vincent. Larry Parnes became interested in The Hurricanes, and invited them to audition at the Wyvern Club as a backing group for Billy Fury. Storm turned up at the audition, but only so he could have his picture taken with Fury. In July 1960, the group secured a residency at Butlins holiday camp in Pwllheli (playing in the Rock 'n' Calypso Ballroom) for £25 each per week. Starr was not sure about giving up his job as an apprentice at Henry Hunt's, where he made climbing frames for schools, until Storm put forward the idea of "Starr-time" (a solo spot) with Starr singing songs like "Boys" by The Shirelles. Starr finally agreed when Storm told him about how many women would be "available." It was during this season that Starr (who had been known as Ritchie until then) changed his name to Ringo. John Lennon refused to work in holiday camps like Butlins, even though they paid well, saying "It would be like playing in Belsen."


After playing for more than 16 hours per week, the group were contacted by Allan Williams, who wanted them to go to Hamburg. Derry and The Seniors were successful there, and Williams wanted an additional group. As Storm and the group were committed to Butlins, they turned Williams' offer down (as did Gerry & The Pacemakers) so Williams sent The Beatles to Hamburg instead. After the summer season ended in early October 1960, Storm and The Hurricanes were free to travel to Hamburg, replacing Derry and The Seniors at the Kaiserkeller. They arrived in Hamburg on 1 October 1960, having negotiated to be paid more than The Seniors or The Beatles. They played five or six 90-minute sets every day alternating with The Beatles. Storm and The Hurricanes were later presented with a special certificate by Bruno Koschmider (the owner of the Kaiserkeller) for their performances.

The stage of the Kaiserkeller was made of planks of wood balanced on the top of beer crates, so the two groups made a bet to see to who would be the first to break it. After punishing the stage for days, a slight crack appeared, and when Storm jumped off the top of the upright piano it finally broke. Byrne remembered that as Storm hit the stage, it cracked loudly and formed a V-shape around Storm. He disappeared into it, and all the amplifiers and Starr's cymbals slid into the hole. Koschmider was furious, and had to replace the live music with a juke box. Both groups went across the road to Harold's cafe for breakfast, but were followed by Koschmider's doormen with coshes, who beat the musicians as punishment.

During their eight-week residency Williams arranged a recording session at the Akoustik Studio, which was a small booth on the fifth floor of 57 Kirchenalle (The Klockmann-House) on Saturday 18 October 1960. Williams asked Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison from The Beatles to play and sing harmonies for Walters (of The Hurricanes) on the recording. Pete Best (The Beatles' regular drummer at the time) was in town buying drumsticks, so Starr played drums, which was the first time all four (Lennon, McCartney Harrison and Starr) played and recorded together. They recorded three songs: "Fever," "September Song" and "Summertime."


Storm and The Hurricanes were the headlining group at the first "Beat Night," in the Orrell Park Ballroom, in March 1961. They were also invited for a season at the Butlins camp in Skegness in Lincolnshire. Sam Leach (a Liverpool promoter) arranged a series of dance nights at the Palais Ballroom in Aldershot, starting on 9 December 1961. The first featured The Beatles, but as the local newspaper forgot to run the advertisement only 18 people turned up. The second Saturday was arranged for Rory Storm and The Hurricanes to perform, and as it was advertised this time, 210 people paid to get in. Leach's idea was to attract London agents to watch the series of concerts, but when he realized they would never travel out of London he abandoned the idea.

Starr considered leaving Storm at that time to join Derry and The Seniors, but accepted a job with Tony Sheridan at the Top Ten Club on 30 December 1961, as Sheridan's offer of more money, a flat and a car was too good to refuse. Starr's stay with Sheridan was short-lived, as he found Sheridan's habit of changing the set list without telling his backing group beforehand frustrating, so he rejoined The Hurricanes. On 5 February 1962, Best fell ill and The Beatles had to play a lunchtime concert at the Cavern and an evening concert at the Kingsway club in Southport. As The Hurricanes had no concert that day Starr played with them live on stage for the first time (although he had recorded with them in Hamburg).

During a Hurricanes' residency at Butlins, Lennon and McCartney drove from Liverpool to Skegness, on 15 August 1962, to ask Starr to join The Beatles. Shortly before, Starr had agreed to join Kingsize Taylor in Hamburg, as Taylor was offering £20 a week, but Lennon and McCartney offered £25 a week, which Starr accepted. Lennon and McCartney offered Storm to swap drummers (with Best replacing Starr) but Best rejected the idea. The Hurricanes would then become known for having a succession of drummers (including Gibson Kemp, Brian Johnson, John Morrison, Keef Hartley (August 1963) Ian Broad, and Trevor Morais) who would all stay with the group for a short period before leaving.

Despite Starr joining The Beatles, both groups would perform on the same bill during 1961, and at many concerts thereafter. In 1962, both groups performed together at St Patrick's Night Rock Gala (Knotty Ash Village Hall) Queen's Hall (Widnes) and with Little Richard at the Tower Ballroom. In 1963, Storm and The Hurricanes were filmed as part of the "Beat City" documentary, which was broadcast by Associated-Rediffusion Television.

