Retro 1963: Beatlemania hits Wearside

copy pic  October 1988''Adam Faith PA
copy pic October 1988''Adam Faith PA
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THE year 1963 proved one of great note for Wearside music fans – as some of the biggest stars in the industry headed to Sunderland.

Gerry and the Pacemakers, Helen Shapiro, Billy Fury, Joe Brown and Karl Denver all performed in the town this year, as did The Beatles – three times.

Billy, Joe and Karl joined forces for a sell-out concert at the Odeon Cinema in November – a second trip to Sunderland for all three – provoking screams of delights from young fans.

Gerry and the Pacemakers took the Sunderland Empire by storm in 1963 too, just weeks before singing their way to the top of the charts with You’ll Never Walk Alone.

And a group of four mop-haired lads from Liverpool made a brief appearance supporting chart-topper teenager Helen Shapiro early this year – returning months later as the star attractions.

Echo reporter Carol Anderson appeared rather dismissive of the talents of The Beatles when she first heard them perform, comparing them rather unfavourably to the Empire’s house band.

An appearance by the group at the Rink Ballroom on May 14, 1963, sparked enough hysteria to merit an Echo news story on crowd problems in Holmeside – but not enough interest for a review.

And, when the group returned to the Empire in November 1963, another Echo critic was sent to take a look – but felt “unable to review” the band due to the screams which obliterated their tunes.

One of the saddest musical stories of the year featured Adam Faith, who lost his guitarist Johnny Rogers in a car crash on May 27 – in the week he was appearing at Sunderland’s Empire Theatre.

Faith, who had previously “brought the house down at the London Palladium,” held auditions for a new player at the theatre – with hopefuls travelling miles for a chance at stardom.

Among the hopeful replacements to audition were 20-year-old apprentice draughtsman Ed Haws of Jarrow, and 19-year-old Sunderland College of Art student Kenneth Potts, from Spennymoor.

“We have had plenty of response to our predicament, and I’m sure we will soon find what we want,” bass guitarist Peter Thorpe, who played with Faith’s Roulettes band, told the Echo.

The band had a deadline of just five days to find a new guitarist, as a trip to Malaya was planned for June and vital inoculations were needed before the journey could be made.

“Whoever the Roulettes choose will begin his life with the group in a whirl of engagements, with hardly time to realise what has happened,” reported the Echo on May 28.

“This could mean a Cinderella-like transformation for some youngster – one night only a hopeful guitarist with a local group, the next as one of the famed Roulettes.”

It was 19-year-old Hartlepool musician Mod Rogan, better known to his school pals as John George Rogan, who finally won the coveted place. He was to remain with the Roulettes until 1967.

Other music stories making headlines this year included The Beatles securing their first Number One hit, Please Please Me, on February 16 and the death of Patsy Cline in a plane crash on March 5.

The Kinks formed on March 17, Andrew Loog Oldham became the manager of The Rolling Stones on April 29, and The Beatles performed at The Cavern Club for the final time on August 3.

Sidebar: Births and deaths

Stars of the future born in 1963 included: Seal, Julian Lennon, George Michael, Stuart Garrad, Jarvis Cocker and Rick Allen, drummer with Def Leppard.

Musical stars who took their final bows this year included: Conductor and composer Anthony Collins, singer Gwynn Parry Jones and organist Anthony Bernard.

Sidebar: UK hits of 1963

Cliff Richard and The Shadows: The Next Time / Bachelor Boy

Jet Harris and Tony Meehan: Diamonds

Frank Ifield: The Wayward Wind

Cliff Richard and The Shadows: Summer Holiday

The Shadows: Foot Tapper

Gerry & The Pacemakers: How Do You Do It?

The Beatles: From Me to You

Gerry & The Pacemakers: I Like It

Frank Ifield: Confessin’ (That I Love You)

Elvis Presley: (You’re the) Devil in Disguise

The Searchers: Sweets for My Sweet

Billy J. Kramer & The Dakotas: Bad to Me

The Beatles: She Loves You

Brian Poole and The Tremeloes: Do You Love Me

Gerry & The Pacemakers: You’ll Never Walk Alone

The Beatles: She Loves Yo

The Beatles: I Want to Hold Your Hand

Sidebar: Ringo’s links with Wearside

THERE is one tantalising line in Ringo Starr’s book Postcards from the Boys which hints at his Wearside connections.

Underneath a postcard sent from Scotland the caption reads: “I never went to Scotland as a kid, just Southend and Sunderland sometimes, to see Aunty Evie and Uncle Jimmy.”

“My grandfather, John Edward Hamilton Coates, used to go drinking in Sunderland with Ringo Starr,” said Retro reader John Edward Hamilton Metcalf.

“His cousin, Jimmy Hamilton, was Ringo’s uncle by marriage, as he was married to the sister of Ringo’s mother.”

Ringo was a famously hard drinker in his youth, although now teetotal, and obviously enjoyed his trips to Sunderland.

“Jimmy, Ringo and granddad used to visit quite a lot of pubs while out, like the Park Inn, Borough and Ivy House,” said John.

“Apparently once, after a daytime drink, they went to Jimmy’s mother’s house in Millfield, where Ringo went for a lie down.

“He told Jimmy to wake him up when it was time to go drinking again, but he was so sound asleep, they couldn’t get him up.

“So they left him there while they went out again and, the next day, Ringo said he had found the Vaux beer ‘rather strong!’”

Ringo, who was born in Liverpool in 1940, made many trips to Sunderland during his childhood, to stay with his aunt and uncle.

The visits fizzled out, however, in around 1959, when he joined the Raving Texans, the backing quartet for singer Rory Stormy.

“He used to call Jimmy’s aunt, Janie Hamilton, his aunty, and was a regular visitor to her home in Millfield too,” said John.

“But, after he joined Rory Stormy, he got really busy, though he did come to Sunderland with The Beatles later on of course.”

John, who was born in 1957, only found out about his connection to Ringo after buying a Beatles record in the early 1970s.

“I was sitting on the floor at home, listening to the music, when my granddad suddenly said he knew Ringo,” recalls John. “I couldn’t believe it at first, and was really surprised.”

Although John frequently questioned his grandfather about Ringo after this, Mr Coates sadly had little more to say on the subject.

“My granddad just thought that Ringo was an ordinary fellow. A nice bloke who you could have a drink with,” said John.

“Ringo once gave him free tickets for a Beatle’s show in Sunderland, but he came out halfway through and went for a pint.

“Apparently he got fed up because the place was full of screaming kids and you couldn’t hear the music!”