My Story - Paul Stevens
I believe that my singing career started at the Rochdale Infirmary at the age of 3, singing Rose of Tralee to all the Irish nurses, who were so homesick that they had tears streaming down their faces!
Next followed singing at St Albans C of E school in Rochdale (classmates were Bill Oddie and Julie Goodyear), before joining the St Albans Church Choir and quickly becoming head boy soprano and taking all the solos for Agnus Dei, Ave Maria, etc.
Next cam my teanage years which amounted to getting up to sing in local pubs with just a piano and winning a talent competition at the Villa marina, Douglas, IoM, singing with the Ivy Benson All Girls Band, performing The Great Pretender.
Bext followed winning Talent Quests in Jersey, CI and getting up to sing with the trio at the West Hill Country Club Hotel, Mont A L'Abee, where I was working as a cocktail barman.
My fortunes really changed at Butlins Holiday Camp, Phwelli, North Wales in July 1960, where I won the Talent Quest singing with Liverpool's top group at the time - Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, whose drummer was Ringo Starr at the time.
After being introduced by the compere - Jimmy Tarbuck (Johnny Ball was also a Redcoat) I wanted to sing a Gene Vincent number called Bluejean Bop but the band didn't know it. HJowever, Ringo did and sang the first few bars to them and explained how it went and I won the heat.
In the final I sang Johnny B Goode and won.
The following year I returned and won again, singing Please don't touch and Halfway to Paradise with Johnny Peters and The Crestas.
I then began singing in local pubs in Oldham with bands such as The Dragoons and The Tony Manton Set just as a volunteer before getting paid 9 pounds a week at venues like The Top Drum, The Albion and the Market Tavern in Oldham and The Devonshire on Stockport Road, Manchester and The Oaks in Wythenshawe.
I then started goinf to audition concerts for M.E.C.C.A. at Openshaw Liberal and Bradford Labour Club, Grey Mare Lane and doing the Working men's Club circuit of 3 pounds a night before graduating to the Yorkshire clubs in Sheffield, Barnsley, Doncaster, etc, for the princely sum of 8 pounds a night.
I then started on the cabaret circuit in Manchester at clubs like The Luxor, Northern Sporting Club, Yew Tree, Embassy and The Palladium clubs for Bernard Manning (who used to pay my taxi farehome to Rochdale (5 pounds) in exchange for a spot at The Wilton Club.
One night, after doing a spot at the Princess Theatre Club in Chorlton, I was asked by a group called Pete Taylor and The Javellins to replace their lead singer.
I had always wanted to front my own rock 'n' roll band and, even though it was less money than I was earning, I said "Yes" and started doing venues like The Flamingo Club (Farnworth), Empire Cabaret Club (Milnrow), Salford Dockers and the RAOB Club in Greafton St, Manchester, followed by the Rit, Plaza, Rochdale Carlton, Pyramid Club and Flintstones Cave (Oldham) where we were managed by Lennie Taylor, the owner.
He booked us for a show with The Hollies in Rochdale, 1963, at the Fire Station Dance Hall but a con-man called Peter Garlick has advertised a show at the Champness Hall, Rochdale featuring Dusty Springfield, Karl Denver Trio and others - none of whom had been booked.
He had sold all the tickets so he went and paid Lennie Taylor for a 'full-house' at the Fire Station, so we all worked at the Champness Hall.
The show was great but sadly our young guitarist, Pete Bantoft, had a brain tumour and was in Ashton General recuperating, so we acquired Dave Backhouse of the Burns Brothers to play lead. We were doing a residency at The Globe Hotel in ashton and although 'Mo' Critchlow was doing a great job on rhythm we needed a new lead guitarist as we had broken into the youth club circuit in Halifax and were proving to be very popular.
I had head about Vic Farrell refusing to turn professional with The Hollies and remembering him from The Emperors of Rhythm, asked him and his brother Eric on drums to join and reformed the group with 'Bush' Fraser on bass. The group really took off, doing venues such as The Cavern and The Lowlands in Liverpool and residencies at Rochdale Carlton and Blackburn Locarno every Saturday and Sunday, where we broke all box office records at both venues.
This led to us appearing at every Mecca venue in the country (Sale, Bradford, Bolton, Nottingham, Sheffield)
One final change led to Rod Clare (ex Emperors of Rhythm) returning on bass and the group really kicked off. We did all the major venues such as The Oasis, Twisted Wheel, Three Coins, The Place (Hanley), Kingfisher Club and Manor Lounge (Stockport) and lots of work in Stoke on Trent, where we rivalled the excellent Bry Martin and The Marauders as the top group in the area.
The other groups that we appeared with included Faron's Flamingoes, The Undertakers, Barron Knights, Escorts, Wayne Fontana and The Mindbenders and Johnny Kidd and The Pirates.
Paul Stevens and The Emperors of Rhythm
Paul Stevens and The Opposition
Unfortunately, due to Vic Farrell refusing to turn pro, we were losing out on lots of work ie Germany, so Rod Clare and I left to form Paul Stevens and The Opposition with Les Hilton on lead and Bernie Byrnes on drums.
