Rory’s real name was Alan Caldwell, a former cotton salesman, who decided to form a skiffle group and, at the age of 18, the 6ft 2in blonde-haired singer opened the Morgue Skiffle Club in the basement at Balgownie, 25 Oakhill Road, Broadgreen on March 13th 1958. It was a large Victorian house, formerly a home for retired nurses, that could accommodate 100 people. Groups began playing from 7.30pm on opening night including his own band, then called Al Caldwell’s Texans, and The Quarry Men who later evolved into The Beatles.
January 1959 he changed the name of the group to The Raving Texans and
their line-up comprised Al Caldwell (guitar/vocals), Johnny Byrne (guitar/vocals),
Paul Murphy (guitar/vocals), Reg Hales (washboard) and Jeff Truman (tea-chest
bass). Spud Ward, a former member of the Swinging Bluegenes, took over
from Truman on bass guitar and the group continued as The Raving Texans
until July 1959.
By this time Rory had met Ritchie Starkey at a talent contest called ‘6.5 Special.’ Ritchie had left the Eddie Clayton Skiffle Group and was playing with the Darktown Skiffle when Rory told him that he was looking for a drummer. Ritchie was interested in joining them and first appeared with the group on March 25th 1959 at the Mardi Gras in Mount Pleasant.
There were a number of changes to the group’s name during 1959, first to Al Storm & The Hurricanes, then Jett Storm & The Hurricanes and finally, by the end of the year, Rory Storm & The Hurricanes. The new name came about after he and Johnny had appeared on a show with singer Rory Blackwell at Butlin’s in August 1959. During the group’s first few years, Rory evolved several changes in stage wear and at one time they wore sunglasses and shirts with a palm tree motif. They then donned red suits, with Rory wearing a pink suit, and Rory also got himself an Elvis-style gold lame suit. When they appeared for their first season at Butlin’s, Rory wore a turquoise suit and gold lame shirt and the Hurricanes wore fluorescent suits.
line-up now became Rory Storm (vocals), Johnny Byrne (rhythm guitar),
Charles O’Brien (lead guitar), Wally Eymond (bass guitar/vocals) and
Ritchie Starkey (drums). It remained that way until August 1962 when
Ritchie became a member of The Beatles. Despite changing the name from
The Texans, Rory was obviously still fond of a Western theme – at the
time there were numerous western series on television. He decided to
call Byrne 'Johnny Guitar', after the title of the 1954 Joan Crawford
Western, Ritchie became 'Ringo Starr' and Charles was renamed 'Ty' after
Ty Hardin, star of the ‘Bronco’ series. Rory also thought that Lou Walters
was a more suitable name for Wally. Lou Walters’ voice produced a contrast
to Rory’s and he performed numbers such as ‘Fever’, ‘Let It Be Me’,
‘Summertime’, ‘Beautiful Dreamer’ and ‘Mailman.’ Rory performed numbers
such as ‘Brand New Cadillac’, ‘I’ll Be Your Hero’, ‘Roll Over Beethoven’,
‘Down The Line’, ‘Dr Feelgood’ and ‘Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On.’ Johnny
duetted on ‘Since You Broke My Heart’ with Lou and played the instrumental
The group appeared at the Liverpool Stadium on May 3rd 1960 on the bill with Gene Vincent. This is the show that aroused Larry Parnes’ interest in Liverpool groups and led to the Wyvern Club auditions. Rory actually turned up at the auditions, not to perform, but just to have his photo taken with Billy Fury!
May the group were offered a summer season at Butlin’s in Pwllheli in
the Rock ‘n’ Calypso Ballroom, from July to September. Despite the Butlin’s
offer of £25 each per week, some members of the group had to consider
the risks they were taking in becoming fully professional.
Ritchie was the most reluctant member: he was an apprentice at the time, and didn’t want to go to Butlin’s, but Rory decided to convince him. It was during this period that Rory insisted on Ringo having his own five-minute spot, ‘Starrtime’, during which he sang numbers such as the Shirelles ‘Boys’ and ‘Alley Oop’. £25 was a huge sum in those days and years later Johnny Guitar was to recall, “We had to decide whether to stay at home with our routine jobs or whether to throw them in and turn professional. Ringo was very much against it. He was serving an apprenticeship at Henry Hunt’s, making school climbing frames. We persuaded him when we told him of all the women that would be ‘available.’ The Stormy Tempest character that Billy Fury played in the film ‘That’ll Be the Day’ was based on Rory, but they got one thing wrong - there were far more women than that.”
