Entertainment & Arts

Tapes by Ringo Starr's first band found

Rory Storm and the Hurricanes in 1962
Image caption Rory Storm and the Hurricanes included Storm (centre) and Ringo Starr (right)

Recordings by Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, Ringo Starr's first band and one of the most popular groups of the early Merseybeat era, have been unearthed after more than 50 years.

The band were at the forefront of the Liverpool scene but never made it big.

The tapes were recorded in March 1960, two years before Starr was poached by Brian Epstein to join The Beatles.

Found in Storm's sister's cellar, the tapes will form the group's first and only album release later this month.

Starr joined the group at the age of 18 in 1959, but the band got left behind during the Merseybeat boom in the wake of The Beatles' success.

They only released a couple of singles, including one produced by Brian Epstein in 1964, but they failed to chart.

Frontman Storm, born Alan Caldwell, was known for his gold lame costumes and on-stage charisma. He died in 1972 aged just 34.

"Rory was a performer," his sister Iris Caldwell said. "He wasn't, like The Beatles, a brilliant songwriter. They called him The Golden Boy and Mr Showbusiness.

"Rory was so far ahead of his time. He was doing glam rock then." Rod Stewart is among the artists thought to have been influenced by Storm's style, she said.

Epstein did not give Storm a real shot at the big time because he "didn't want any major competition" for The Beatles, Caldwell believes.

The tapes include tracks recorded at the Jive Hive club in Crosby, north of Liverpool, and at Storm's house, known as Stormsville, where bands including The Beatles would get together once clubs like The Cavern had shut at night.

"I suppose these tapes have been in an old sealed box ever since [they were recorded]," Caldwell said.

'Tremendous presence'

Author and Radio Merseyside presenter Spencer Leigh said the group were "crucial to the early years of Merseybeat".

"Even though the playing is very rough and ready, they have tremendous presence and were probably considerably better than the Beatles were in March 1960," he said.

Iris Caldwell's son Adam F, a Mobo Award-winning drum and bass DJ, said the recordings allowed a new generation to hear his uncle's style and personality for the first time.

"The quality of the tape left a bit to be desired - it was over half a century ago - but the spirit and rawness suggest a whole scene waiting to happen," he said.

"I am so proud that my uncle was, as has been suggested to me often, the father of the Liverpool sound."

Stage diving

Storm's on-stage antics included climbing up to the high diving board during one gig at New Brighton swimming pool.

"He had a cloak on and stripped right off to his little gold Speedos," Caldwell recalled. "He dived into the water, came up and carried on singing the song.

"Another time, they had a box on the side of the stage. He made his entrance by jumping from the box onto the stage. He did manage to break a couple of ribs but he still finished the spot and then went off to hospital."

Other than Starr and guitarist Lu Walters, whose whereabouts are unknown, the original members of Rory Storm and the Hurricanes have all passed away.

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