Tony regrets leaving Brian Epstein

Jul 2017 Tony regrets leaving Brian Epstein

Newly-honoured Tony Crane MBE in conversation with David Parker

Tony: you were a teenager at the start your singing career, would you say you were walking into good fortune on stage in front of paying fans?
We were lucky being in Liverpool at the time. There were lots of great bands around, but at the very start ,we sang and played guitar for free. Getting paid was a bonus and we never thought anything would come of it, but everyone has dreams.

What was it like doing that first performance and making a hit record for the first time?
Our first gig was crazy. It was a boys club and to make the lighting more moody I painted a light bulb blue, but after two songs there was so much smoke in the room from the bulb, we had to evacuate the room as it had set the fire alarms off!

Making a hit record was so surreal and nerve-wracking. When we went to London to record for the first time, we had no idea what to expect!

However, we soon got to grips with the whole recording process. The management and music engineers were discussing everything with us along the way; we felt really important! It was a great experience.

I ask this because you made Top Twenty hits not covered by other artists.
I think choosing to record more ballads made us stand out more from the other artists at that time. We were extremely lucky that a few absolute world-class songwriters wrote for us – Bert Bacharach and Hal David among them – and it was also great to get our own compositions on record too.

What do you remember of the early days? Were you and the other Merseybeats plucked off the streets? How did it all begin?
We got our recording contract by accident. An A&R man from Phillips Records came to the Cavern Club to audition some bands, and arrived during our lunchtime session. On finishing our show, we were approached and asked if the other bands could use our equipment for the audition, which we agreed.

By the end of the audition the a&r man told me he didn’t like any of the other bands…so would like to offer the Mersey-beats a contract! I was stunned and replied: “But we haven’t even auditioned for you!”
He told us he had caught our lunchtime session before the auditions and we were just what he was looking for! Four weeks to that day, we had been to London, recorded four songs and our first single was released (Its’ love that really counts), and it went straight into the charts!

It felt extra special to have a hit with a ballad as no-one, especially from Liverpool, was recording ballads at that time. Friends of mine became 60s stars, but they told me it was heart-breaking and hard work, and there is no such thing as an overnight hit.

What age were you and who guided you and advised and managed you? And were they good to you or hard task masters?
We formed a group while I was working at the Royal Liver buildings as an insurance clerk at 16. We played around Liverpool as the mavericks until Bob Wooler saw us play and offered us a residency at The Cavern which would involve lunchtime sessions – a big decision as we would have to turn professional to do this. He changed our name to The Merseybeats and we subsequently left our jobs to fit all the gigs in.

Brian Epstein took us over for a while, but he didn’t buy us suits like The Beatles, so we ended up parting ways.
Our recording contract followed with Phillips and later Fontana. We were well-looked after and advised; we were young and learned a lot ourselves along the way. Looking back, I regret leaving Brian Epstein.

Were you always confident and had you set your ambitions to be a singer/songwriter musician or did it grow on you?
I wasn’t too confident and a bit shy, but I was determined to try and become successful as a singer, and later, as a musician as well. Singing at church and at family parties helped my confidence grow.

Did you have lessons and voice training and did you learn to play instruments or did you teach yourself?
No voice training or lessons: my brother in law Peter gave me some initial lessons to play the guitar after seeing Elvis. I then continued but mostly self-taught. This helped me when singing along to all the chart hits.

What was it like working with other artists who became the big bad boys of rock?
We’ve played with so many other artists over the years, under the same management. We did many gigs and tours with The Who, and we all became great friends, but Keith Moon was Keith Moon! He actually played the gong on the I Stand Accused recording! He was there watching us recording and was eager to be involved!

Some stars claim they were influenced by musicians of the era, or before. Did you have your own icons that you tried to emulate?
As a child Mario Lanza, was my first idol, until my sister took me to see Love Me Tender, then Elvis took centre stage. All the other artists of that era influenced me and the band, such as Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino. They still influence me to this day.

Of all your hits, what was your favourite?
Probably Sorrow, because it has been liked by so many other artists, including The Beatles, even David Bowie, covering it. It made us very proud. It always goes down so well at our live shows to this day. It has stood the test of time.

Of all the tours and one-night stands all over the world, which were the ones you remember most – fondly and not so fondly?
All of these are remembered fondly. Each concert has been special or memorable in some way, notably the Empire Pool Wembley, NME poll concert, and our tours of Italy which ended up leading to our TV show over there in the 60s.

Of our recent tours, every Solid Silver 60s have been so well received: it’s just fantastic to see all the fans young and older enjoying our music .

Would you record again, given the opportunity?
Yes, we are planning a new album of Cavern Favourite, a collection of songs we performed during our time at the Cavern back in the 60s.

How do you spend your time nowadays? I’m told you have several business interests as you had invested your earnings wisely.
My time is split between The Merseybeats and running my property company. I take great pride and pleasure in restoring dilapidated but historic buildings around the north west. My four grandchildren keep me busy too!

What would you most like to be remembered for?
I’m delighted to be honoured with an MBE. This covers my dedication and love for services to music (56 years and counting), helping so many charities over the years to raise funds though our music and restoring building that have been neglected over the years.

What do you think of music in the charts these days? Memorable like the 50s, 60s, and 70s?
I feel that the music today is not different from any other era, it has memorable and not so memorable – good and not so good – music . Some will stand the test of time. Bands like The Killers are very creative and original and they stand out to me. July 2017

TONY AND BILLY Kinsley formed a duo in 1961 in Liverpool.Tony Crane was lead guitar, vocals, and Billy was on bass, vocals, working as an Everly Brothers-influenced duo around Liverpool clubs.

The duo added David Elias (rhythm guitar, vocals) and Frank Sloane (drums) and changed the name to The Pacifics, then The Mavericks.

Bill Harry was asked if they could use the name of his copyright newspaper, MERSEY BEAT, and he agreed.
The Mavericks became The Mersey Beats, and later THE MERSEYBEATS. Sloane was replaced by John Banks and Elias by Aaron Williams.

Merseybeats dates:
July Wednesday, 5 – Lowestoft, Gunton Hall – Warners Leisure Hotel
60’s Festival starring The
Merseybeats, Edison Lighthouse, The Fourmost, The
Cufflinks and more
Saturday 22 – Hayling Island – Mill Rythe
All Stars Summertime 60s Music weekender
August 5 Sweden – Helsingborg
September Friday 8 – Gloucester – PRIVATE FUNCTION
Thursday 14 – Liverpool – THE CAVERN L2 6RE
Friday 22 – Whitby LIVE
Tuesday 26 – Pakefield – Pontins