at Butlin’s, the act began to shape up far more professionally and they
were playing for 16 hours a week. Rory and The Hurricanes played at
Butlin’s Pwllheli in 1960 and 1961 (Summer season, probably May through
to end of August). They were at Butlin’s Skegness in 1962. In October
1960 Rory Storm & The Hurricanes were off to Hamburg, replacing Derry
& The Seniors at the Kaiserkeller. They were paid more than either The
Seniors or The Beatles. They were billed above The Beatles and alternated
with them on the daily 12-hour stretch which the groups had to play,
so each band did 90 minutes on and 90 minutes off. They also received
a certificate from Bruno Koshmider, the Kaisekeller owner, praising
them on their performance. Johnny Guitar was to comment, “It was like
getting a school report. We were very pleased. The Beatles never had
It was during this eight-week season, on Saturday October 18th 1960, that the recording session took place at the Akustik Studio with Lu Walters backed by John Lennon, George Harrison, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr (performing together for the very first time). Three of Wally’s ballads were recorded: ‘Fever,’ ‘September Song’ and ‘Summertime.’ Rory also sang at the Top Ten, accompanied by Tony Sheridan. Rory Storm & The Hurricanes became the star band on the first Beat night at the Orrell Park Ballroom in March 1961 and they began their second Butlin’s season at Skegness in Lincolnshire, 161 miles from Liverpool.
one time Ringo considered joining the Seniors but, on 30th December
1961, he left for Germany to back Tony Sheridan at the Top Ten Club
in Hamburg, enticed by the lure of a large fee, a flat and the use of
a car. However, he found Sheridan’s eccentric style of performing too
hard to cope with (he’d often change songs in the middle of a performance
without telling his backing band) and returned to The Hurricanes. While
he was absent from the group, Derek Fell from the Blackpool group The
Executioners replaced him.
The band also toured American bases in France and appeared at a club in Marbella, Spain, before their third season at Butlin’s, again in Skegness. One of their bookings was for a one-month season at an American base in Fontenet, when they had to be accompanied by a female vocalist. They took Vicki Woods, who’d appeared regularly in Liverpool clubs in a double act with her mother. The group performed from seven to ten forty-five each night, with four 15-minute breaks. It was also during this year that Lou left the group for a while when he joined The Seniors. During the Skegness season Ringo received a letter from Kingsize Taylor offering him £20 a week if he would join them in Germany as a replacement for Dave Lovelady, who was leaving the group to complete his studies. Ringo agreed. Then, one day, John Lennon and Paul McCartney turned up at the camp and offered Ringo £25 a week if he’d join them. The extra £5 sealed it and Ringo agreed to become a Beatle as from August 1962. Johnny Guitar says that John and Paul turned up at ten one morning and knocked on their caravan door, saying they wanted Ringo to join them. Rory told them that The Hurricanes couldn’t work without a drummer and they hadn’t finished their season. Paul told him that Brian Epstein said that they could have Pete Best. Rory went to Liverpool to see him but Pete Best was too upset. Rory then returned to Skegness and used relief drummers, one of whom, Anthony Ashdown, was an actor.
|Rory Storm & The Hurricanes appeared on scores of bills alongside The Beatles, particularly at the local ballrooms and town halls, ranging from Lathom Hall and Litherland Town Hall to Hambleton Hall and Knotty Ash Village Hall. Initially they were the bill toppers, then they shared bills, then they were billed second to The Beatles. Several books about The Beatles seem to be under the impression that The Beatles got to know Ringo only in Hamburg, but they were appearing at the local ‘jive hives’ together and knew each other well. Drummer Dave Lovelady of The Dominoes said, “One night at St. Luke’s Hall was an absolute sensation. Rory Storm came in with Wally, who had got the first bass in Liverpool. There was always a bass on American records, but we’d never seen one, and here was Wally with a Framus four-string bass guitar. The groups crowded round in amazement and, when they opened with ‘Brand New Cadillac’, this deep-booming sound was tremendous.”||
was renowned for his exuberant stage act. At a ‘Beat & Bathe Show’ at
New Brighton swimming baths on August Bank Holiday 1963, attended by
1,600 people, he twisted his way to the high-diving board, stripped
to his trunks, climbed to the top board, diving off as he finished the
In January 1964, during an appearance at the Majestic Ballroom, Birkenhead, he scaled one of the columns from the stage to the balcony, slipped and fell 30 feet, fracturing his leg and necessitating a short stay at Broadgreen Hospital.
While performing at New Brighton Pier, he climbed on to the roof of the Pavilion, started twisting and fell through the glass skylight!
During one of his shows at the Majestic he played five-a-side football with a team from the ballroom, the Top Rank Ravers – the result was a five-all draw!
he’d decided to become a singer, Rory turned professional with total
dedication. He changed his name to Rory Storm by deed poll, christened
the family home in Broadgreen ‘Stormsville’ and, when some members of
his band couldn’t play lunchtime sessions at the Liverpool Jazz Society
because they had jobs, he formed Rory Storm & The Wild Ones to perform
during lunch hours. A superb athlete, apart from being an exceptional
swimmer (he swam the 12½ mile length of Lake Windermere) and golfer
(he would go round Allerton golf course dressed only in shorts and golf
shoes), he was captain of the Mersey Beat soccer team and also ran for
the Pembroke Harriers.
