Albert Hilton and The Hotels (Rusholme)
aka The Hotels
aka Greasy Alberto Hilton and The Purple Friends
aka Effin Hotels
aka Albert Goes To Hollinwood
aka The Fun-boy Foursome
Information courtesy Les Chadstone
- Line-up included
- Les Chadstone - led guitar (very heavy sound)
- Dicko Barratt - bass/vocals
- Steve "Chippy" Walmer - drums
- Harry Blue - rhythm/vocals
- Greg Fillorrie - bass
- Ian Andrew Boy Geoge Angryson - keyboards
- Tommy Herbert - lead banjo
- Eric Clapton - as if
The group were formed in junior school at Heald Place County Primary Junior Infant School near Platt Fields around 1960 by myself and Steve Sinclair, who at the time was a year older than me. Our teacher, Mr Clitheroe, had suggested the school start up a skiffle group and assisted us by providing us with a room to practice in.
It was hard, thirsty work sussing out both the chords so, unknown to the milk-monitor, bottles of milk were hidden away from morning break so that we could have refreshments while we practiced.
After a short time, we added Steve (who only had a tambourine and a couple of biscuit tins) on drums and Harry, who Mr Clitheroe suggested as he had been the best singer in the school choir (although not a competent guitarist).
Albert Hilton and The Hotels Skiffle Group's first boking at the St. John's Junior School Summer Fete, Quarrybank, near Irlam.
With supportive parents and a regular practice room, we were soon building up our repertoire to include Rock Island Line, Cumberland Gap, Kentucky Starlight and Don't dig my blue jeans, daddy-oh. For a short time, we added Steve Hoskiss on piano but he soon left due the impractability of lugging a piano on the bus to get to bookings. We did try alternatives, including only doing bookings serviced by the number 53 bus and carrying a piano on top of Dicko's dads Ford Anglia but it needed constant tuning after arrival at a booking. And so did the piano.
We needed a name and Mr Clitheroe came up trumps again, naming us after a hotel he had once walked past on a day trip to far off London. None of us had even heard of London but we liked the name - it was like other group names at the time - like Freddie and the Hermits, Pete and the Pulsators and Billy and The Heroes. It was in keeping with current trends, we thought.
Back down to a four piece, we started to get a good following at the local clubs and record hops - St Andrews, St Lukes (regulars there), St Bernadines and The Left Wing Tea Bar in Mosely Street (later to become the Wagon Wheel - now much smaller and not as big as it was when we were kids). Like most groups we auditioned for the local agents and club owners - often playing for free. Sometimes, even less.
Parents were very supportive and assisted us by signing HP deals at Renos for new equipment. Luckily they had a sale on at the time. When we couldn't afford to pay, we shopped at Jimmy Streethouse. We were playing all the well known instrumentals plus the occasional vocal featuring Harry. Although only 15, Dicko had just got re-married and the constant bookings were having a negative effect on his wife and the twins, so he had to leave. He was replaced at first by Greg Fillerie and then by Tommy Herbert. Tommy was a great addition to the group - his dad had a taxi and his sister was very friendly.
This meant we got regular rides plus, of course, with his dad having a taxi, we could travel further afield, playing in Moston, Higher Blackley and once in Chorlton-cum-Hardy.
But then came The Beatles and that changed everything.
Gone were the Shadows songs in our repertoire and in came all the Beatle songs we could play - "Long Tall Sally", "Twist and Shout" and "Ferry across the Mersey".
We changed our stage name to The Hotels - much more in keeping with the current trends.
We also started wearing suits on stage, copying the Beatle suits as much as we could. They were made on Alexandra Road by Abe Baggs, who for a short time became our manager. Once we had got the discount off him, he was replaced by Tommy's mum, Dora, who had a phone.
Me in my new Beatle jacket
By now, Tommy's dad no longer had the taxi, we had stopped using the bus to get to bookings and had got our own hand-cart to carry the equipment to local bookings, such as the Manchester City Social Club, where we got 50% of door takings (before wages for bar staff, rates, repainting the stadium and player wages had been deducted). Some nights the management were nice enough to let us off the money we owed for playing.
For more distant bookings such as Ardwick Green and Droylsden, pushing the hand-cart was proving too much of a strain on Dora, so we did the right thing - and sacked her. Our new manager could push the hand-cart all the way to town, dropping us off at Barratts of Manchester, Cardiff and Preston so we could chat with other musicians and drummers.
