Me And My Shadows

by Chris Colverson

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Travelling Light

To capture some of the sheer excitement of The Drifters’/Shadows’ early days with Cliff, you need to watch this video, the soundtrack of which is taken from Cliff’s first LP, recorded for EMI in front of 300 fans at Abbey Road Studios on February 9th 1959.

Cliff EMI concert 1959

Throughout the year, on at least seven different tours, they visited most of the significant towns in the kingdom. These have been heroically researched by Cliff and The Shadows’ biographer, Royston Ellis. It makes me feel worn out, just looking at the list so I’m afraid I’ve simply copied it here.

With one one-night stand coming after another, travelling together in less than luxurious vehicles could be down, dirty and dangerous as some of the following anecdotes reveal!

Bands often kicked off tours by meeting by the horse-trough in Allsop Place, the road running alongside the Planetarium and just off Marble Arch.

Says Cliff: “The Shadows and I had a driver at the time called Joe Lee, who apart from being lumbered with dragging us lot around the country, owned a transport café on the A3. Joe Lee owned and drove the old Bedford coach which normally lived outside his place in Surbiton, and all of us remember it as being very draughty and very slow, especially as there were no motorways.”

Lugging the gear about at the time was Len Saxon, Cliff’s personal assistant, who was also the organiser of the stage lighting at shows. The tour “equipment” didn’t require a pan-technic in those days, consisting as it did of 3 guitars, 3 amplifiers, a drum kit and seven or eight suitcases. When Cliff said “slow”, he wasn’t kidding! One day when they were on their way to a show in the van, Tony told Sam, the driver, that he could run at twenty miles per hour. Sam bet him a quid that he couldn’t. “He got the engine revving, ready to pull away, and Tony got down to a sprinter’s start. Hank brought them under starter’s orders and the race was on. Sam got the biggest shock of his life when his speedometer read ‘Twenty Miles per Hour’. Tony was still sprinting along beside him.”

On these frenetic tours there were incidents and accidents that many Shadowmaniacs will know and relish. These included Tony’s drum kit collapsing during his first nerve-racking appearance as one of The Drifters with Cliff at the Free Trade Hall, Manchester, in January 1959.

“Tony was really nervous. Cliff was top of the bill, so ours really had to be a good act. Everything seemed to go wrong for Tony that night. For a start, he didn’t have a uniform like the rest of us. Terry’s was too big for him. He got through the first two numbers alright, and was just beginning to feel not so scared.” Then “he managed to knock over his kit during the third number in his eagerness to please and sat there on stage mesmerized, trying to keep a steady rhythm with one hand, while picking up various cymbals and drums with the other.”

Even Cliff managed to split his trousers on stage during the second number at the Hippodrome, Birmingham, and had to stand sideways for the rest of the song! Bruce had forgotten his socks by the time they arrived in Colchester; and police turned up in the dressing-room in Worcester, because Jet’s flat had been burgled while they were on the way there.

The Band-Wagon

Cliff split his trousers at Birmingham Hippodrome.

In Romford on November 5th, Teddy-boy “fans”, who were jealous of the effect the act was having on their girlfriends, attacked the coach with bricks, one of which landed on Bruce’s head. Meanwhile, Hank, trapped on the floor of the coach by a fallen amplifier, had a lighted tuppenny firework fly through a broken window and land six inches from his face. 

One of Jet’s pet monkeys, Elvis, came a cropper after it succeeded in wetting Hank’s new jacket and trousers in Slough. Tony was nearly suffocated, having fallen asleep in the coach with the heaters on at full blast, in the car park of a café near Shrewsbury. Bruce had to drag him out and revive him. There was a full-blown riot with a fire extinguisher being thrown from the balcony at Chiswick Empire at end of the Kalin Twins tour. And according to Jet, they were all trapped till 3 a.m. in the Glasgow Empire, where fans’ hysteria meant that the police couldn’t cope and they had to call out the army reserve as Sauchiehall Street was closed off.

Other hazards on tour included fans invading the stage, giggling girls being discovered hiding behind amplifiers while members of the group were in the act of changing togs in a dressing-room, one fan from Leeds posting herself to Cliff and arriving backstage in a parcel, and others simply trying to scalp them while they were signing autographs in Battersea Park.

These rising stars worked themselves skinny (and some of them were arguably quite skinny to start with). On arrival at a tour stop, usually by mid-afternoon, and after a brief sound check at the theatre, there would be a dash to find the best overnight accommodation that they could afford. Some landladies would throw in a full English breakfast for 10s 6d.

The Things Fans Do!

