Johnny Gentle and the Silver Beetles

Johnny Gentle and the Silver Beetles

Photo of Johnny Gentle and George Harrison when the Silver Beetles were touring NE Scotland as Johnny’s back up band in 1960. Prior to 1960, the only “beetles” that people spoke about in Forres was the “Beetle Drive and social evening” that took place there in April 1959. There was a “special prize for the best drawing of a Beetle” though none of them resembled John, Paul, or George…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=irDcoXGaAsY [Silver Beetles audio] In 1960, The Beatles were  about the business of writing their on tunes and lyrics though a tour with Johnny Gentle was an early opportunity after a failed audition to back Billy Fury. “During the Scottish tour, Johnny Gentle (real name, Darren Young) played Lennon one of his songs in progress, “I’ve Just Fallen For Someone”, and claims that Lennon put forth a few suggested lyrics, which were kept in. If this is accurate, the song is technically a co-write. The track did come out as a single a couple of years later (on Parlophone), but Lennon was not credited. It was released under the name Darren Young, rather than Johnny Gentle.” https://earlybeatlessongs.weebly.com/1960.html The week before, Barnes got top billing on the advert though Johnny Gentle had performed on “Oh Boy” in ’59: “Keith – St. Thomas’ Hall on Wednesday, 25 May – ‘”Outstanding Double Attraction Rikki Barnes and his All Stars Johnny Gentle and his Group – The Great T.V. “Oh Boy” and “Wham” star”‘. Johnny Gentle with “Rikki Barnes” 1960: Johnny Gentle appeared on British television in the UK’s “Oh Boy” but didn’t managed a hit record at the time. “North-East Dances” operated by Bert Ewen and Hilda May, brought the tour to Fraserburgh, Keith, Nairn, and Peterhead who secured the dates through Duncan Mackinnon. In The Beatles In Scotland, Ken McNap notes that “Duncan was so unimpressed with the Beetles that he asked Parnes to throw them off the tour”. Bert was a baker known as “the Bapper”. He and Hilda “were exquisite dancers, taking their portable gramophone around local halls and getting people to dance… The pair were in their 40’s when they put on Johnny Gentle and the Beatles. Sax player Rikki Barnes whose group supported on some of the dates, recalls Bert Ewen as ‘a very nice guy – and, for the music business, a gentleman’.” The Beatles – All These Years – Vol.1 By Mark Lewison. The program was subcontracted through Duncan MacKinnon’s “Border Dances”. According to Chris Wemyss [macarts.scot] the musicians used a vehicle owned by MacKinnon to tour in north-east Scotland. It is documented that the vehicle driven was involved in a collision in Banff in route to Fraserburg. Johnny Gentle was top billing in the second advert in Keith’s local paper but according to Ken McNab, Rikki’s Rock & Roll style was more popular with the locals.  
Paul reflects on first Scottish tour in 1960 Sunday Times 1996 McCartney mulls over memories https://www.thetimes.co.uk/subscribe/

When John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison performed in Fraserburgh as the Silver Beetles during the Johnny Gentle tour, they were making an impression with Scottish girls who were enthusiastic and excitedly tore George’s new shirt [guys wore matching black clothes] after their performance in Fraserburg. https://scotbeat.wordpress.com/2014/05/26/the-silver-beetles-in-fraserburgh/

“I remember a wonderful afternoon playing in the sand dunes in Fraserburg” Paul McCartney mulls over memories [Wayne Wilson’s interview published Sep/1996 in Ecosse, Sunday Times]  Sir Paul McCartney, in response to Wayne Wilson’s statement, “We don’t hear about Scotland, that first tour.” said, “Well, it was so long ago, and I suppose we kind of got famous after Hamburg. Not a lot of people knew about us before then, so this is kind of pre-history. But we loved it and was invaluable experience for us because, after than, we knew it was no breeze, you had to work hard and you had to sort out where the money was coming from. It taught us a lot of lessons. But the audiences were great, they were wild and woolly often. I’ve always loved Scotland and I still have a great affection for the place. My only great disappointment was that I could never find my tartan…. And, of course John had a particular affection through his days in the crofts that he never lost. I know we always loved the spirit of the whole thing.” [Paul McCartney]. Their set-list at the time included a series of cover tunes: It Doesn’t Matter Anymore [Buddy Holly], Raining in My Heart [Buddy Holly], I Need Your Love Tonight [Elvis Presley], Poor Little Fool [Ricky Nelson], I Don’t Know Why But I Do [Clarence Henry], C’mon Everybody [Eddie Cochran], He’ll Have To Go [Jim Reeves]. http://www.setlist.fm/setlist/the-beatles/1960/st-thomas-church-hall-keith-scotland-6bddd666.html List of cover songs the Silver Beetles performed: http://wogew.blogspot.com/2013/11/when-silver- beatles-became-beatles.html) Cameron McKinnonNorthern Borders Dance promotions subcontracted Johnny Gentle after contracting him through Larry Parnes. Another of Parson’s acts, Vince Eager, appeared in Scotland a week later.

gent3
Signed print of Johnny Gentle who toured Scotland in May 1960 [thanks Steve Smith]
Brian Mckenna says:

Brian McKenna: “First class view of happened back then; I was (un?)reliably informed that the Silver Beetles had stopped in Dundee on that tour and were trying to do a gig – after parting ways with Johnny Gentle – but the promoter was insistent that they have a front man, that being a typical line-up, drums, rhythm, lead, bass and a lead singer in those days.

