Thursday 7th March 1963
"Billy J. Kramer will take over where Elvis Presley is beginning to leave off."
Disc reported that the group had recorded their follow-up to Please Please Me which slipped a place in the Top 30, giving way to Cliff Richard and the Shadows’ double A side, Summer Holiday and Dancing Shoes. The single dropped to number 3 on the New Record Mirror chart.
The group joined Gerry and the Pacemakers, the Big Three, Billy J. Kramer with the Dakotas and DJ Bob Wooler for a one-night stand package, “Mersey Beat Showcase,” on the fourth floor of the Elizabethan Ballroom in Upper Parliament Street, Nottingham, now luxuriating in 50º weather.
Bob Sturgeon, a regional sales rep for Princes Foods, promoted the show after hearing Love Me Do. (Sturgeon had had a fleeting recording career as a member of the Crescents, releasing the single Wrong on Columbia in 1958.) He asked his friend Keith Gordon, a local schoolteacher at Ellis School, to compère the evening. Gordon recalled Fan Club application forms being handed out at the door, on one of which he got all four Beatles to sign on the back. (The first Beatles fan club started in 1961.)
He also recalled seeing Cilla Black there, even though she wasn’t performing. (Kramer, who saw the Beatles for the first time at Litherland Town Hall on December 27th, 1960, had been working part-time for British Rail before he turned professional. John was quoted as saying, “Billy J. Kramer will take over where Elvis Presley is beginning to leave off.”)
There would be five more of these showcases through June 16th, whenever all the acts were available at the same time. NEMS Enterprises also laid on two coaches to take eighty fans from Liverpool to the 7.30pm gig at a cost of £1.25 each. The coaches parked nearby in Wollaton Street, while the equipment van came down Parliament Terrace to the ballroom, which was situated above the Co-operative House. The Co-op proclaimed, “You can obtain any of the top ten this week and every week in the luxurious record bar on the lower ground floor.” Stuart Dixon, who was working in the display department of the Co-op at the time, operated the lift to load the equipment up to the ballroom. He also had the group as his passengers, but had no idea who they were. Rob Taylor recalled that after the show ended, he “nipped off quickly to the loo before me and my mates left for home. After a while wandering around, realised I was lost. One of the doors I randomly tried led into a sitting area where I could see some people chatting. When they heard the door open they turned around and I could see that it was the Beatles. It could have been very awkward, me walking in on them like that, but they were very nice about it. They directed me to the toilet and I went on my way.” DJ Tony Sherwood recalled it being “extremely noisy ... Even then they had girls screaming at them, which was a perennial problem because you couldn’t hear what they were playing.” After the shows the group took the hour-long trip north on the A60 to Mansfield, where they spent the night at the Swan Hotel.
“I recall my father visiting my school Carlton Le Willows Grammar for a careers’ evening. At the time I was very interested in a career in the arts or journalism and was told that there was no money in either, which was rather stupid considering what ended up happening in the ’60s. I was told when I left school that I had to go out and get a proper job! I spent the following eighteen months with the Post Office on the GPO Telecommunications side, but it wasn’t for me and was really only a stop gap. The Land Registry department of the Civil Service in Nottingham had just been newly set up and was looking for people to work on the plans. In those days, they were all done by hand with brushes and colours and tints, so the people in plans section had to have those abilities. I ended up working there for many years. We used portions of Ordnance Survey maps as a base, then we would draw on all the legal aspects, like Rights of Way, railway edgings, where they had all sorts of covenants. It was quite a skill and we had to spend three weeks down at the OS training with their surveyors so that we understood how to alter things.
I was working there in 1963 when I saw an advertisement for the ‘Merseybeat Showcase’ coming to the Elizabethan Ballroom. I’d heard ‘Love Me Do’ on Radio Luxembourg - it was interesting to hear the harmonica and the catchiness of the tune, which is what drew me to it. I asked a colleague, Alan Benjamin, if he would like to go, and he said, ‘Yes’, so I offered to get the tickets. They were being sold at Kenton Coopers, the music shop fifty yards or so down from the Ballroom. I went along probably two or three days after reading about the show and without any rushing around or queuing, managed to get two tickets, one of which was ticket number 1! The tickets said ‘Rock and Roll Concert Dance, starring the Beatles All Star Show’, priced 6/6, including a buffet - I can’t remember that bit!
On the night of the show, I went to Alan’s house for tea and his dad ran us in to town. During the show, there was no hysteria, certainly no screaming. The stage where the groups were playing wasn’t raised up that much from the dance floor, perhaps no more than about a foot, and the only thing protecting the groups from the audience was a couple of ropes between some chrome posts. We watched Gerry and the Pacemakers, Billy J. Kramer, the Big Three, and the Beatles. Being in a group, I was really interested in all the playing and was lucky to see them when it was still possible to hear the music. I thought all of the groups were good in their own way, but for me the Big Three were the group that for us musically were the most impressive. Probably they were slightly older than the Beatles, by a year or two and had also been to Hamburg. They were only a trio, but my goodness couldn’t they shift it? They were more a driving rock and roll group. The Beatles were equally driving but they were starting to be more melodic and put their own stamp on things, which of course became the secret for their success. They certainly stood out because of their appearance - the cutaway Beatles suit collars, cuban heels, and haircuts.
The following year I was the bassist with the Farran Kristy Big Six and we were down at Abbey Road Studios auditioning. I was chatting with Mal Evans outside the studio and he let me sit inside Paul McCartney’s newly-delivered Aston Martin DB5, which had an in-car record player for vinyl 45s! I then met the man himself when I found myself in the Gents’ loo with him. We talked briefly and he showed interest in the fact that Bendix, known mainly for washing machines, were making amps as well. Later he came to look at my amp and played on my Fender Jazz Bass. Unfortunately I wasn’t in the studio when he popped in so I never got the opportunity of seeing Paul McCartney play my bass guitar, but he did invite me down to Studio 2 - they were recording ‘Every Little Thing.’ George Martin and Ringo were experimenting with various sounds and Ringo was beating a tea chest with a microphone stuffed underneath it. He had a powder blue suit on and a navy blue shirt with white polka dots - you couldn’t miss him! Nothing came of the audition, partly due to the ego of Kristy himself, and partly because what they were really looking for was originally written material. He was working on two or three cover songs which he had been given. It was a lost opportunity.
I left the Civil Service and went into local government - I was Public Relations Head of Corporate Affairs for Nottingham City Council for about thirty years and I retired about twenty years ago from that. In the early ’60s I had formed a group called the Vibrants with some friends. Three of the original lineup - myself, Bob Blackhurst and Gordon Goodwin - reformed in 2009 with drummer, Allan Woolley and raised over £20,000 for various charities before disbanding the group, when Bob Blackhurst unexpectedly passed away in 2017.”
BOB WHITE, PUBLIC RELATIONS EXECUTIVE, MAPPERLEY, NOTTINGHAMSHIRE