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A Storm at Hope Street

posted 25 Feb 2019, 04:10 by Roy McDonald   [ updated 27 Mar 2019, 03:24 ]

This article was printed in the Prescot Cables v Atherton Collieries programme on 23rd February 2019. I particularly enjoyed piecing this story together.

The Social Club at Prescot Town Football Club saw performances by many groups during the Merseybeat era of the early 1960’s. An up and coming beat combo called The Quarrymen were said to have played there in 1959! [Unconfirmed and more likely to be the Prescot BICC Social Club?]

Today, we look at how one Merseybeat legend also became a Prescot Town player.

Alan Earnest Caldwell was born in Broadgreen, Liverpool in 1938. He was born with a speech impediment, a stutter, and as he grew up he became interested in sports, particularly athletics. He ran for the Pembroke Harriers, and set the Pembroke Athletics and Cycle Club steeplechase record.  He was also a very capable footballer and a good swimmer and ice skater. Because of his wild and zany behaviour and his stammer, some people regarded him as a figure of fun, and he took refuge in sport and, increasingly, in music through Skiffle and Rock and Roll.

Caldwell had fronted several groups, with different names and ever changing line-ups but, by 1959, the group was now settled. Naturally, the tall, athletic, fair haired and quiffed, Alan, was the front man and vocalist, and styled himself as Rory Storm. His stammer did not affect his singing. Amongst his backing band – The Hurricanes – was a lad called Richard Starkey on drums. Rory rechristened him Ringo Starr.   

Rory Storm and the Hurricanes played numerous gigs across Merseyside and beyond, (including residencies at Butlins and in Hamburg) and developed a huge fan base, due to their on-stage antics and showmanship. Rory Storm and the Hurricanes received the most votes in the first Mersey Beat magazine reader’s poll, but many votes were disqualified as they had been posted from the same place at the same time and were all written in green ink. Although it was never proven, it was thought that Storm, himself, had posted the votes!

Despite their popularity, Rory refused to take up numerous chances to record. His sister, Iris, later noted that "He 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!" 

Storm loved his football – watching, and playing - and was the organiser of the Mersey Beat All Star football team which, naturally, included himself at Centre Forward.

In September 1964, More than 700 people - a much larger crowd than Prescot Town’s average gate at this time - attended a football match between the All Stars and The Peppermint Lounge at Hope Street.

The All Stars won 9- 6, with Rory netting four goals. Billy Kinsley of the Merseybeats later recalled: “Rory Storm took all the penalties, all the free kicks, all the throw-ins and all the corners. He wanted a record kept of everything, so his dad was constantly taking photographs. Rory got the ball, lined it up and made sure that his dad was ready with the camera before he kicked it. Once, while he was doing this at Prescot Cables, the promoter Sam Leach ran from the back of the team and took the penalty instead. Rory was enraged because Sam Leach had taken the penalty – and missed! To make matters worse, his dad had taken a photograph of Sam Leach kicking the ball. Rory chased Sam round the ground and we had to continue the game with nine men.” 

Everton's Jimmy Gabriel refereed the match and a radio commentary was broadcast to local hospitals, with more than £20 raised for the Alder Hey Hospital charity. After the match Storm expressed a wish to sign for Prescot Town, saying, “I would love to have a shot at playing in a higher standard of soccer”.

The Mersey Beat team at the time could call on stars such as Joey Bowers (Fourmost), Billy Kinsley (Merseybeats), Mike Gregory (Escorts), Vince Earl (Talismen), Ty Hardin (Hurricanes), Lee Baron, Freddie Starr, Shane Fenton (Rory’s brother-in-law), Eddie Amoo (Chants), Chic Graham and others, well known on the Merseybeat scene.

A few weeks later Rory Storm brought the All Stars back to Hope Street for another charity game, this time against Prescot Town Reserves. This one was probably to measure his own performance against “proper” footballers?

Season 1964/65 was a dreadful one for Prescot. They had changed their name from Cables to Town at the start of the season, and had resurrected their second team, but financial woes meant that there were only 4 professionals on the club’s books, the rest being made up of assorted amateurs (over 40 players were used during the season). Not surprisingly, results on the pitch were equally dire, the first team went 28 games without success, until recording their first win just after the New Year. Both the first team and the reserves would finish bottom of their divisions.

Against this background, Rory Storm signed as an amateur for Prescot Town, in October 1964, in the same week that he also signed a new recording contract with the Beatles’ manager, Brian Epstein! He marked his debut for the Town Reserves, with a spectacular (and typically Rory) goal against Gleneagles, when he collected the ball from his own penalty area and ran with it, the length of the field, to crack home an unstoppable shot from the edge of the Gleneagles box. A couple of weeks later, he scored his second goal, and it was equally spectacular – a screamer from 25 yards, which enabled the Reserves to record their first win of the season. Despite the release of his second single, the same week (a cover version of America from West Side Story – a hugely ill-judged decision by Epstein!), he said his ambition was, “to get into the first team before Christmas”.

Later in the month, Rory swapped his football shirt for his trade-mark, gold lamé suit, when he performed, with The Hurricanes, at the Football Club’s Social Club, to raise funds for the club.  He said, “It is one way we are able to say a tangible thank you to the Prescot club for having allowed us the use of their ground for our Merseybeat matches. This is a fine club, deserving of better support and luck.

Early in 1965, Rory Storm and The Hurricanes embarked on a lengthy tour of Germany, meaning that his brief football career was cut short. Although he continued to front the Mersey Beat All Stars, he never pulled on the Prescot jersey again.

In 1967, Rory Storm disbanded the Hurricanes and became a disc jockey, working at the Silver Blades Ice Rink in Liverpool, in Jersey and Amsterdam, and as a water-skiing instructor in Benidorm.

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 was found dead, at his home in Broadgreen. The post mortem revealed that, although  he had alcohol and sleeping pills in his blood, it was not enough to cause his death, which was ruled as accidental.