This group was also very good but Bernie left to join The Boomerangs backing the dreadful Ian Crawford (an Australian on-man) and we were joined by the excellent Roger Pynah (ex Cliff Bennett and The Rebel Rousers).
Things were going well until I heard that they had auditioned to back the excellent Johnny Rich behind my back, so I sacked them and asked Alan Doyle and Terry to fill in until I got the excellent Corvettes to back me at venues such as Lower Chambers (Rochdale), Leek Town Hall, Ashton Palais, Sale Locarno, etc. Things were fine except for the disruptive influence of their excellent sax player - Lenny - who was completely egotistic and very arrogant. He finished leaving but the Corvettes were in awe of him musically (even though they detested him personally) and asked him to come back, so I left.
I got the job as Resident Compere at The College Club in Hulme and was enjoying my return to cabaret until an excellent combo from Belfast - The Banshees - appeared there and stayed behind to hear me sing (in 1965). They then asked me to join them.
They had an EMI recording contract and a song from America called Run to my loving arms which they wanted me to record.
We recorded it at Abbey Road Studios and it turned out great but we were off to Germany to do the Storyville clubs in Frankfurt and Cologne, so our agent, Roy Tempest, said that it would be released on our return.
It was - by Billy Fury, who was doing a tour of dance halls for none other than - you've guessed it, Roy Tempest.
We travelled on the channel ferry with Carl Wayne and The Vikings, before he joined The Move and followed Noel Landon and The Burnettes in Frankfurt, who had Kevin Lang (Bob's brother) on bass. We were followed by the excellent Original Checkmates with Alan Hawkshaw.
On our return, The Banshees moved from 'squalor' in Stoke Newington to Sloane Square in Chelsea, renting the house of John Osborne and Mary Ure! As there were 8 of us, we could just about afford it.
We returned to Abbey Road to record Yes Indeed on Columbia (my first release) which became a minor hit in Ireland, where we returned to appear at the opening of the Radio Caroline Club in Dun Loughaire with Dickie Rock and The Miami.
I did my first TV show in Dublin on Telefis Eirrann called The Showband Special and worked exclusively in the south before going to live in Belfast doing TV and working at Maxims, Romanos, Ulster Hall and the Boom Boom Room, before leaving in 1966 and returning to Manchester where I was offered the job as Resident Compere at The Talk of The North in Eccles, introducing acts like Ronnie Corbett, Bill Maynard, Solomon King, David Whitfield, etc.
Left there to join an Australian radio, TV and recording group The Gibsons as lead vocalist and probably attained the highlights of my career, topping the bill in cabaret venues all over Britain, but also support Tom Jones and Englebert Humperdink to over 3000 people at Blackpool Opera House and appearing on TV with Paul Anka and Joe Brown, doing over 100 broadcasts plus the Simon Dee Show from Dickinson Rd, Manchester with Dustry Springfield, Warren Mitchell and The Peddlers.
Did numerous recording sessions for Decca at West Hampstead alongside Jones and Humperdink and had two releases on the new Deram label, including a minor hit Magic Book.
Then went to our manager's (Phil Solomon) Major Minor label for another three releases and tours of US bases in Germany with The Shirelles and The Ronettes.
Left The Gibsons to pursue a solo Cabaret, Radio and TV career, with my first solo record released on Page One Records - Sometimes you love me and Hey Mr Love, also released in Europe and the USA.
Continued doing major cabaret venues supporting Long John Baldry, Georgie Fame, Alan Price and voted Singer of The Year at the Broadway Club in Manchester before being appointed Resident Compere at the brand new Sheffield Fiesta in 1970, working with some of the biggest names, including The Four Tops and The Beach Boys, followed by being Resident Compere at Fagins in 1972, working with Scott Walker, Tommy Cooper, The Elgins and others.
Sang my way to Australia in 1974 on Oriana, meeting Tony Bennet in San Franciso and then worked on major TV show and supported Al Martino, Burl Ives, Chubby Checker, Max Bygraves before my first Australian record on Fable - Dying to live with you.
Returned to UK in 1980 and reformed The Emperors with the excellent Steve Jones (Civvy Street) on guitar and Leo Lahery (Country Gents) on drums, who was later replaced by Bernie Bynes.
Then obtained the legendary Pete Cowap on guitar for a residency at Rochdale AFC before compering the Cannon and Ball tour and moving to Southport in 1981.
Represented England in Golden Orpheus Song Festival in Bulgaria in 1982, winning a Diploma of Honour and working with Roy Orbison there and singling with the Bulgarian Symphony Orchestra.
Extensive tours of Australia every winter including work on cruise ships and Theatres and Clubs.
Occasional singing of rock 'n' roll with Mersey Cats and the Liverpool Rock N Roll Society.
Paul Stevens and The Javelins
Paul Stevens and The Javelins at the RAOB club, Grafton St, Manchester
Paul with Bobby Rydell