When A&R; men began to take an interest in Liverpool in 1963, Rory and the group were among the number of bands who recorded for Oriole’s two ‘This Is Mersey Beat’ albums, and Oriole also released a single ‘Dr Feelgood’ c/w ‘I Can Tell’ in December 1963. The mobile unit recorded them in primitive conditions at the Rialto Ballroom and they missed the opportunity of proper recording facilities in a studio. However, for some reason the major record companies overlooked them, perhaps because they lacked a manager. Rory actually approached Brian Epstein and asked him to manage them, but he refused. Later on Arthur Howes, the promoter of The Beatles’ tours, took over as their manager, but he was based in London and they remained in Liverpool.
seemed that their luck had changed in 1964 when Rory met Epstein at
the Blue Angel club one evening and Epstein agreed to personally record
the group. This was a coup and they travelled to London, where Brian
produced their record at IBC Studios. They selected the number ‘America’
from the musical ‘West Side Story’. As Rory explained in Mersey Beat:
“We first heard this number when we played in Spain. Everyone seemed
to be playing it. We liked it a lot and when we came back to Liverpool
we did our own arrangement and added it to our repertoire. We shortened
it, used some of our own words and it does down a bomb! At the recording
session we played one number after another to Brian Epstein. He kept
saying ‘No’ until we played this and then he gave an emphatic ‘Yes.’”
The 'B'-side was the old Everly Brothers number ‘Since You Broke My Heart,’ with the vocals handled by Lou and Johnny. The session lasted for 15 hours and other numbers they performed were ‘Ubangi Stomp’ and ‘I’ll Be There.’ Among the session singers were Rory’s sister Iris and her husband Shane Fenton. Ringo also attended the session. ‘America’ was released by Parlophone on December 20th 1964, but didn’t reach the charts.
only ever recorded one other band, The Rustiks. Ringo offered his support
to his old group and gave them further chances to record, but they didn’t
take them. Ringo said that he’d fix for them to record whenever they
wanted to, but Rory couldn’t be bothered finding new material and seemed
content to just play rock ‘n’ roll standards. Perhaps he didn’t really
want to make the big time. His sister Iris said, “He 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
Over the years there were various changes in personnel: When Ringo left to join The Beatles he was replaced by Gibson Kemp. Gibson then left to join The Dominoes in Hamburg where he married Astrid Kirchherr. Brian Johnson replaced him and recorded with the group for the ‘This Is Mersey Beat’ albums, but then left to join Mark Peters & The Silhouettes. Keef Harley, from Preston group The Thunderbeats, replaced him, but then joined The Midnighters whose drummer, Ian Broad, then took his place in the Hurricanes. When Broad joined The Seniors, Trevor Morais, former drummer with Faron’s Flamingos, replaced him – but then went on to join The Peddlers.
In February 1964 drummer Jimmy Tushingham joined Rory, Johnny, Lou and Ty. Lou left the group to be replaced by Vince Earl, who was subsequently replaced by Dave May. Other bass guitarists followed, including former group leader Karl Terry. By 1967 their line-up comprised the two founder members Rory and Johnny, with Carl Rich on drums, Keith Karlson on bass and Adrian Lord on guitar. This was their last line-up.
1967 Ty Brien collapsed on stage and was rushed to hospital. There were
complications resulting from a recent appendicitis operation and he
died at the age of 26. The group then broke up for a short time, before
Rory and Johnny tried to revive it with three new members, but it didn’t
work out. After his group had split up, Rory became a disc jockey in
Benidorm and Amsterdam – a strange profession for a man with a noticeable
stutter. He also acted as a D.J. at the Silver Blades Ice Rink in Liverpool.
It was while in Amsterdam that Rory received the news that his father had died. He returned to Liverpool to console his mother, Vi, but neither recovered from the shock. Rory was suffering from a chest condition and took sleeping pills to ease it. On 28th September 1972, both Rory and his mother were found dead in Stormsville.
Their deaths remain a mystery although Shane Fenton, his brother-in-law at the time, commented: “Rory became very ill. He had a chest condition which meant he couldn’t breathe properly. He found it difficult to sleep so he’d take his pills with a drop of scotch, which doped him completely. At the post-mortem it was established that he hadn’t taken enough pills to kill himself…it had been nothing more than a case of trying to get some kip, but because he was so weak, his body couldn’t handle it."
"He died in the night and his mother found him. She must have felt that she’d lost everything. I think she took an overdose, but I’m convinced that Rory didn’t. When you’ve known somebody long enough, you know whether they’re going to do it or not. The whole thing was an accident.”
No member of The Beatles attended Rory’s funeral. When asked about this, Ringo said, “I wasn’t there when he was born either.”