Photo by Astrid Kirchherr
|Birth name||Alan Ernest Caldwell|
|Also known as||Rory Storm|
7 January 1938|
Stoneycroft, Liverpool, England, UK
|Died||28 September 1972
Broadgreen, Liverpool, England, UK
Rory Storm (7 January 1938 – 28 September 1972) was an English musician and vocalist. Born Alan Ernest Caldwell in Liverpool, Storm was the singer and leader of Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, a Liverpudlian band who were contemporaries of the Beatles in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Ringo Starr was the drummer for the Hurricanes before joining the Beatles in August 1962, replacing original drummer Pete Best.
The Hurricanes were one of the most popular acts on the Liverpool and Hamburg club scenes during their existence, although their attempt at a recording career was not successful. They released only two singles (and one additional compilation track) during their early 1960s heyday, and none of their material made the charts. Their second and final single was a version of the West Side Story song "America", and was produced by the Beatles' manager Brian Epstein.
When Storm's father died, he returned from Amsterdam to Liverpool to be with his mother at Stormsville, at 54 Broad Green Road, Broadgreen, Liverpool. On 27 September 1972, Storm developed a chest infection and could not sleep properly, so he took sleeping pills. The next day Storm and his mother were both found dead. A post mortem determined that Storm had not taken enough pills to kill himself, but it was suspected that, after finding her son's body, his mother had died.
Rory Storm was the stage name of Alan Caldwell, born 7 January 1938, in Oakhill Park Estate, Stoneycroft, Liverpool to Violet (née Disley) and Ernest "Ernie" George W Caldwell. His father was a window cleaner by profession, and a part-time porter at the Broadgreen Hospital, often singing songs to patients. Storm had one sister, Iris Caldwell, who dated George Harrison when she was 12, and Paul McCartney, when she was 17. Iris later married Shane Fenton, later known as Alvin Stardust. Apart from music, Storm was interested in sports, particularly athletics; he ran for an amateur team in Liverpool called the Pembroke Harriers, and set the Pembroke Athletics and Cycle Club steeplechase record. Instead of being driven home after concerts in Liverpool, Storm preferred to run home.
Storm played football regularly and was a good skater and swimmer (once swimming the 12.5-mile length of Windermere). Liverpool F.C. used to train at Melwood and he went to watch them in training, later putting up a large photo of himself training with the team on his wall at home. He was the captain of Mersey Beat magazine's football team, called the Mersey Beat XI. Storm was born with a stutter (a speech impediment), which did not affect his singing. Because of Storm's bad stammer, his friends never allowed him to tell a joke or to order a round of drinks, as it took too long. He became a cotton salesman (as was Jim McCartney, Paul McCartney's father) before forming a skiffle group.
Storm's first name for a group was "Dracula & the Werewolves", but he then settled on "Al Caldwell's Texans". Still known as Alan Caldwell, Storm opened the Morgue Skiffle Club in the cellar of a large Victorian house, "Balgownie", at 25 Oakhill Park, Broadgreen, on 13 March 1958. The cellar consisted of two rooms, painted black and connected by a long corridor, with skeletons painted on the walls and one blue light. Groups played on Tuesdays and Thursdays for up to 100 people (above the age of 15) starting at 7:30 pm, including Storm's group (later called "The Raving Texans") and the Quarrymen (who later became "the Beatles"). After complaints about the noise, the police closed down the club on 1 April 1958, but Storm reopened it on 22 April 1958. It was in the Morgue Skiffle Club that George Harrison auditioned for the Quarrymen, playing "Guitar Boogie Shuffle" by Bert Weedon, before being admitted as a member of the band. Harrison later asked Storm if he could join his group, but Storm's mother refused to allow it, as she thought Harrison was too young.
