ORIGINAL 60'S MOD STAN MAY-EVANS' LIFE IN LIVERPOOL
The Sink Club – a brief insight into the Liverpool scene from the 60’s till today - Andy Hill interviews Stan May-Evans.
Andy - Today I’m talking with Stan May-Evans about his life as a young mod in Liverpool, in the 60’s, and right up to today.
Stan is speaking to me via ‘Face-time’ from his ‘den’ or ‘man cave’ where I can see that the walls are adorned with Mod artefacts and music memorabilia spanning these 60 years.
Hi Stan, what was life like in Liverpool growing up as a young lad?
I was born in 1949, Falkner Square, Liverpool 8. I never really knew me dad; he left when I was about two or three, so me and my mother lived with my grandparents in Kensington, Liverpool 7. One of my uncles later found us a house to rent in Huyton, on the boundaries of Liverpool. Dad had been married before, and I had a half brother and sister. I had a happy childhood, with lots of black mates I remember.
The streets were bomb sites, where we’d play ‘war’, cowboys & indians, until a ‘copper’ would come along and tell you get out. Now and then, you’d find an unexploded bomb!
Grandad was like my surrogate dad, he lived till his 90’s. The house we moved into in Huyton had an inside toilet, and there were lots of fields. I went to St. Patrick’s school which was just across the road from where we lived. I was quite sporty at school, and enjoyed playing football…but, as I got older, I started going back into the city more. I didn’t really like Huyton as a 14/15 year old, a lot of my friends were in the city, and it was a pain getting in and out.
One of my auntie’s had a café called ‘Cathy’s Café’ on Catherine Street Liverpool 8 where there was a room above the café, with a camp bed, so, when I got a bit older, I stayed there!
I was a bit envious of my mates, when we first started work. I started with a Saturday job which paid £2 a week, they were earning £10 - £15 a week though in the factory! I also was helping out on a window cleaning round to earn a few extra bob.
Later I started as a bricklayer, but after a few months I got the opportunity to change trade to a joiner. My grandfather was a master painter and decorator and he said to me when he found out, ‘Joiner? – that’s not a trade!’ joking with me...but I did learn to paint with him, which stood me in good stead – there was no shortage of work back then, and of course, as I got older, I discovered music and women!!”
Can you tell us about your first musical influences and experiences as a young person…
I remember, when I was about 14 or 15 me mother used to like Liberace – and me mother played piano. She was quite musical me mum, so she could read music and played the piano until her 80’s, and always had one in her house!
Pubs were all about piano playing and singing along. When someone got a telly it was, ‘Hey, go down to Mrs. Smith’s, she’s got a telly!’ – you know, one with the doors on and all that!!!
Going into the music thing, in me last year in school in Huyton I got dragged into playing the drums in school bands. Anyway, a mate of mine; he was related to Paul McCartney believe it or not, a cousin or something, a guy called Dave Slater, his auntie and his mum lived in a big house only a few hundred yards away from the school we went to. He said to me, ‘That group, The Beatles, they practice in there.’ Now by then, around ’63, they’d been over to Hamburg and all that, and they’d released ‘Love Me Do’ – the day Sonny Liston got beaten by Cassius Clay (Muhammed Ali as he later became.) We formed a bit of a band, a mate called Timothy, Tim Wells, he played keyboards, Francis Jones on electric guitar (Hofner) and me on drums – we’d practice in that big house.
I used to listen to Radio Luxenberg of a night, at home under the bedcovers with a torch! One of the djs played American music, and I heard this record and thought, ‘What is this!?’ It was ‘Green Onions’ by Booker T.
Dave Slater was a mad Dale Hawkins fan, ‘Suzie Q’ and we used to meet up couple of times a week and play stuff like ‘Long Tall Shorty’. My briefcase thing that I used to go to tec’ with used to have Howlin’ Wolf written on it! People were saying to us, ‘What’s that all about?’…they were still listening to Adam Faith and all that pop drivel!.
What influences did Merseybeat have on you – if any?
I’d got into the American stuff, and the Cavern used to have afternoon sessions, and because we were only young, we could get into them. We went to watch the bands we wanted to see, The Big Three, Farons Flamingos, even the Merseybeats, but they were what we’d call a girl’s band – pop tunes, but they did used to do stuff like ‘Fortune Teller’ – a good version! Also David Slater, his other uncle used to bring records back from America, what we called in Liverpool a ‘Cunard Yank’! He went away to sea, sailed from Pier Head on Cunard boats that went to New York and brought back copies of American records that I’d never seen before, so yes, it was that mixture then.