Since Gentle was not around, they found a local singer stage name ‘Dean Travis’ – who had been both to Liverpool, briefly and then onto Germany as a lead singer for a Liverpool group – and had Dean look at the band.

Dean, who was a little/lot worse for the wear, he was an alcoholic from an early age, looked at the Beetles as they played a couple of numbers and summarily dismissed them, citing the reasons that they were ‘scruffy and unprofessional’ one of them even having the temerity to smoke on the stage.

Dean then went back to his pub and proceeded to have a few (more) drinks before he staggered off to HIS next gig. I don’t know how true this is because Dean himself has very little recollection of that event as was standard for him at that time.

Who knows where it would have gone from there for a lad from Dundee…”

Note: If correct, his would likely have been just after the Peterhead gig as the Silver Beetles were returning to Liverpool for a gig on the 30th of May, 1960. https://www.scotsman.com/news/peterhead-scene-of-a-truly-electric-performance-by-sir-paul-1-796880

[McCartney mulls over memories: published interview in a Sunday Times Ecosse 22Sep/1996]

“First class view of happened back then; I was informed that the Silver Beetles had stopped in Dundee on that tour and were trying to do a gig – after parting ways with Johnny Gentle – but the promoter was insistent that they have a front man, that being a typical line-up, drums, rhythm, lead, bass and a lead singer in those days.

Since Gentle was not around, they found a local singer stage name ‘Dean Travis’ – who had been both to Liverpool, briefly and then onto Germany as a lead singer for a Liverpool group – and had Dean look at the band.

Dean, who was a little/lot worse for the wear, he was an alcoholic from an early age, looked at the Beetles as they played a couple of numbers and summarily dismissed them, citing the reasons that they were ‘scruffy and unprofessional’ one of them even having the temerity to smoke on the stage.

Dean then went back to his pub and proceeded to have a few (more) drinks before he staggered off to HIS next gig. I don’t know how true this is because Dean himself has very little recollection of that event as was standard for him at that time.

Who knows where it would have gone from there for a lad from Dundee…”

About

SCOTBEAT and http://bonici.wordpress.com includes photos and documents from the Bonici Archives with permission from the Bonici family [PC Holding Co]. You may contact me at dillsdavid@yahoo.co.uk for consent in using images for media projects. Am currently updating http://djdills.wordpress.com with original new collages. #collageart #beatmusic #popmusic #1960smusic

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Posted in 1960's pop music
8 comments on “Johnny Gentle and the Silver Beetles
  1. brian mckenna says:

    First class view of happened back then; I was (un?)reliably informed that the Silver Beetles had stopped in Dundee on that tour and were trying to do a gig – after parting ways with Johnny Gentle – but the promoter was insistent that they have a front man, that being a typical lineup, drums, rhythm, lead, bass and a lead singer in those days.

    Since Gentle was not around, they found a local singer stage name ‘Dean Travis’ – who had been both to Liverpool, briefly and then onto Germany as a lead singer for a Liverpool group – and had Dean look at the band.

    Dean, who was a little/lot worse for the wear, he was an alcoholic from an early age, looked at the Beetles as they played a couple of numbers and summarily dismissed them, citing the reasons that they were ‘scruffy and unprofessional’ one of them even having the temerity to smoke on the stage.

    Dean then went back to his pub and proceeded to have a few (more) drinks before he staggered off to HIS next gig. I don’t know how true this is because Dean himself has very little recollection of that event as was standard for him at that time.

    Who knows where it would have gone from there for a lad from Dundee…

  2. […] Besides meeting John Ruggeri, the nephew of Elgin promoter Albert Bonici, [who permitted me to explore artefacts from the ’60s Scottish music scene], I met Stan Williams in Fraserburgh who has done much to record the era of the Silver Beetles besides his early childhood memories of John Lennon. When I met Stan in downtown Fraserburgh [2007], the Febuary -March British Beatles Magazine were on the news stand and Mr. Williams was kind enough to buy me copies which featured his two-part article about John, Paul, and George’s early experiences together in Scotland [though John visited the north of Scotland several times as a child]. https://scotbeat.wordpress.com/2014/02/21/johnny-gentle-and-the-silver-beetles/ […]

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