Storm went to London, on 11 April 1958, to participate in a cross-country running competition. During his stay, he took part in a jam session at Chas McDevitt's Skiffle Cellar, which resulted in an appearance on 30 April 1958 on Radio Luxembourg's Skiffle club programme, playing "Midnight Special". In 1959, Storm's group consisted of himself, Paul Murphy, and Johnny "Guitar" Byrne all performing on guitar and vocals, Reg Hale (washboard) and Jeff Truman (tea-chest bass). "Spud" Ward, a former member of the Swinging Blue Jeans, later played bass guitar. Storm met Ringo Starr at a talent contest called "6.5 Special". Starr had previously played with the Eddie Clayton Skiffle Group and was then drumming with a group called "Darktown Skiffle". Starr's first concert with Storm was on 25 March 1959, at the Mardi Gras in Mount Pleasant, Liverpool.
Rory Storm and the Hurricanes
Storm changed the name of his group to "Al Storm and the Hurricanes", then "Jett Storm and the Hurricanes", and finally to "Rory Storm and the Hurricanes". The original line-up was Storm, Byrne, Ty Brian, Lu Walters, and Ritchie Starkey (drums). Storm and the Hurricanes entered a competition managed by Carrol Levis called "Search for Stars" at the Liverpool Empire Theatre on 11 October 1959, reaching second place ahead of 150 acts. The line-up of the Hurricanes finally solidified with Storm (vocals), Byrne (rhythm guitar), Ty (Charles) O’Brien (lead guitar), Walters (bass guitar/vocals) and Ringo Starr. The group played at the Cavern Club with the Cy Laurie Jazz Band on Sunday 2 January 1960, and a week later supported the Saints Jazz Band and Terry Lightfoot's New Orleans Jazz Band. Playing rock 'n' roll music was a problem at the Cavern Club, as it was not accepted by the customers or management. When Storm and the Hurricanes performed there on 17 January 1960, with Micky Ashman's Jazz Band and the Swinging Blue Jeans, their first song was "Cumberland Gap" (a skiffle song) by Lonnie Donegan. Then they played "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin On" by Jerry Lee Lewis. The jazz and skiffle audience were outraged, booed and threw copper coins at the group. The Cavern's manager Ray McFall, fined them six shillings, but the coins collected from the stage floor were worth more than the fine.
Storm and the Hurricanes performed at the Liverpool Stadium on 3 May 1960, on the same bill as Gene Vincent. Larry Parnes became interested in the Hurricanes, and invited them to audition at the Wyvern Club as a backing group for Billy Fury. Storm turned up at the audition, but only so he could have his picture taken with Fury. In July 1960, the group secured a residency at Butlins holiday camp in Pwllheli (playing in the Rock 'n' Calypso Ballroom) for £25 each per week (equivalent to £500 in 2017). Starr was not sure about giving up his job as an apprentice at Henry Hunt's, where he made climbing frames for schools, until Storm put forward the idea of "Starr-time" (a solo spot) with Starr singing songs like "Boys" by the Shirelles. Starr finally agreed when Storm told him about how many women would be "available". It was during this season that Starr (who had been known as "Ritchie" until then) changed his name to "Ringo".
After playing for more than 16 hours per week, the group were contacted by Allan Williams, who wanted them to go to Hamburg. Derry and the Seniors were successful there, and Williams wanted an additional group. As Storm and the group were committed to Butlins, they turned Williams' offer down (as did Gerry and the Pacemakers) so Williams sent the Beatles to Hamburg instead. After the summer season ended in early October 1960, Storm and the Hurricanes were free to travel to Hamburg, replacing Derry and the Seniors at the Kaiserkeller. They arrived in Hamburg on 1 October 1960, having negotiated to be paid more than the Seniors or the Beatles. They played five or six 90-minute sets every day alternating with The Beatles. Storm and The Hurricanes were later presented with a special certificate by Bruno Koschmider (the owner of the Kaiserkeller) for their performances.
