A former policeman lost everything and was forced to sleep rough in his car. The…
In Liverpool in 1963 the music world was exploding. Musical talent, attitude and the knowledge that you could be anything you wanted to be saw the city flooded with bands and singers who were headed to the top.
Standing tall amongst all of the boys was the World’s first all-girl rock ’n’ roll group. This is the untold true story of The Liverbirds!
From the Cavern to Hamburg’s Star Club Mary, Sylvia, Val and Pam did it on their terms, turning down Brian Epstein, hanging out with Jimi Hendrix and driving Chuck Berry wild.
This foot-stomping musical will be packed with all of the great 60s songs that shook The Cavern, including the Liverbirds smash hits Peanut Butter and Diddley Daddy.
It’s a show that will rock the Royal Court like never before!
I had the pleasure of talking to the girls before their play released.
Diane: When did you get the bug for music because you were very young when you started the band?
Sylvia: Yes 1962 – We were just 16. We had only ever listened to music before then, we never dreamt of playing it! Val and myself used to go to the Town Hall to watch the bands. Val did play guitar and we said it would be great to get a band together and do what the lads do!
Diane: And that was it?
Sylvia and Mary: Yeah!
Diane: Who’s idea was it to form the group?
Mary: I was with three of my cousins and thought if the Beatles can do this then we can do this. So, we went and bought instruments but not one of us could play a note! Then, after walking around Liverpool with our empty guitar cases so we could get into the Cavern for nothing, Bob Wallace said “When are you going to play here?” We thought oh my God! We had better sit down and have a practice. We did just that and realised it was a lot harder than we thought!
We even got The Merseybeat to photograph us and write an article. Fortunately, my address was in the article so Sylvia and Val found me.
Sylvia: Val was a friend of mine and was a good guitarist. One night after going to the Town Hall to see Ian and the Zodiacs we thought, come on, let’s do this. I tried to play guitar but couldn’t because my fingers were too small to span the frets so I said I will get a kit of drums! So, off we went to Rushworth and Drapers and being only 16, my parents had to sign as did Mary’s, to say we would pay for them on the weekly, because we couldn’t afford them.
Diane: How did you practice drums in your house? Where did you live?
Sylvia: Well it was hard at first, but I did go to Red Carter over in Birkenhead, he actually taught a lot of famous drummers. He showed me the rudiments and I just had to practice.
Mary: This is when we saw the article in the newspaper and wondered if they wanted any other girl members. When we turned up and saw Val and Sylvia play, we thought they would laugh their heads off at us, but Val said she would teach us.
Sylvia: We used to practice my house and Mary’s house because we had parlours! You know, the room that was kept for best! All the kids would gather on the wall outside and shout “more, more.”
Diane: I know from my research of the Merseybeat bands, including the Beatles that they learnt their craft at the Star Club, was that the same for you?
Mary: We had been playing as the Liverbirds for about 12 months touring the UK with The Stones and The Kinks and then we found out our manager was cheating us. Our parents said, “It’s time to give up girls” and we very nearly did but we got the offer from the Star Club and that’s when we went over to Germany. You would play every night there and the sets were long.
Sylvia: Just before that, Pam joined us and restyled the band.
Mary: We settled in Hamburg as the owner of the Starclub wanted to be our manager. Why wouldn’t we? The big boss, a gangster I suppose, a mafia type if you like AND he had taken a shine to us. We earned fantastic money, went all over Europe and Japan. We never came back to England.
Diane: Can I ask Sylvia, why did you leave before the Japan tour?
Sylvia: Why does a woman ever leave something she loves? A man of course! I met John at the Star Club he was with the Big Six and Tony Sheridan. I became pregnant and my doctor told me if I carry on, I would lose the baby.
Diane: Why did you choose to wear male clothes – buttoned up shirts, ties, pants etc.
Sylvia: First of all we played in skirts and dresses. Then we realised, a drummer in a skirt with her legs open!
Mary: Pam said, these dresses have got to go! She said, if you want me, you have to change the clothes you are wearing. When we got to Hamburg Astrid Krutzfeldt, the photographer, suggested we wore black pants and waistcoats with white frilly shirts. We also had our hair restyled in quite severe styles. Mary and I used to have really nice bouffant hair before that!
Diane: Which artists do you admire?
Sylvia: We love the sixties as do our children and grandchildren. Beryl Marsdon was a standout singer and one that we feel was overlooked. She had and still has a fabulous voice. She will come over to Hamburg now and again and we go out together, no one could ever explain to me why she didn’t make it.
Mary: Amy Winehouse had a fabulous voice and Lady Gaga.
Sylvia: Can we just say that anything Joe Flannery did and said about us was nothing to do with us at all! He was never our manager, he never got us to the Star Club, he never had anything to do with us. We tried to stop his book, we just wanted to say that.
Diane: If you had joined one of the guys groups of the time (not for money) who would you have picked?
Mary: I would have joined the Merseybeats.
Sylvia: Well I always had a crush on Mark Peters…
Diane: What one thing would you tell your 18-year-old self if you could go back now? We all know what yours would be
Sylvia: Don’t get pregnant!
Mary: Do exactly what you want to do and don’t let anyone talk you out of it.
Sylvia: I would say just keep going. It is really hard now, we had loads of venues back then, there are hardly any now! Just keep going.
Diane: All female band members will be forever in your debt as you paved the way for us all. Thank you!