Says Bruce: “Sometimes when there were no digs available we checked out the local youth hostels and YMCAs, or slept on the coach… We even slept in the theatre dressing-rooms when we were desperate. We were desperate quite often.”

At this stage in their careers, they shared rooms or even beds. It wasn’t until later, when Cliff was becoming the “celeb”, that they had separate hotels. Says Cliff: “We’d invariably stay in the old Bedford coach if we couldn’t find any rooms, so if anyone asked us where we were staying we’d say, ‘Oh, in the Bedford actually,’ and of course they thought it must be a posh hotel.”

Digs found, they would have an hour or two to spare before performances at 6.15 and 8.30 p.m., with three shows a day at weekends. There was a lot of youthful larking about. Practical jokes played on tour included Jet and Tony raiding Cliff’s hotel room in Blackpool during the last few months of 1959.

Says Royston Ellis: “They pulled back the covers of Cliff’s bed and slipped an old sandwich inside. Next went in ashtrays, nuts and bolts, and even Cliff’s hairbrush. In fact they put all the junk they could find into that bed. Then they tied knots in Cliff’s pink pyjamas and remade the bed so it looked as though nothing had been disturbed.”  This was all to get back at Cliff, who had altered the hotel “wake-up” board in Cardiff to arrange for Jet a 5 a.m. call with “no tea”.  

On the way to Nottingham on the same tour, and after “a riotous evening the night before, some of The Shadows tried to get some sleep on the coach. Hank slept on his Lilo in the gangway… Seeing him snugly asleep was an irresistible temptation for Bruce. He stooped down and pulled out the air stopper… Hank gradually sank to the floor with a final thump that woke him up.” On another occasion, they painted the slumbering Tony’s face in bright red stage make-up, entirely without his knowledge, so that he arrived at the gig looking like an early edition of Scarlett O’Hara…

The touring schedules were murderously tight and interspersed, often, with other very stressful engagements. For example, while Cliff was filming Serious Charge during the day, he was also appearing in a three-week run at the Finsbury Park Empire. The first Cliff Richard show on Radio Luxembourg (pre-recorded) went out on the same night they played Nottingham. After the show, they travelled back to London through the night as they were due to rehearse early the next morning for the Saturday night TV show Drumbeat. Immediately after the rehearsal, they went straight to a theatre for a show, arriving with seconds to spare. Then it was back to the horse-trough for a coach to take them to Exeter. Following two evening performances in Birmingham, they recorded another TV show, Lunch Box, before Cliff went to London by train to take part in filming Expresso Bongo. No time for a breather, then…

Inside the 1960 USA tour bus

From the film Expresso Bongo

 From Cliff’s second movie, Expresso Bongo

Serious Charge

Expresso Bongo

What these clips from both films don’t depict is just how exhausting filming can be. Expresso Bongo, as well as requiring them to be up at 6 a.m. and on the film set by 8 a.m., also meant recording. Between shots they rehearsed, wrote songs or slept. During that summer, The Drifters also re-recorded their second single Jet Black, which, according to Jet, required 95 takes because it was such a simple tune, Hank kept messing it up! Normal recording studio hours were 10 a.m. – 1 p.m., 2.30 p.m. – 5.30 p.m., 7 p.m.−10 p.m., but Cliff’s crazy timetable meant that the late-night slot had to be invented. Jet remembers Hank was so weary during one midnight recording session that he was playing lying down on his back.

As if that weren’t all quite stressful enough, Jet married his girlfriend Carol Ann Costa in June, “with hundreds of kids, screaming, shouting and taking pictures”, after which, they “took off for an exotic couple of days in Grimsby!”

The Drifters’ first Single Feelin’ Fine was released after Cliff’s fourth single, Living Doll, made it to No.1 in August, and, as previously noted, was not a great success. On August 29th, Bruce, aged all of 17, was wed to Anne Findley with fans rioting outside because Cliff was Best Man. And while we’re on the subject of stress, it was just two weeks prior to his wedding that Bruce discovered that he was illegitimate. Ow…wch!

In October 1959 The Shadows accompanied Cliff on their first trip abroad to Scandinavia, Germany and Luxembourg on an EMI promotion tour to plug Cliff’s records. Just before they were due to leave, after a gig at Cliff’s old school, Tony asked the others if they would pack his drums away and load them into the van for him, as he was feeling really rotten. Says Hank: “Poor old Tony, because he was always pulling strokes, we totally ignored his moaning for about an hour until we realised he’d passed out on the floor… We felt real heels when he was rushed to hospital with severe appendicitis.” A very capable young drummer, Laurie Joseph, took Tony’s place on this whistle-stop tour. It was the first time any of them had flown.