Stage persona and lifestyle

When Storm became a professional singer, he changed his name to Rory Storm by deed poll, and changed the name of his family's home in Broadgreen to Stormsville. Storm was known for the extravagant clothes he wore and the cars he drove, once buying a pink Vauxhall Cresta for £800 in cash. A young man was once caught by a porter at Bootle railway station writing "I love Rory" over the walls, and when questioned, it turned out to be Storm himself. The Hurricanes wore matching suits on stage, but Storm wore a pink suit and pink tie, and during concerts he would walk over to the piano and comb his blond hair with an oversized comb. Their stage wear changed from sunglasses and palm tree decorated shirts to red (and blue) suits. Storm also wore an Elvis-style gold lamé suit. When they first appeared at Butlins holiday camp Storm wore a turquoise suit with a gold lamé shirt, while the group wore fluorescent suits.

Rod Punt (also known as Steve Day in Steve Day & the Drifters) remembered Storm arriving at the Orrell Park Ballroom for a concert with a boil on his face. When told about it, Storm pulled out a black velvet hood which had slits for his eyes and mouth, and played the whole concert with the hood on. At one concert at Bankfield House Youth club, Garston, Liverpool, in 1965, the stage lighting failed between sets. Storm was upset until someone walked in with a big flashlight, which Storm used to finish the concert. Storm used a pet monkey in some of the group's performances, as it attracted more people. At a New Brighton swimming baths performance for 1,600 people in 1963, Storm climbed to the top diving board, undressed to a pair of swimming trunks, and then dived into the water at the end of a song. In January 1964, during a performance at the Majestic Ballroom, Birkenhead, Storm climbed up one of the columns supporting the balcony, but slipped and fell 30 feet to the floor below, fracturing his leg. At another performance on the New Brighton Pier, Storm made his way onto the Pavilion roof, but fell through the glass skylight.

Storm and The Hurricanes received the most votes in the first Mersey Beat magazine poll, but many votes were disqualified as they had been posted from the same place at the same time, and were written in green ink. (Although never proven, it was thought that Storm had posted the votes). This meant that The Beatles reached the top position, with The Hurricanes coming fourth, even though The Beatles had also been sending in extra votes themselves. Storm was often photographed for the magazine, such as being surrounded by nurses when he left hospital after breaking a leg during a performance, or playing for the Mersey Beat XI football team.

The Hurricanes' set list

The group's typical 40-minute set list during 1963/1964:

* "Brand New Cadillac" Storm (vocal) Vince Taylor & the Playboys
* "Roll Over Beethoven" Storm (vocal) Chuck Berry
* "I'll Be Your Hero" Storm (vocal) Taylor & the Playboys
* "Beautiful Dreamer" Walters (vocal) Tony Orlando
* "Since You Broke My Heart" (Walters/Byrne) The Everly Brothers
* "America" Storm (vocal) Leonard Bernstein
* "Danny" Storm (vocal) Marty Wilde
* "Green Onions" (instrumental) Booker T & the MG's
* "Down The Line" Storm (vocal) Jerry Lee Lewis
* "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin On" Storm (vocals) Jerry Lee Lewis.

Other songs included in the set were:

* "Fever" Walters (vocal) written by Eddie Cooley and John Davenport (a pseudonym for Otis Blackwell).
* "Let It Be Me" Walters (vocals) Gilbert Bécaud
* "Summertime" Walters (vocal) George Gershwin.
* "Brand New Cadillac" Storm (vocal) Taylor
* "I'll Be Your Hero" Storm (vocal)
* "Roll Over Beethoven" Storm (vocal) Chuck Berry
* "Dr Feelgood" Storm (vocal)
* "Since You Broke My Heart", was a duet by Byrne and Walters.

The Hurricanes recorded songs for Oriole's two "This Is Mersey Beat" albums, but only released two singles: "Dr Feelgood"/"I Can Tell," Oriole (45-CB 1858 12/63) and "America"/"Since You Broke My Heart," Parlophone (R 5197 11/64) which was produced by Epstein at IBC Studios in London. Epstein also sang backing vocals on "America," and Starr added percussion and sang. Storm later asked Epstein to manage the group, but Epstein declined. The Hurricanes later recorded two songs at Abbey Road Studios in 1964: "Ubangi Stomp" and "I'll Be There," although they were never released.

Later life and death

In 1967, O’Brien (26) collapsed on stage during a performance, and later died due to complications after an appendicitis operation. Storm disbanded The Hurricanes and became a disc jockey, working at the Silver Blades Ice Rink in Liverpool, in Benidorm (he was also a water-skiing instructor there) in Jersey and Amsterdam. When Storm's father died, he returned from Amsterdam to Liverpool to be with his mother. Storm developed a chest infection and could not sleep properly, so he took sleeping pills. On 28 September 1972, Storm and his mother were both found dead, at Stormsville. The post mortem revealed that Storm had alcohol and sleeping pills in his blood (as had his mother) but not enough to cause his death, which was ruled accidental, although it could not be proven that his mother had committed suicide after finding Storm's body. The funeral for Storm and his mother was at Oakvale Congregational Church, Broadgreen, on 19 October 1972. Mourners sang Storm's favorite song, "You'll Never Walk Alone." The two coffins were carried from the hearse to the cremation (at Anfield Crematorium) by former band members. When Starr was asked why he did not attend, he said, "I wasn't there when he was born either." Although Starr had often offered to arrange for Storm to record whenever he wanted to, Storm was not interested in finding new or original material. His sister said: "He [Storm] 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!"

Fury, whom Storm had met at the Wyvern Club auditions, later played the part of a singer called Stormy Tempest in the film, That'll Be the Day (1973) which was based on Storm. In 1987, a musical was staged in Liverpool about Storm and The Hurricanes called A Need For Heroes.


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