Sixties City presents a wide-ranging series of articles on all aspects of the Sixties, penned by the creator of the iconic 60s music paper  Mersey Beat

The Undertakers

The Undertakers
A leading Sixties Liverpool group that was formed from Bob Evans & The Five Shillings (at one time known as Bob’s Vegas Five). Bob Evans, on vocals/drums was responsible for changing the group's name to The Undertakers and, by 1961, they were appearing almost seven nights a week at venues including the OPB (Orrell Park Ballroom), the Jive Hive, Riverpark Ballroom, the Majestic, Bowaters and the Shell Club. The other members were Jimmy McManus (vocals), Chris Huston (lead), Dave Cooper (bass), Geoff Nugent (solo guitar) and Brian Jones (alto/tenor).

They began their performances, dressed in black, playing a rendition of the ‘Death March.’ Initially they had nicknames: Chris was Shine, George was Trad, Davy was Mush, Brian was Boots, Jimmy was Spam and Bob was Big Bow. Bugs Pemberton joined in September 1962, when Bob Evans entered hospital for an operation, and by that time Jackie Lomax, known as Max, had also joined.

The band was influenced by Fats Domino, Carl Perkins and Chuck Berry, although Chris commented: “We have often been accused of copying The Beatles. I admit that at first we were tempted to imitate their style but now we have a style of our own which is completely original.”

They made their second trip to Germany in January 1963, to spend five weeks at the Star Club, and were known in Hamburg as Die Totengraber (The Gravediggers).
The group appeared on numerous bills with The Beatles, including ‘Operation Big Beat 3’ at the Tower Ballroom on Friday 29th June 1962. They also appeared with them at the Rialto Ballroom on Thursday 11th October 1962 in a ‘Rock & Twist Spectacular,’ which was part of the ballroom’s thirty-fifth anniversary celebrations and again, the following day, on the Tower Ballroom bill topped by Little Richard.

Groups knew what music youngsters wanted to hear but A&R men in London, some of them with no experience of how to appeal to teenagers, insisted on telling the groups what to record. The Undertakers signed to Pye and were under the wing of a leading A&R man, Tony Hatch. However, although they wanted ‘Mashed Potatoes’ to be the A-side of their debut disc, the record company made it the B side.

They next wanted ‘Money’ to be the‘A’ side of their second release, but the company relegated it as the B side to ‘What About Us?’.
A Southern group, Bern Elliott & The Fenmen, heard the Searchers playing ‘Money’ and recorded it, resulting in a chart hit for them. Hatch then said that they could choose their own A-side and they picked ‘Just A Little Bit’, which entered the Top 50.

They weren’t pleased when Pye instructed them to change their image, drop the undertakers’ dress and coffin-shaped amplifiers and prune their name to the ‘Takers. They recorded ‘If you Don’t Come Back’ but once the sales had started to move, the annual holiday for the record plant intervened and no more copies were pressed, making it impossible for it to have any chart placing.
The Undertakers

The Undertakers
Disillusioned, they tried their luck in America, although Geoff Nugent remained in Liverpool. Unreleased material by the group from that time included ‘Hold On, I’m A-Comin’’, ‘My Babe’, ‘Watch Your Step’ and ‘What’s So Good About Goodbye?’ However, an excellent 21-track CD ‘The Undertakers Unearthed’ was issued on Big Beat UK on 1st January 1996.

Jackie Lomax went on to become an Apple artist but didn’t find success on record and moved to Los Angeles where he lives, records and performs, although he returned to Liverpool in August and September 2006 for a series of Undertakers reunion performances. His most recent album is ‘The Ballad of Liverpool Slim.’ Chris became a successful record producer, later began designing recording studios and is now living in Nashville.

Brian Jones went on to play with various bands, including Gary Glitter’s Glitter Band, although reports that he played on ‘You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)’ on the B side of The Beatles’ ‘Let It Be’ are untrue – that was Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones.

Geoff Nugent still appears on Merseyside leading Geoff Nugent’s Undertakers…and thereby hangs a tale. Another group, without a single member of the original outfit, now has the rights to the name 'The Undertakers'. Geoff Nugent challenged them in court, but even though he is an original member of the group, he lost the case and has to call his band Geoff Nugent’s Undertakers!

Mersey Beat Magazine Bill Harry attended the Liverpool College of Art with Stuart Sutcliffe and John Lennon and made the arrangements for Brian Epstein to visit The Cavern, where he saw The Beatles for the first time. Bill was a member of 'The Dissenters' and the founder and editor of 'Mersey Beat', the iconic weekly music newspaper that documented the early Sixties music scene in the Liverpool area and is possibly best known for being the first periodical to feature a local band called 'The Beatles'. He has worked as a high powered publicist, doing PR for acts such as Suzi Quatro, Free, The Arrows and Hot Chocolate and has managed press campaigns for record labels such as CBS, EMI, Polydor. Bill is the critically acclaimed author of a large number of books about The Beatles and the 60s era including 'The Beatles Who's Who', 'The Best Years of the Beatles' and the Fab Four's 'Encyclopedia' series. He has appeared on 'Good Morning America' and has received a Gold Award from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors.

Article Text Bill Harry               Original Graphics SixtiesCity     Other individual owner copyrights may apply to Photographic Images

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