As I got to sixteen, I started going to The Sink Club, and The Twisted Wheel in Manchester.
Do you think being in a big city, and a port had influences on music in Liverpool?
Oh yes, and we had a large American airbase near us nearby in Warrington, so that was another source of records as well. The clubs then were The Iron Door, Temple Street, a short walk from Matthew Street. The Iron Door used to have groups on like Steve Aldo, The Chants, The Big Three…endless! Rory Storm and The Hurricanes – one of the best bands I’ve ever seen – their book; ‘From a Storm to a Hurricane’ I’d recommend reading it, loads of anecdotes etc, they had the leather jackets before The Beatles. Rory was a great athlete, but had a stutter when he spoke – but not when he sang – his drummer Trevor went on to be with The Pedlars. I used to work with his sister-in-law, Karen Morais, so she told me he was by then a session musician.
The Cavern was in Matthew Street, afternoon/ordinary sessions and all-nighters, but I also went to The Twisted Wheel all-nighters in Brasenose Street (’65) and Whitworth Street, Manchester….saw Solomon Burke, Stevie Wonder, the V.I.P’s and Millie (amongst others) who’s sadly just passed away.
The Cavern was in an area of warehouses, not far from Clayton Square and Williamson Square, and in the old days they would store fruit and flowers there. Some of my mates still had some of these original old wheel barrows, wheeling flowers and fruit to stores in Liverpool. It was basically an old warehouse with an ‘odd’ smell like fruit had ‘gone off’. As you went down the , vaulted roof. Seen the Soul Sisters, Howlin’ Wolf down there…Howlin’ Wolf nearly blotted the stage out, you couldn’t see anything else for the size of him! – If he said it was Friday on a Monday – it was Friday!!!, if he held a litre bottle of whiskey, it looked like a coke bottle – he was a big fella!
The Mardis Gras was another club further into town. We used to go there Tuesday nights and Thursday nights, they’d have a lot of soul acts on, supposed to have been 21 to get in there, but anyway…
Another local club was Brooklands, in my grandmother’s area, the Huyton area. We used to go there in my mates older brothers sports car, that was where I first heard Fats Domino, ‘It’s Raining’. Although the Cavern had a lot of major artists on, a lot of the music was still British based R’n’B sort of thing….when we went to The Wheel we heard records like ‘Secret Home’ by Willie Mitchell, ‘Coming Home Baby’- Mel Torme, 60’s soul stuff that we’d never heard before then. This was when Roger Eagle was still there, Brian Rae came in around ’66. The Wheel started to change a bit then, being more soul based. At one time it had acts like John Lee Hooker, T-Bone Walker and all that - bands that played like ‘Suzie Q’, Dale Hawkins, Howlin’ Wolf, Buddy Guy – all that type of thing….and then it gradually started off with the early Impressions - ‘It’s Alright’ ‘64/’65 – so it was a mixture of R’n’B and early soul, but towards the mid to late sixties it got nearly all soul orientated then – not as much R’n’B. When the Twisted Wheel shut down, Brian Rae moved to Wigan. We went there once, but it wasn’t for us. We didn’t like the style of the clothes, and baggy trousers!
How did you find the style of the Mod thing itself?
I started going to the Sink before I started going to The Wheel around about ’65. There was another venue, over the water – the Mersey in the Wirral, New Brighton called The Tower Ballroom, they used to have bands like The Dennisons, Clayton Squares - they played R’n’B. I was still like wearing jeans, copying The Yardbirds, Rolling Stones thing and my hair was a little bit longish. Anyway, we went to this Tower Ballroom on the first night, and there was a gang of older lads there, and I thought, ‘Yeh, that’s the way to dress!.’ These lads were about 18,19,20 and they all had like biscuit coloured suits on and slightly back combed hair, polo necked jumpers or some had ties on with desert boots or Comos, flat shoes, with like stitching ‘round, you know, that type, fantastic stuff!