The stage of the Kaiserkeller was made of planks of wood balanced on the top of beer crates, so the two groups made a bet to see to who would be the first to break it. After punishing the stage for days, a slight crack appeared, and when Storm jumped off the top of the upright piano, during a performance of "Blue Suede Shoes", it finally broke. Byrne remembered that as Storm hit the stage, it cracked loudly and formed a V-shape around Storm. He disappeared into it, and all the amplifiers and Starr's cymbals slid into the hole. Koschmider was furious, and had to replace the live music with a juke box. Both groups went across the road to Harold's cafe for breakfast, but were followed by Koschmider's doormen with coshes, who beat the musicians as punishment.
During their eight-week residency Williams arranged a recording session at the Akoustik Studio, which was a small booth on the fifth floor of 57 Kirchenalle (the Klockmann-House) on Saturday 18 October 1960. Williams asked John Lennon, Paul McCartney and Harrison from the Beatles to play and sing harmonies for Walters (of the Hurricanes) on the recording. Pete Best (the Beatles' regular drummer at the time) was in town buying drumsticks, so Starr played drums, which was the first time that the classic Beatles line-up of Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr recorded together. They recorded three songs: "Fever", "September Song" and "Summertime".
Storm and the Hurricanes were the headlining group at the first "Beat Night", in the Orrell Park Ballroom, in March 1961. They were also invited for a season at the Butlins camp in Skegness in Lincolnshire. Sam Leach (a Liverpool promoter) arranged a series of dance nights at the Palais Ballroom in Aldershot, starting on 9 December 1961. The first Saturday featured The Beatles, but as the local newspaper forgot to run the advertisement only 18 people turned up. The second Saturday was arranged for Rory Storm and the Hurricanes to perform, and as it was advertised this time, 210 people paid to get in. Leach's idea was to attract London agents to watch the series of concerts, but when he realized they would never travel out of London he abandoned the idea.
Starr considered leaving Storm at that time to join Derry and the Seniors, but accepted a job with Tony Sheridan at the Top Ten Club on 30 December 1961, as Sheridan's offer of more money, a flat and a car was too good to refuse. Starr's stay with Sheridan was short-lived, as he found Sheridan's habit of changing the set list without telling his backing group beforehand frustrating, so he rejoined the Hurricanes. On 5 February 1962, Best fell ill and the Beatles had to play a lunchtime concert at the Cavern and an evening concert at the Kingsway club in Southport. As the Hurricanes had no concert that day Starr played with them live on stage for the first time (although he had recorded with them in Hamburg).
During a Hurricanes' residency at Butlins, Lennon and McCartney drove from Liverpool to Skegness, on 15 August 1962, to ask Starr to join the Beatles. Shortly before, Starr had agreed to join Kingsize Taylor in Hamburg, as Taylor was offering £20 a week (equivalent to £400 in 2017), but Lennon and McCartney offered £25 a week (equivalent to £500 in 2017), which Starr accepted. Lennon and McCartney offered Storm to swap drummers (with Best replacing Starr) but Best rejected the idea. According to Epstein in his autobiography, Storm was, "One of the liveliest and most likable young men on the scene ... was very annoyed when Ringo left and he complained to me. I apologized, and Rory, with immense good humor said, 'Okay. Forget it. The best of luck to the lot of you'". The Hurricanes then became known for having a succession of drummers, including Gibson Kemp, Brian Johnson, John Morrison, Keef Hartley (August 1963), Ian Broad and Trevor Morais, who all stayed with the group for a short period before leaving.
Despite Starr joining the Beatles, both groups would perform on the same bill during 1962, and at many concerts thereafter. In 1962, both groups performed together at St Patrick's Night Rock Gala (Knotty Ash Village Hall) Queen's Hall (Widnes) and with Little Richard at the Tower Ballroom. In 1963, Storm and the Hurricanes were filmed as part of the "Beat City" documentary, which was broadcast by Associated-Rediffusion Television.
