London-based music promoter Larry Parnes travelled to Liverpool to audition groups to back Billy Fury on a tour of northern England and Scotland.
The audition took place at the Blue Angel, a club run by The Silver Beetles’ new manager Allan Williams. The venue was previously known as the Wyvern Social Club, and was located at 106-108 Seel Street, Liverpool.
In May, Larry Parnes came to town, auditioning. He was the big London agent. His acts nearly always had a violent surname. There was Ronnie Wycherley who became Billy Fury; and a less furious guy you have yet to meet. A sweet Liverpool guy – the first local man who made it, in our eyes. Marty Wilde was also in Larry’s stable; he had another tempestuous surname. But Larry Parnes had some new singers and was looking for backing groups, and someone had told him there were a few groups around in Liverpool. So he came up to the Blue Angel. Billy Fury came with him.
The auditions were filled with several hopeful Liverpool acts, among them Cass and the Cassanovas, Derry and the Seniors, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Cliff Roberts and the Rockers and The Silver Beetles.
Although they hadn’t performed together for some months, The Silver Beetles were hopeful on the day, despite their drummer Tommy Moore not showing up.
They were going to use the Blue Angel, which in those days was called the Wyvern Social Club, to audition back-up bands for Larry Parnes’s acts. Beforehand we went out and bought some string shoes with little white bits on top. We were very poor and never had any matching clothes, but we tried to put together a uniform – black shirts and these shoes.
When we arrived at the club our drummer hadn’t shown up, so Johnny Hutchinson, the drummer with Cass and the Cassanovas, sat in with us. I don’t think we played particularly well or particularly badly.
Another problem was Stuart Sutcliffe, who was still learning to play the bass guitar. In an attempt to hide his deficiencies he turned his back on the audience.
We had to tell Stuart to turn the other way: ‘Do a moody – do a big Elvis pose.’ If anyone had been taking notice they would have seen that when we were all in A, Stu would be in another key. But he soon caught up and we passed that audition to go on tour – not with a furious name at all like the other acts, but with a guy called Johnny Gentle.
Also present at the auditions was Billy Fury. John Lennon was photographed receiving an autograph from the singer. Also pictured are Fury, Cliff Roberts and Larry Parnes.
The call from Parnes came on 18 May, and the group began their seven-date tour of Scotland with Johnny Gentle, whose real name was John Askew, two days later.
An earlier version of this article was illustrated with photographs, taken by Cheniston K Roland, of the Blue Angel event. These were used without permission. We would like to apologise sincerely to Mr Roland.
Also on this day...
- 2012: Paul McCartney live: Zócalo de la Ciudad de México, Mexico City, Mexico
- 1965: Recording, mixing: Dizzy Miss Lizzy, Bad Boy
- 1965: Filming: Help!
- 1962: Live: Star-Club, Hamburg
- 1961: Live: Top Ten Club, Hamburg
Want more? Visit the Beatles history section.