One of the most amazing stories ever was when we went into Reno's and got out without buying something. I think there was a sale on at the time. Great times. We used to go to all the Manchester music shops - Barratts for guitars and strings, Mameloks for our drum-kits and mikes and Jimmy Streethouse for anything we needed to steal.
We carried on like this for years, playing at all the top Liberal Clubs in Greater Manchester. By now we had our own van, a trannie (she/he was our roadie) and had cut down on the Beatles material to reflect the music of the times - White Plains, The Nolans and Peters and Lee. Musically we were leaving the audiences behind (and on one night in Bacup, we also left the drummer behind).
Our hair was now longer, the Beatle suits were sent to Biafra to help poor groups there who couldn't afford stage suits and we were starting to experience a musical freedom we had been yearning for. We were no longer a group, we were a band.
We had tried Flour Power, dressing in black suits with black ties and little black bowler hats - then we found out it was FLOWER power, so stole our mum's best dresses and played at the Magic Village - changing our name to Greasy Aberto Hilton and The Purple Friends - much more in keeping with current trends.
It didn't last long - we had tripped too many times, mainly due to those bloody sandals we had bought in the Timpson closing down sale. I was totally into the scene and had a freak-out one night - she was a real weirdo (but when you wear your mums dress on stage, you should be grateful for anything).
But the music scene was getting heavier.
The heavy scene was great - we went back to our old manager Abe Baggs, who made us Beatle suits in demin, again at a discount. Sadly we had to abandon Abe once more, coincidently shortly after paying the first and only instalment on the discounted suits.
We were out-Quoing the Quo! Head down, legs apart and thrusting our hips to impress everyone around (and that was just in the urinals). We changed our name back to The Hotels, much more in keeping with the current trends.
The Hotels - heavier than the Gravel Band
By now, we had replaced the old hand-cart with a second hand 6 wheel transit we bought from Salford cabaret superstars, Bitter Wheelbarrow. Sadly, one of the six wheels was the steering wheel, so it was a bit iffy on corners. It was the real deal - state of the art cassette player (will they ever improve on that?), aircraft seats originally used by Zeppelin (Hindenburg not Led) and windows that opened so you could spit outside if you wanted.
But our cosy existence was to be disturbed by one of the biggest challenges we had yet to face. Harry had been with us since the early days but it was now time for him to move on - we wanted keyboards not a rhythm guitarerer. Out he went and in came our keyboard virtuoso - Ian Andrew Boy George Angryson.
Was he good? You bet! Our sound became enormous - his banks of keyboards filled our sound out (and the stage and the van) and we were starting to cover the The Nice, ELP and Moody Blues (the group, not City fans - sorry Keith, too good to miss).
Our audiences were treated to 3 hour versions of the Moodies' "Nights in White Saccarin" and Emerson's "The Three Piece Suite" - interruped only for Bingo breaks and the changing of the drummer's incontinence pad.
Me, playing at the Filmore, West Gorton - supporting Foo Foo Greene and The Fwerks
But we were losing our direction. The search for polyphonic perfection was too draining - carrying the bloody C3 up the stairs to the Cellar bar at Openshaw Trades Club was just too much. We wanted to get back to our roots, yearning for a simpler time when 2 chords was enough for anyone. And then we discovered the Punk Revolution.
We changed our name to Cancelled - but no one ever showed up to our gigs. Try again.
We changed our name to The Effin Hotels - much more in keeping with the current trends. We wanted to be free from the rip-off music establishment and get back to a time when music was simple and we played what we wanted. Out went our keyboardist and back in came Harry on quitar and spitoon (stolen from Yates Wine Lodge).
Out went the denim and in came plastic bags held together by safety pins - cheap but the drummer preferred the more standard drum cases he was used to.
We were spat at, had things thrown at us and the language was awful but we persevered - a group of pensioners wasn't going to stop us find true musical freedom.
But it was the same old rip-off scene we had experienced before. Fed up with "the establishment" we decided to revolutionise the music scene and created our own look - one that was going to get us noticed by the big record producers in Wigan but it was all cruelly stolen from us by one our support groups, the Sex Pistols (a country and western group from New Zealand, featuring 5 banjo players and a yodeller). Ripped off again. My message to them "I remember you."