Stage persona and lifestyle
When Storm became a professional singer, he changed his name to Rory Storm by deed poll, and changed the name of his family's home in Broadgreen to Stormsville. Storm was known for the extravagant clothes he wore and the cars he drove, once buying a pink Vauxhall Cresta for £800 in cash. A young man was once caught by a porter at Bootle railway station writing "I love Rory" over the walls, and when questioned, it turned out to be Storm himself. The Hurricanes wore matching suits on stage, but Storm sometimes wore a pink suit and pink tie, and during concerts he would walk over to the piano and comb his blond hair with an oversized comb. Their stage wear changed from sunglasses and palm tree-decorated shirts to red (and blue) suits. Storm also wore an Elvis-style gold lamé suit. When they first appeared at Butlins holiday camp Storm wore a turquoise suit with a gold lamé shirt, while the group wore fluorescent suits.
Rod Pont (also known as Steve Day in Steve Day and the Drifters) remembered Storm arriving at the Orrell Park Ballroom for a concert with a boil on his face. When told about it, Storm pulled out a black velvet hood which had slits for his eyes and mouth, and played the whole concert with the hood on. At one concert at Bankfield House Youth club, Garston, Liverpool, in 1965, the stage lighting failed between sets. Storm was upset until someone walked in with a torch, which Storm used to finish the concert. He occasionally used a pet monkey in some of the group's performances, as it attracted more people. At a New Brighton swimming baths performance for 1,600 people in 1963, Storm climbed to the top diving board, undressed to a pair of swimming trunks, and then dived into the water at the end of a song. In January 1964, during a performance at the Majestic Ballroom, Birkenhead, he climbed up one of the columns supporting the balcony, but slipped and fell 30 feet (9 m) to the floor below, fracturing his leg. At another performance on the New Brighton Pier, Storm made his way onto the Pavilion roof but fell through the glass skylight.
Storm and the Hurricanes received the most votes in the first Mersey Beat magazine poll, but many votes were disqualified as they had been posted from the same place at the same time and were written in green ink; although never proven, it was thought that Storm had posted the votes. This meant that the Beatles reached the top position, with the Hurricanes coming fourth, even though the Beatles had also been sending in extra votes themselves. Storm was often photographed for the magazine, such as being surrounded by nurses when he left the hospital after breaking a leg during a performance, or playing for the Mersey Beat XI football team.
The Hurricanes' set list
The group's typical 40-minute set list during 1963/1964:
- "Brand New Cadillac" – Storm, vocals (Vince Taylor & the Playboys);
- "Roll Over Beethoven" – Storm, vocals (Chuck Berry);
- "I'll Be Your Hero" – Storm, vocals (Taylor & the Playboys);
- "Beautiful Dreamer" – Walters, vocals (Stephen Foster song as rewritten by Gerry Goffin and Jack Keller and released by Tony Orlando in January 1963);
- "Since You Broke My Heart" – Walters/Byrne, vocals (The Everly Brothers);
- "America" – Storm, vocals (Leonard Bernstein);
- "Danny" – Storm, vocals (Marty Wilde);
- "Green Onions" (instrumental) (Booker T & the MG's);
- "Down The Line" – Storm, vocals (Jerry Lee Lewis); and
- "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin On" – Storm, vocals (Jerry Lee Lewis).
Other songs included in the set were:
- "Fever" – Walters, vocals (written by Eddie Cooley and John Davenport—a pseudonym for Otis Blackwell);
- "Let It Be Me" – Walters, vocals (Gilbert Bécaud);
- "Summertime" – Walters, vocals (George Gershwin); and
- "Dr Feelgood" – Storm, vocals.