Anyway, I come away from that, and one of me mates older brothers, he’d bought a Reefer coat, so I got one of them, went and got me hair cut properly, by some girl who we knew, with ‘Kossack ’ on, like hair lacquer! Me mates thought I ‘d gone mad!! I had a red polo neck, I’d bought some Hush Puppies and a pair of desert boots, I was absolutely ‘made up’, and I’d be walking down the road, and some of me mates, who were still a bit ‘Beatnick’, they’d be going, ‘What are you doing dressed up like that!?’ And then a couple of other mates had got scooters, that’s how we got into that side of it. I sort of never changed much from then really. I got into wearing suits a bit later, when we were going full on to Whitworth Street, about ’66 when Oscar Tovey Jnr, Billy Stewart, The Vibrations….we used to wear mohair suits…midnight blue, grey, checks stuff like what they wear now, and detachable collars out of Woolies – style 77 it was, and what you’d call military type ties, narrow with the stripe on. But going to the all-nighters, you used to get that bloody hot and sweaty, I went to more of a ‘soul boy’, Levis-type look…a Fred Perry or Ben Sherman with a cardigan, but still have a Crombie or a mac if it was the winter. Sometimes, we would wear baseball boots – not Converse, there was a shop down the backstreets and he used to sell these off-white baseball boots called ‘Ace Flyers’, which we’d wear in the summer. Then this shop opened up which sold ‘Arrow’ shirts from Canada – they were fantastic, I had loads of them in all different checks. I’d still wear my suits if we weren’t going to an all-nighter, going into town or whatever, but at the all-nighter it would be Levi’s or Sta-press with a casual shirt and a cardigan…or a knitted top. Then I got a bit older and I was more of a jacket person then, with knitted tops underneath, a bit like Patrick McGoohan type stuff in The Prisoner.
How and when did you start to collect records?
Probably around ’64…started buying a lot of Mersey stuff – The Dennison’s, still got me London copy of Green Onions, albums; Sam Cooke, John Mayall, one of the first albums I bought was Inez and Charlie Fox. The thing about it all, I still turn back to the early R’n’B, and still like a bit of soul stuff, I think what it is, a lot of the 60’s soul, I don’t get into that so much now, maybe because I’d heard it so many times, like the northern stuff, the top 500…, nothing wrong with it, but I like to push the boat out a bit these days these days…and rediscovering bands like The Action, who were probably under-appreciated at the time..and what a voice; Reg King, one the great white soul voices of all time!
The album that really got me going was John Mayall, ‘Live at Klooks Kleek’…the only thing he didn’t write on that album was ‘Night Train’! Great guitar solos by Roger Dean..1963/64…this album is like a bible to me – means everything! Manfred Man was another influential alblum, The Stones, I thought they were alright, but by then I’d bought the Pye Golden Guinea from America, a lot of what The ‘Stones were covering, but I liked The ‘Stones… A bit later, when I was about 18, I’d buy and sell records as well so I could afford more records and buy my scooter…sacrilege, but it’s what I did.
Tell us about a bit later Stan...
The Wheel had closed, it got to the early 70’s. The 70’s didn’t suit me much. I went in 1971 to work in the Channel Islands where I met my wife May, who is from Liverpool as well! After that we went to Switzerland, but that was terrible, because it was so expensive we couldn’t afford to go out! After another short spell in Jersey in about 1975 we come back and bought a house in the Kensington area, not far from where Edward’s record shop was, The Sink had shut down by then and Neal English had moved on. Then we had our kids….1979. Music wasn’t really in my life as much as it had been then and I didn’t buy any of the Mod Revival stuff, it was good, saw a lot of the bands…but I had the original records, I didn’t need to buy any of the revival stuff. I bought the odd thing, but it’d only be from the 60’s, that I didn’t have before, like ‘Otis – Blue’. I would say that apart from being slightly different music, it was exactly the same as the early to mid 60’s…youth culture. The thing about The Specials and all that was, they were ‘less remote’ than Mick Jagger and all that crowd. And even some of the punk outfits were the same, Roger Eagle went to Eric’s, that was a spell I missed out on in a way, because we were having the kids, but that was a good sub-culture.
The other thing about the Two-Tone period, which kicked off in Coventry, was, it got a lot of groups more racial harmony back together, which was the difference between some other clubs and The Sink…The Sink was full of mixed race people going there in the 60’s, which is another reason I liked it, because a lot of me mates went there. If you went to other clubs in town, you’d get a bit of animosity between the north end of Liverpool the Scott Road area, and the black people from the south end – scuffles and fights going on.. I also did get into the Northern scene though – a bit, in the 80’s.