“All we can remember about that trip,” they said, “is one hectic round of restaurants and clubs… our schedule usually included playing at a dance hall or theatre in the evening, and then rushing to a restaurant to do a cabaret act. After that, we had a night club to play before we could get to bed.”

By November 1959, The Shadows had high hopes for their newly released Single Saturday Dance, which had good press. Says Hank: “To tell the truth, we were very pleased with the result ourselves… At last, we thought, we had got our hit record.”

Saturday Dance

After 5 weeks it started to move, sold steadily for 2 weeks, but stopped at No.31. It would go down in history as “a miss”. 

In December 1959 Cliff and The Shadows appeared at Stockton Globe in the pantomime Babes in the Wood. Late one night on a slippery road, Jet and Hank had a car accident in which Jet fractured his shoulder, his wife Carol was hurt and Hank broke his specs. He appeared on stage with one eye covered and a plaster over his left eyebrow, but the tour continued despite all injuries.

Just a few weeks later, on 18th January 1960, they were off again, this time to the USA and Canada to back Cliff on another six week tour of one-night stands, which visited 18 States. Sounds great? Let us remember that Cliff and The Shadows were all then still minors. In America there was to be no alcohol and an accompanying adult was required! They flew out with Cliff’s Dad, Rodger Webb, and Tito Burns, who had been Cliff’s business and personal manager since early 1959. For the last part of the tour Cliff’s Mum, Dorothy, joined them as well.

Hardly anyone in the States had heard of Cliff in those days, let alone The Shadows. They were bottom of the bill, which spelt Cliff’s name with an “s” and didn’t even mention The Shadows; but here they were in places that you would normally see only in the movies or hear about on American Rock ‘n’ Roll records. Were they maybe just a bit less romantic than they sounded?

Chuck Berry - Route 66

In fact, after a long overnight haul, the tour began in a packed-out ice hockey stadium in Montreal. It was normal for Jet to suffer from acute stage-fright for an hour or so before a show, but now it hit Tony, too. The crowd numbered about 7000.

Says Tony; “By the time we were due on I’d got through my third packet of cigarettes in four hours, but all the nerves went as we tore into Forty Days as an opener, and followed it with Willie Did the Cha-Cha, Living Doll, My Babe and Whole Lotta Shakin’. The crowd reaction was amazing considering we were complete unknowns to them. They nearly brought the stadium down!”

As the tour continued, billed as “The Biggest Show Of Stars For 1960!”, they were sharing the show with established artistes such as Frankie Avalon, Bobby Rydell and Johnny and the Hurricanes. They travelled all night at speeds that seemed like 85 m.p.h. on a Greyhound bus.

They could be covering 500 or more miles a day and went straight from the show on to the buses and slept: “When we reached the destination, we used to check in at an hotel… so from about nine in the morning, until five in the evening, we used to catch up on our sleep.” They probably didn’t see that much of America in daylight hours, but Bruce did manage to get himself thrown out of a shop in Minneapolis because he was trying to buy a magazine that carried an article with the intriguing title “Did the Devil Send Elvis Presley?” Unfortunately, so Bruce discovered, he was under-age to be in a shop that also sold girlie magazines!

Bruce and Tony, taking a break beside a Greyhound bus.

Shadowmaniacs may want to familiarise themselves with the killer itinerary. It was a case of, “It’s Saturday, so this must be Texas, right?” The tour went like this: 

Fri. Jan. 22nd – The Forum, Montreal

Sat. 23rd − Community War Memorial Auditorium, Rochester, NY

Sun. 24th − Armory, Pennsylvania

Mon. 25th − Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto

Tues. 26th − Kitchner Memorial Auditorium, Kitchner, Ontario

Wed. 27th − Indiana Theatre, Indianapolis

Thurs. 28th − Veterans’ Memorial Auditorium, Columbus, Ohio

Fri. 29th − Stanbaugh Auditorium, Youngstown, Ohio

Sat. 30th − North Side Gym, Elkhart, Indiana

Sun. 31st – Olympia Stadium, Michigan

Mon. Feb. 1st – Coliseum, Indiana

Tues. 2nd − Armory, Kentucky

Wed. 3rd – Syria Mosque, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Thurs. 4th – The Mosque, New Jersey

Fri. 5th – Sports Arena, Hershey, Pennsylvania

Sat. 6th – Municipal Auditorium, Virginia

Sun. 7th – The Mosque, Virginia

Mon. 8th – Memorial Coliseum, Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Tues. 9th – Memorial Auditorium, Greenville, North Carolina