The Hurricanes recorded songs for Oriole's two This is Mersey Beat albums, but only released two singles: "Dr Feelgood"/"I Can Tell", Oriole (45-CB 1858 12/63) and "America"/"Since You Broke My Heart", Parlophone (R 5197 11/64) which was produced by Epstein at IBC Studios in London. Epstein also sang backing vocals on "America", and Starr added percussion and sang. Storm later asked Epstein to manage the group, but Epstein refused. The Hurricanes later recorded two songs at Abbey Road Studios in 1964: "Ubangi Stomp" and "I'll Be There", although they were never released.
Later life and death
In 1967, at the age of 26, O'Brien collapsed on stage during a performance, and later died due to complications after an appendicitis operation. Storm disbanded the Hurricanes and became a disc jockey, working at the Silver Blades Ice Rink in Liverpool, in Benidorm (he was also a water-skiing instructor there) in Jersey and Amsterdam. When Storm's father died, he returned from Amsterdam to Liverpool to be with his mother. He developed a chest infection and could not sleep properly, so he took sleeping pills. On 28 September 1972, Storm and his mother were both found dead, at Stormsville. The post mortem revealed that Storm had alcohol and sleeping pills in his blood (as had his mother) but not enough to cause his death, which was ruled accidental. Although it could not be proven, it is thought that his mother had committed suicide after finding Storm's body.
The funeral for Storm and his mother was at Oakvale Congregational Church, Broadgreen, on 19 October 1972. Mourners sang Storm's favourite song, "You'll Never Walk Alone". The two coffins were carried from the hearse to the cremation (at Anfield Crematorium) by former band members. Storm's remains were scattered on section 23 at Anfield Crematorium's Gardens of Remembrance. When Starr was asked why he did not attend, he said, "I wasn't there when he was born either." Although Starr had often offered to arrange for Storm to record whenever he wanted to, Storm was not interested in finding new or original material. His sister said: "He [Storm] was happy to be the King of Liverpool—he was never keen on touring, he didn't want to give up running for the Pembroke Harriers ... and he'd never miss a Liverpool football match!"
Billy Fury, who Storm had met at the Wyvern Club auditions, later played the part of a fictional singer called Stormy Tempest (based on Storm), in the film That'll Be the Day (1973), which also starred Starr. In 1987, a musical was staged in Liverpool about Storm and the Hurricanes called A Need For Heroes.
After several spending years in the Merseyside Ambulance Service, Johnny "Guitar" Byrne died in Liverpool on 18 August 1999.
In September 2012 it was reported that a reel-to-reel tape of a complete concert by Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, from March 5, 1960 at Liverpool's "Jive Hive", had been unearthed in the basement of his sister Iris Caldwell. The recording was released on CD as Rory Storm And The Hurricanes Live At The Jive Hive - March 1960. The concert had been professionally recorded in mono by radio engineers with a recording mike added onto Rory Storm's concert mike stand, but only one mike for the entire band. The diary of Storm's guitarist Johnny Guitar reveals that in the week of the recording Ringo Starr was ill, and historian Mark Lewisohn has stated that the drumming on the recording is nothing like Starr's. Four home demos were also included on the CD release.
- 1963 – Dr. Feel Good b/w I Can Tell, Oriole, CB 1858
- 1964 – America b/w Since You Broke My Heart, Parlophone, R 5197 
- 1994 – The Complete Works, Oriole 270 (unofficial release)
- 2012 – Live at the Jive Hive March 1960, Rockstar Records, RSRCD 033
- 1963 – This Is Merseybeat volume 1, Oriole, PS 40047 (tracks: Dr. Feel Good and Beautiful Dreamer)
- 1963 – This Is Merseybeat volume 2, Oriole, PS 40048 (tracks: I Can Tell)
- 1974 – Mersey Beat 1962–64, United Artists, USD 305 (tracks: I Can Tell, Dr. Feel Good)
- 2004 – Unearthed Merseybeat Volume 2, Viper CD-027 (tracks: Lend Me Your Comb)
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- Born Charles O'Brien 1941, died 1967
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- Parlophone R 5197 on 45cat
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