Disheartened by this, it all came to a sad end when Harry, fuelled with a dangerous mixture of Vimto and Iron Brew totally tripped out and was caught stealing from B and Q. The band could not take any more and he was shown the door. He admitted stealing it and was asked to leave. He didn't take offence. Just the door.
For a time, the band just floundered. Gigs slowed down (well he is over 40 - will he ever be a manager?) and the band started to disintegrate.
To try to keep going, we changed our musical style many times to keep up with current musical trends. We changed our name to Albert Goes To Hollinwood and hovered on the edge of the Gay Scene. Not what we were into such things but more in keeping with current trends. Please don't think I am homophobic - I am certainly not, although I suspect my husband is.
In the Two-Tone era, we added a tone-deaf fat, balding guy who couldn't play sax very well (now employed as the Manchesterbeat webmaster) and went out playing ska as Albert Kay and The Originals. Our single Rudie is a Sootie was the most played record in Folkestone for over 3 days.
To keep up with current trends, we called decided on another name change - calling ourselves The Fun-boy Foursome, oddly keeping the same gay scene following and gigs we got as Albert Goes To Hollinwood.
We tried the cabaret circuit for a time as Les Hotels featuring Albertha - working the Mecca circuit but our heart wasn't in it and the audiences saw right through us. And, thanks to those funny blue lights that show up your dandruff, they also saw through the very nice chiffon dress I had bought from C & A. I thought the socks in my bra were enough to maintain the illusion but the game was up and it was back to being Albert.
We then discovered Glam Rock, which rekindled our interest in performing but it was to be short lived - especially as it was 1996, some twenty years after the glitter boom. By then Glam was so out of fashion there were only six versions of The Sweet still on tour ...
Sadly, with gigs down to one a month, the band split and members went their own ways.
Where are they now?
Dicko decided to live the life of a Hermit - he can be found constantly singing "Mrs Brown, you've got a lovely daughter" over and over again. Sadly, there's little chance of a proper job - he don't know much about history, don't know much biology, don't know much about science book, don't know much about the French I took. He must be a bit thick (although he never did claim to be an 'A' student). And they say its a wonderful world. I think he's just gone on a seacruise with my sentimental friend, Dandy.
Harry became a successful businessman, selling cheap chinese imports on Ebay, with a no returns policy. In his spare time, he still gigs - billed as Harry Blue - the only man in Manchester not to have played in Dwayne Fanta and the Gutbusters. Not true, of course, there's a man in Walkden ...
Tommy continued to play - digging out his old Beatle suit and working 7 shows a night in Tenerife. He ran off with my wife of over 25 years. I speak to him every day - great chap.
Greg became an agent and we haven't spoken since.
I became a star in Bollywood movies, using the stage name Jasmin Rice Crackers
I became a star in Bollywood movies, using the stage name Jasmin Rice Crackers
But then, in 2003, it all changed.
I had been writings songs for some time with very little success - until one of my songs was accepted for the Cleethorpes International Song Festival. It was time for a reunion to perform the chosen song "Eyup, eyup, down Wigan way" (also known as The Lyin' Sheep Tonight and covered thirty years before I wrote it by Salfordian yodellers The Karl Denton Duo) under our new name L'Hote - much more in keeping with the current trends.
We practiced the song and the new stage routines, once again contacting Abe to create a Beatle suit that could have the trousers ripped off to reveal Beatle shorts underneath. He agreed and they looked just fab on us. Almost worth paying for ... almost.
But the rest is history.
After placing third, behind entries from Upper Volta and Sardinia, the band now works the luxury cruise ships that run between Birkenhead and Irlam. Our repertoire includes hits of the 60s, 70s and 80s - old enough for people to have forgotten how they should sound.
Its a great life - lots of travel, we get to meet interesting people and the money is regular - enough to finally pay off those HP debts at Reno's.
We also go out on the Golden Oldies Tours, performing as The Supremes. Sometimes we do get asked which one of us is Diana Ross, which we find quite insulting. We may not be quite the original members but our link to the original group is quite strong - our roadie saw them on tv more than once and I bought a second hand copy of their first album from Shudehill market some years ago. Stronger, in fact, than some of the other band members on the tour.
We are now down to a three piece having replaced our loyal drummer of 40 something years with a drum machine. It was a hard thing to do and we thanked him extensively for his friendship and comraderie over the years. Sadly, he didn't even reply to the email.
