Here I am at the crematorium and cemetery where Rory Storm was cremated and is now spread in the form of ashes. His real name was Alan Caldwell but he changed this by deed poll to Rory Storm when he was lead singer of The Hurricanes. They were a hugely popular band on the Liverpool and Hamburg club scenes and The Beatles might never have happened due to this group. Ringo was the drummer and George Harrison tried to join but was too young (“perhaps when you’re a bit older”.)
Rory was born in Stoneycroft, Liverpool to working class parents. He had one sister who must have had a thing for musicians – she dated George Harrison when she was 12 Paul McCartney when she was 17 and later married Alvin Stardust. He was active, playing football, skating and swimming (once swimming the 12.5-mile length of Windermere) but he loved running and ran for a couple of amateur harriers. Later when the group was doing well and playing concerts around Liverpool he would prefer to run home.
He had a stutter which was so bad his friends didn’t allow him to order a round of drinks as it took too long. Through the day he was a cotton salesman and in the evenings played in a skiffle group. He was in a few temporary groups often playing songs before the Quarrymen (who later became The Beatles. George Harrison asked if he could join his group but Rory’s mum considered him too young. He met Ringo Starr at a talent contest and he became the drummer.
He was still called Alan but the band appeared at Butlin’s holiday resort in 1960 and had a poster made which announced him as “Storm and the Hurricanes”. He changed his name officially to Rory Storm. The group started gaining notoriety around the North West. When he was still only 21 the group entered a talent competition "Search for Stars" at the Liverpool Empire Theatre and came second out of 150 acts. Rory and his group were the first ever group to perform rock and roll at The Cavern club. They were supporting jazz group and Rory got up on the piano and performed “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On”. The jazz audience booed and threw so many coins at him it covered the fine imposed on them by The Cavern's manager.
Aged 22 Rory’s group became the resident group at Butlin’s holiday resort in Pwllheli playing in the Rock 'n' Calypso Ballroom for a huge for £25 each per week (now £530). Ringo Starr was still working at a company making climbing frames for schools and wasn’t sure about giving it up for music but Rory gave him a singing solo spot and said the women would be flocking around.
Rory’s group went to play in Hamburg with The Beatles (who were lower down on the bill) each playing five 90-minute sets every day. During their eight-week residency in Germany they went to a recording session. Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison from the Beatles sang harmonies. This was the first time Ringo played for The Beatles; their drummer Pete Best was out buying drumsticks so Ringo played.
In March 1961 the group were back in England and invited for a season at the Butlin’s, Skegness. Ringo left the group to join The Beatles as they were paying £25 a week, £5 more than he was earning. Rory didn’t hold grudges and both groups performed on the same bill regularly. He advised Ringo (then Richard Starkey) to change his name as it wasn’t jazzy enough.
Though Rory wore extravagant clothes, drove flashy cars and thrived under the spotlight (his stutter disappeared on stage) he was deeply insecure. He craved attention. At a concert at the Majestic Ballroom in Birkenhead he tried to climb the column supporting the balcony and fell 9 metres. At a New Brighton Pier gig he climbed onto the roof and fell though the skylight. It’s well known that a new dude making his mark called Rod Stewart stole Rory’s big blonde hair, stage moves and cheeky-chappie persona.
Though he was a charismatic live performer the group were always on the cusp of success without actually getting it. The songs weren’t catchy enough and though the Beatles and Gerry and The Pacemakers secured recording contracts The Hurricanes didn’t. Rory had to deal with Beatlemania on a daily basis.
Aged 29 the band tapered off due to a lack of hits. Rory sought treatment for his speech problem and became a disc jockey for the next few years. At 34 life tapered off. Rory was working as a disk jockey in Amsterdam when he heard his dad had died. He returned home devastated. One night he couldn’t sleep and washed down sleeping pills with whisky and died of an overdose. His mum found him a few hours later, suffered a heart attack and died on the spot from shock. A post mortem determined that Rory had not taken enough pills to kill himself but, mixed with the whisky, they’d sent him over the edge.
The service and cremated was carried out at Ainfield Crematorium where I’m stood. I visited one Saturday afternoon. There was a football match on at Ainfield Stadium and the roads and pavements were packed we people heading to the ground. Many were walking through the cemetery so I had a coffee and sandwich and waited for them to pass through.
I stood outside the crematorium and then, with map in hand, walked about six minutes to section 23 of the Church Of England plot where someone sprinkled Rory’s ashes (not sure if his mum was cremated at the same time.)
At the crematorium. Note Ringo Starr stood on the left.
The entrance to the crematorium…
In section 23 where Rory’s ashes were sprinkled…
The walk from the crematorium on the left to section 23 of the C of E took just a few minutes…