Wed. 10th – Coliseum, North Carolina

Thurs. 11th – Memorial Auditorium, North Carolina

Fri. 12th – Township Auditorium, South Carolina

Sat. 13th – Will Rogers Memorial Auditorium, Fort Worth, Texas

Sun. 14th − Sam Houston Coliseum, Houston, Texas

Mon. 15th – Municipal Auditorium, San Antonio, Texas

Tues. 16th − Memorial Auditorium, Dallas, Texas

Wed. 17th – Coliseum, Lubbock, Texas

Thurs. 18th − Municipal Auditorium, Oklahoma

Fri. 19th – The Forum, Wichita, Kansas

Sat. 20th – Arena-Civic Auditorium, Kansas City

Sun. 21st − Civic Auditorium, Omaha, Nebraska

They actually got 4 days off in New York while Cliff left the show in Kansas City, joining it again in Omaha, so that he could meanwhile appear on the Palladium TV Show and at the NME Poll Winners’ Concert, where he was receiving his Singer of The Year Award. When Cliff wasn’t there, his humble backing-band travelled with the show but didn’t perform! Then it was back to:

Fri. Feb. 26th – Keil Opera House, St. Louis, Missouri

Sat. 27th – Milwaukee Auditorium Arena, Milwaukee

Sun. 28th – Civic Center, Lansing, Michigan

You and I might call it horrendous, but it was a long way from Stanhope Street, Newcastle, and must have felt more like this, at least some of the time.

Chuck Berry - Johnny B Goode 1959

The long journeys between venues were used to rehearse and compose new numbers. Jet had written Jet Black, the Drifters’ second Single, on the coach on the way to Grimsby.

Jet Black

Gee Whiz It’s You, a song that ended up on the Me and My Shadows LP, was written in ten minutes by Hank and Ian Samwell on the plane back from the tour of the States, and inspired by the sight of one of the air-stewardesses coming down the gangway. Notice Tito Burns and Norrie Paramor getting in on the act in this video. 

Gee Whiz It’s You

For the spring tour of 1960, The Shadows were joined on the road by a young singer-songwriter called Jerry Lordan, who occupied his travelling time by writing songs accompanied by a ukulele. Says Bruce:

“When we told him that we had been very disappointed that Saturday Dance, our third single, hadn’t happened, and casually mentioned that we were always looking for new material to record… Jerry perked up. ‘I might have something that you’d like to hear,’ he told Hank, and proceeded to strum his ukulele while loudly humming a melody line… ‘What’s it called?’ I asked. Jerry looked up from his instrument, and smiled: ‘Apache.’”

Don’t you sometimes wish you’d been born just a little bit earlier? These adventures went over my head, some of them quite literally. I missed all of them, the tours, the radio broadcasts, the TV shows and the films. While all this was going on, I had just started Grammar School and was preoccupied by learning to talk to the table in Latin. My hobby was keeping budgerigars. My greatest achievement in life up to that point had been successfully breeding a white one called Snowy. Yet even I had noticed Cliff on Living Doll, written by Lionel Bart, released in July, and staying at No.1 for 5 weeks during the school summer holidays.

Cliff - Living Doll - 1959

Cliff didn’t like the way the song went in the movie, so he re-recorded it, with both Bruce and Tony suggesting that they changed the pace. It became his first million-selling Single.

As far as I was concerned, Living Doll was a “nice” song and not at all wriggly. I liked it, even though I wasn’t sure about the locking “her up in a trunk so no big hunk can steal her away from me” aspect of the situation. At the age of 11, I probably would have bought it when it came out, if I had owned a record-player. In those days I had only a radio and was just warming up to becoming part of a new sub-species, “a teenager”.

Christmas 1959 brought the necessary. I was given a record-player which, I remember, was called High Fidelity and seemed to be made mostly of cardboard. My musical tastes on that Christmas morning ran to Russ Conway’s China Tea, my only 78, and Lonnie Donegan’s No.2 hit, The Battle of New Orleans, which was my first 45. Keep your eye on the boys in the band in the second video. This was the competition!

Russ Conway - China Tea

Lonnie Donegan - The Battle of New Orleans

As explained elsewhere, The Shadows had not yet hit my consciousness. Please Don’t Tease didn’t come out till June 1960. Then suddenly there was an urgent need to find out who was making “that noise”. One way or another, I found this bunch.

Trust me, I soon had the only white budgerigar in Morden that could say “Jet Harris”. And after that?

Shadowmania? Tell me about it!

Shazam

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