You just can't understand some people.
UPDATE - March 2017
We had tried to make it in the biz by constantly gigging and doing it the hard way. It had left us broken men - empty shells that had lost the will to live.
And then came ... Britain's Got Talent or BGT as those of us in the industry call it.
It was a great feeling to finally be on the telly. OK it was only an audition but we finally felt we were going somewhere! We were! Up the M6!
We loaded up the gear into our Fiat 500 band wagon and sped off into the night for our audition in a major London theatre. We passed Trafalgar Square, Bond Street and finally the Old Kent Road. We didn't pass Go, which was a problem as we could have done with the 200 quid for petrol money. How we longed to meet Simon Cowell and the other judges. We had rehearsed to perfection. Not the music but the things we could say to the judges to get their favour.
I was to say that I had just had a heart transplant, whilst the others were to admit to leprosy, gall stones and losing their dad three years before they were born.
Walking out in front of so many people brought back memories of past gigs - Smelly Paper Mill in Bury, the Three Trades Hall, Uncle Toms Carboot in Little Hulton... so many memories. The show's two jovial geordies were great fun, although we couldn't really understand them. Once the stage had been cleared of dog pee from a previous act, Berryl and her Border Collies, we were on.
We strutted our stuff, the judges loved us - each gave us a big kiss almost straight away. We just loved those big red X's lighting up over our heads. The crowd loved us much more than the previous act. They must have been awful as the crowd were still booing them while we were on.
But the show doesn't really have the credibility we are seeking so we refused to appear again.
UPDATE 1 April 2018
Albert has continued his career in the biz. Starring as the lead role in a Riverdance Revival at the Stalybridge Afro Caribbean Society, writing, producing,directing and starring in his original musical Eve Eater (the true story of a 400 kilo McDonalds addict) and replacing Posh Spice in a recent comeback tour of the Spice Girls.
Update - March 2019
Whilst his appearance with the group on Britain's Got Talent did not immediately spark international acclaim, the producers of the show have obviously identified Albert's unique, individual commercial appeal and he has recently been a guest presenter on the show. This has tested his acting skills to the fullest, clapping wildly for 90 year old toothless tap dancers, encouraging 6 year old comedians with his hysterical laughing at even the poorest of material and patiently taking his turn to say that "this is the best season we have ever had". Wisely he chose not to blame Simon for Susan Boyle.
UPDATE - June 2019
Spurred on by the success of the latest movie releases "Rocket Man" and "Bohemian Rhapsody", movie director and stamp collector Ivor Kamera, CEO of the Wigan 16mm Filum Society, has approached Albert regarding the possibility of bringing his fabulous life story on to the big screen!
"Ey up, that yon Albert is a reet bugger an I reckon we could make a grand filum and there's a few bob in it for us all" said Mr Kamera, candidly.
Film locations have already been identified and include the deep end at Wythenshawe Baths, Irlam Gas Works and the "Scampi in t'basket" bistro at the Fisherman's Friend Sports and Social Club Inc in Fleetwood. Sidney Poitier has been lined up to play the young Albert, with John Merrick playing the role of Albert in his teenage years.
Albert had many female followers during his career and a galaxy of the UK's box office giants have already put their names forward in the hope of a romantic scene with Albert. These are believed to include Bunny Lewis, Tessie O'Shea and Mrs Mills.
One of the major roles in the movie - the bingo caller at Besses O'the Barn Working Men's Club - has yet to be decided.
"There will be no nude romps with 'is manager", said Mr Kamera, possibly referring to the "Rocket Man" film. "We don't have that sort of stuff up here in t'north. We leave that to the southerners - those from Runcorn and other posh places". He added "Ah don't want to ruin filum for yous, but we will be including all the sordid stuff that musicians and drummers did in the swinging sixties. The late night Vimto snorting, peeing in the sink and sharing bags of chips with all and sundry. Mucky stuff but it has to be told."
The legendary Harry Greene has set up a "Go Fwerk Me" site to raise funds for the movie. So far he has raised 1/4d and a packet of Spangles.
UPDATE - January 2020
Keep it quiet, nudge nudge, know what I mean. Just a screen test to see if Jodie Whittaker is up to Albert's standards.
Watch this space for further updates ...