W THE BEAT GOES ON WITH SIXTIES GOLDEN STARS
Martin Hutchinson talks to Billy Kinsley, of the Merseybeats, in advance of a Sixties Gold tour
inter is almost upon us, and the lead-up to the end of the year is replete with great tours. One of them is the annual Sixties Gold tour. It features five of the decade’s best: Herman’s Hermits, the Merseybeats, Marmalade, Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders, and Steve Ellis’ Love Affair.
“The audiences are fantastic,” says Billy Kinsley of the Merseybeats. “It’s the same the whole country over, and they don’t seem to be diminishing over the years.”
Billy is one of two founder members (along with Tony Crane) of the Merseybeats.
“Sadly, there aren’t all that many Sixties bands still in existence who still have original members,” he said.
For the statistic-conscious among us, Herman’s Hermits still have original drummer Barry “the Bean” Whitwam; obviously there’s Wayne Fontana and Steve Ellis, and Sandy Newman, of Marmalade, joined them in 1975.
The hits will come thick and fast with Herman’s Hermits playing There’s A Kind Of Hush, I’m Into Something Good, Silhouettes and My Sentimental Friend.
Steve Ellis’ Love Affair will perform Rainbow Valley, Bringing On Back The Good Times and of course Everlasting Love.
Marmalade’s hits include Reflections Of My Life, Cousin Norman and ObLa-Di, Ob-La-Da.
And Wayne Fontana, with his latest line-up of Mindbenders, will be extolling the virtues of Pamela Pamela, saying Um Um Um Um and will enjoy A Groovy Kind Of Love.
Wayne also has the kind of patter that would be the envy of any stand-up comic with his stories about life in the pop world.
Matching him for stories is the eversmiling Billy Kinsley who, along with the rest of the Merseybeats, will be Wishin’ And Hopin’. They will also perform their other smash hits, such as I Think Of You and Sorrow.
Billy is one of the friendliest and enthusiastic musicians I have come across. He spoke to me from his
Liverpool home, and we chatted about his career.
The band formed at the beginning of the Sixties at a boys’ club in Liverpool.
“I was in a boys’ club on Shiel Road doing sports and such like, and I suggested to my mates, ‘why don’t we get a band together?’
“We built a stage, and me and Dave Elias – who was a better guitarist them me – started sussing people out. On one of these sussing-out sessions I walked into the billiard room and met Tony Crane.
“I then became the bassist as I was the youngest and the others had been playing guitar longer than me.
“We rehearsed and got a drummer. “But the very first gig we did, Tony didn’t want to do it as he thought we weren’t ready. It was the very first time that girls had been let into the boys’ club, and Tony actually came with his girlfriend, and enjoyed it.”
The band had a different name in those days.
“We were called the Mavericks after the TV show and it was a good name at the time, but Cavern Club DJ Bob Wooler said the name was ‘too country’ and said we should change it.”
And here we come to what could arguably be termed almost like “corporate sponsorship”.
“There was a newspaper at the time called The Mersey Beat and Bob took us to see the editor and suggested that we would be called the Merseybeats and would he be OK with it.”
Billy laughs. “Well, he’d seen us play and said he’d be honoured.”
The band had a string of hits from 1963 to 1965, but disaster struck in ’66.
“At the time we had Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp (The Who) as our managers, and we were having a few problems with John and Aaron,” he said.
“Kit and Chris said we couldn’t carry on with John and Aaron, so why don’t me and Tony get another backing band and just sing.
“I was at school with John and he was a friend, so we came to an agreement; they would continue as The Merseybeats and me and Tony would become The Merseys.
“To be honest, they weren’t that interested and broke up not long after, while we went on to have the hit with Sorrow.
“But Tony and I split after a few years.”
Billy and Tony reformed The Merseybeats in 1993 and have toured constantly since.
One of the highlights of Billy’s career stems from the very early days.
“We must have appeared on the same bill as the Beatles more than anybody else, and even though we toured with everybody the Beatles were special.”
“Funnily enough the Beatles used to let us go on stage after them.
“Now the last act is usually top of the bill so on first thought you’d think it was a great honour, but it isn’t always what it seems.
“In those days all the pubs would close at 10pm or 10.30pm and people would tend to leave early to catch ‘last orders’ and then get the last bus home. The Beatles naturally didn’t want to play to an almost empty hall as people left, so they’d let us go on instead.”
Billy says the greatest achievement in his career is “lasting a long time, still enjoying it and working with great bands”.
“We’ve worked with everyone on the bill in the past, and strangely, most of them have had number ones, but we haven’t,” he said.
Sixties Gold will be appearing at The Music Hall, Aberdeen, tomorrow, Friday November 8.
Classic numbers will be flowing thick and fast from bands including Herman’s Hermits
GOING STRONG: The Merseybeats
Marmalade’s hits include Reflections Of My Life and Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da