The Beatles' Competitor Rock Bands 1960-62
It is EXTREMELY hard to imagine The Beatles not being that good or a third rate band from 1963 to present, but they were. In fact, during their 1960 auditions in Liverpool for a Gene Vincent concert, they were not selected to open or even play at this HUGE event. The Beatles, instead, went to Scotland, where they sang to crowds of 5-10 people, mostly, drunks, at various clubs and dance halls. The bands that put them to shame were Rory Storm and the Hurricanes (with drummer Ringo Starr) and Derek and the Seniors.
Both of the bands had been together at least 1 or more years. Rory and his band were Liverpools most popular band, hands down. They were slick in presentation and as a bank. Rory's voice was a great blues rock sound, especially on their hit, "I Can Tell". Their, "America" was a very catchy song, one could not help not dancing. That is what they were, a great dance band. Rory was very popular with the girls, he looked like a male model, especially in the photo taken by Astrid Kirchherr, who also took the Beatles famous Hamburg photos.
Imagine you are promoter looking for bands. You have these three bands to choose from. Rory and then Derek play, you think, tough choice, both are solid rockers. The Beatles get up there, no drummer (so Derek's drummer plays for them), they barely have an amp. You wonder if the bassist is actually playing anything because there is no bass. John and Paul show potential in their vocals, but the sound and lead guitar sound sloppy. You think, not them, but they could be because their saving grace were their vocals! That is what Alan Williams thought.
Derek and the Seniors were Liverpools second most favorite band then. Howey Casey (Derek) was a young black singer backed by all white. They were hot for being a more pop-rock band and Howie's voice is like a Chubby Checker, raw and rough, perfect for that kind of music. Like Rory, they were fairly polished. They were chosen to open for Gene Vincent in Liverpool. Unlike Rory or Beatles then, they were the first Liverpool to sign a record deal with Fontana Records and in 1962 had two hits. The Beatles still had, in 1962, failed to secure any record deal with Decca. The Decca auditions are painfully horrible. I have them. John sings his original, "Hello Little Girl", which is simply horrible on all counts but his voice. Paul does his, "Like Dreamers Do", which shows how badly he tried to imitate his hero, Elvis. Again, the only promise are his vocals. I can see why Decca turned them down. They sucked.
Derek and the Seniors were also the first Liverpool band to play in Hamburg. Rory Storm would follow and finally The Beatles. Derek quit singing in 1966 and died in 2001. Rory Storm, a stage name for his real name of Alan Caldwell, and The Beatles were very good mates. Whenever they were not playing, they would jam together or just hang about in Germany. In fact, it was there the Rory, John , Paul , George, and Ringo, first recorded three songs: Fever, Summertime, and September's Song, at the Akoustik Studio on Oct. 18, 1960. That was the first time Ringo had played with his future band mates two years later.
Unlike Derek, Rory Storm had problems, like The Beatles, getting a record contract recording only four songs, two were never released. "I Can Tell" and "America" were recorded for Parlophone (who also rejected the Beatles). Both were fairly popular with those going to the Cavern in 1962. They had recorded two songs in 1964 at Abbey Roads also.
Sadly, Rory's band disbanded in 1967, just a sad memory of glory days past. He worked as a ski instructor, at an ice rink. Ringo offered him several chances to comeback, but he never accepted. After his father died, Rory came home to take of his mom, but became sick himself. This was Sept. 1972, not able to sleep, he took sleeping pills. Rory was dead and when his mother discovered this, she killed herself. One sister remains living. The Beatles always looked up at Rory's band in 1960-61 and their goal then was to better then them.
Why did Rory and Derek fail? The Beatles had three singers, each with a voice that was distinctive and recognizable. They played a wide variety of music to fill the 6-8 hrs. in Hamburg. They had great harmony, which was their "sound" that is heard in bands today. They were creative more than the others. They had luck. They had Astrid Kirchherr who created the Beatle haircut and put them in all black leather-both VERY different than the others, who looked like other bands. While Rory also was good looking and had many fans, The Beatles had this times five, all of them had their fans, from Pete Best to Stu Sutcliffe to John, Paul, and George. The key word is "variety". All bands should use them as a template.
Practice does make perfect.