How did you get into DJ-ing Stan?
During that period of the 60’s there was another club that we frequented now and then called The Peppermint Lounge – a great name for a club nowadays, the name has a great 60’s feel about it….anyway, there was a restaurant area down below called Samson & Barlows, and up above in The Peppermint lounge, a room which held a couple of hundred at a push a with a stage, where I’ve seen Wynder K Frog – everyone on there at one point, anyway me mate – Frank Moran, who was a shoe repairer by day, but he used to dj in some of the Liverpool clubs at night, he was a Wheel regular like us, but he had a bigger collection than me, and he’d be upstairs above the room on the stage….when he went for a ciggie break, I used to take over and play a few tunes out of his box. One time he went off, and was gone ages. I found out later he’d gone downstairs to watch Little Richard, which I missed, but got longer on the decks!
I then used to do a few occasional things, and a few parties because I still didn’t have a huge record collection at that time. In the mid to late 80’s, when I ran a few kids football teams, I’d do charity do’s a bit of Motown, and that was when I went to a few Northern do’s, really the Northern scene had never gone away, there weren’t any soul clubs really then, a few Mod do’s, but they were a bit predictable….The Who and all that y’know.
Moving on the the late 80’s/90’s…a lot of activity on the Northern scene, I’d go out to the clubs, they didn’t play any of the British, Georgie Fame, R’n’B or any of that, the stuff that I’m into more – I started then. There’s a guy Dave Callister – Moove and Groove…dj’d there a few times….the lads had suits on and all that, Carl Boddy and him ran it….also went to The Ritz all-nighter in Manchester. Anyway, that went on for about 8 years or so, and I’d started collecting a bit again by then, buying stuff I didn’t have, ‘What you Gonna Do’ – The Ikettes, which I love, I still play that, all that type of stuff. Anyway, Pete Roberts, Manchester, he got hold of The Twisted Wheel building, around ‘98/’99…..The Hideaway (Mike Warburton) was already up and running, been there a few times, I knew Mike, he used to go to the Move and Groove night….and playing 60’s soul at The Dolphin pub in Liverpool in the mid 80’s…anyway – The Twisted Wheel - I didn’t know Pete then, we got chatting, and he was asking about my record collection, anyway, I dj’d in The Wheel quite a few times….round about then I met this guy called Pat Costigan, and I got a phone call off him asking to have a word with me about The Sink club. We got hold of the building, which was ‘The Magnet’ at the time and more or less in tandem with what The Wheel was doing, we started a revival night at The Sink. We ran that then till about 2006/7, when the building was sold, so we lost it for a couple of years. Then we went to another club called The Casa, which was alright, but never the same as The Magnet was the original venue…then we got it back again till 2010, we lost it again till 2015…..I then went to a club called The Cabin, bands on downstairs…we played all kinds of stuff, but the beauty of it was, it got me back into playing more British R’n’B, and collecting more than I didn’t have. There should be more dj’s on the scene playing British R’n’B now….
When we first ran The Sink, it would be Howlin’ Wolf, Fats Domino, ‘You don’t know what love is’…first few years we had it we played Coco Taylor and all that type of thing, we played the early Motown, like ‘Going to a Go-Go’….and then the second time, I was djing as a guest at other
Clubs, and then I retired from work, and then in 2015 they turned the Magnet into a comedy club.
Went to Thailand for a few weeks, to stay with a mate over there after I retired. When I got back, it was weird, about a week later a mate of mine Tony Brookes, he told me that we could get The Sink back. The first Sunday afternoon, we had 250 in!!!! – hanging off the bloody ceiling!
As the owner was shutting down the venue again, word got round and we had about 6 clubs after us to put on the Sunday afternoon, with a crowd of 250, all buying booze, and no trouble.
We finally moved to HeeBeeGeeBee;s, a basement, bigger than The Magnet, all arches inside, a fabulous, an old Jazz club - and we’ve never looked back…..people come over from all over, making a weekend of it.”
Liverpool has a very healthy scene today, with a vibrant night life.
Thanks Stan for your time and a great interview.....