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

Faron's Flamingos

Faron was born William Faron Ruffley in Andrew Street, Liverpool, on 8th January 1942 - his middle name reputedly being taken from a Cherokee Indian name from his family's past. His father was a session musician who also played with the Ted Heath Band. As a child Faron attended Gladys Street Primary School, followed by Stanley Park School in Priory Road, where he became school captain. He was also to become a member of the choir at St Luke's Church and Chester Cathedral.

Faron's first group was called 'The Odd Spots' and the members were Brian Day and Billy Dunning on guitars with Faron on tea chest bass and guitar. The group managed to record some numbers on a double-sided 10" HMV Acetate in 1960. Side one was the number 'She Had To Go And Lose It At The Astor' and Side two featured 'Danger Ahead', 'La Vie En Rose' and 'You Won't Be Satisfied'. Faron also played in a duo alongside another of his friends, Ged Harper. In 1959 he joined Johnny Tempest & The Tornadoes as vocalist and rhythm guitarist. The other members of the band were Johnny Tempest, vocals; Rod Cameron, drums; Lance Railton, lead; Wally Shepherd, bass and Dave Gore, also rhythm. Then, when Tempest (who was to die of a brain tumour at the age of 21) and Cameron left, Faron was asked to become lead singer and front man for the group, although he was initially reluctant to do so. Don Alcyd joined on drums and the group now called themselves Faron & The Tempest Tornadoes.

Faron's Flamingos In January 1961 Faron left the band to join Gerry & The Pacemakers on their eight-week trip to Hamburg to appear at the Top Ten Club and he was replaced by vocalist Earl Preston, the band becoming Earl Preston & The T.T's. Due to a dispute in Hamburg, Faron's partnership with Gerry ended and he returned to Liverpool and became compere at Blair Hall for promoter Wally Hill. He then formed Faron's Flamingos, with himself on vocals, Paddy Chambers on lead, Nicky Crouch on guitar/vocals, Mushy Cooper on bass and Trevor Morais on drums. Mushy left to join The Renegades and Faron's Flamingos began to build a big following locally, with Faron taking on bass and vocals. After a gig at Holyoake Hall, compere Bob Wooler, who had suggested the name 'Faron's Flamingos' in the first place, was chatting to Faron and Nicky in the bus shelter at Penny Lane and coined the phrase 'the panda-footed prince of prance' to describe Faron.

The group had appeared in American military bases in France and the 227th Service Club was renamed 'The Flamingo Club' in their honour. The Flamingos had the potential to become a major act. Thom Keyes travelled with them to gigs for a time and based his book 'All Night Stand' on the experience. They were managed by Jim Turner and Mersey Beat predicted big things for them. They had the opportunity when they recorded a blistering version of 'Do You Love Me', but Oriole Records relegated it to the flipside, thus destroying the group's chances of a successful recording career. Oriole just couldn't compete with the majors in terms of financial muscle, promotion and song-pluggers. After their arrangement of 'Do You Love Me' hurtled Brian Poole & The Tremeloes and The Dave Clarke Five into the big time, the disillusioned Flamingos decided to call it a day. Ironically, by 1970, the Flamingos version of 'Do You Love Me' had sold 250,000 copies and earned a silver disc.

Johnny Hutchinson of The Big Three then hired Faron and Nicky to join him, although they weren't very happy to be just paid a wage rather than participate in any division of earnings and Paddy was to leave after four months and eventually became a member of Paddy,Klaus & Gibson. Paul Pilnick then replaced him, but success didn't come their way and Faron left in 1964 to form a new Flamingos. In 1967 he decided to take a break and became the entertainment officer at Huntley & Palmer's where he remained until 1976 when he decided to re-form Faron's Flamingos, initially playing in a 'heavy metal' style.

He was then approach by Vic Wright, former leader of Vic & The Spidermen, who asked him to join him for gigs in France. Faron agreed and disbanded the group, although things in France weren't as straightforward as he thought and they ended up broke on the Cote d'Azure. Faron recalled, "It was tough going at first, especially as the clubs were booking bands that played Brazilian type music and many a day's meal consisted of only bread and jam. But we got some gigs as a duo, eventually adding a drum machine and worked in Nice, Cannes and Monte Carlo. Then Pete Campbell and Dave Harris joined us from England and we eventually worked up to three clubs per night, five days a week. Places such as The Frog and The Bastille were packed out when we appeared, and we got more bookings as a result. Suddenly, after we had been in Corsica for some gigs, I got homesick so I broke off and came back to England".

Incidentally, Faron married a girl from Corsica. When he returned to France several weeks later he found that Vic was doing fine with a duo, as Dave had also left. Faron then teamed up with a Blues pianist known as Ross and they were joined by a French drummer and an American guitarist with Faron playing bass. They adopted the name Blue Suede and had a year full of gigs, including an appearance before 20,000 people at a festival near Monte Carlo on a bill with The Kinks and The Pretenders. He was now living in both Cannes and Monte Carlo and appeared in a movie as a member of a Punk group involved with the Mafia and had his own hour-long show on French radio. Faron felt that this was the most successful period of his life, but had to return home to Liverpool due to his mother's illness. He formed another band with Brian Jones, former member of The Undertakers, on sax, Oggy Owen on bass, Jockey Wilson on drums and Dennis Collins on lead guitar. Back home he began appearing regularly at gigs all over Merseyside, engaging different musicians in the various Faron's Flamingos line-ups. Between 3rd and 14th May 1985, when the famous Mersey river ferry 'Royal Iris' moved to a new berth on the Thames adjacent to HMS Belfast, several Mersey groups performed on the ferry, including Faron's Flamingos, The Undertakers and Lee Curtis & The All Stars.

In 1992, at the age of 50, he suffered a heart attack and spent some time in Ormskirk General Hospital. By the time he was 60 he had suffered five heart attacks and had to have a quadruple heart bypass. A stroke left him unable to speak for six weeks and he also had both hips replaced, with metal replacements for some bones in his leg and toes. He recalled, "I've been dead three times and they've brought me back. Now I'm a born-again Christian and I firmly believe there is a God, I've been up there and seen the light".
He had spent years performing on Merseyside for numerous Merseycats functions, raising tens of thousands of pounds for local children's hospitals. Sadly, doctors advised him he could no longer perform again. He is currently writing his autobiography.

Faron's Flamingos
Faron Ruffley

Faron with Paul McCartney
in the Tower Ballroom, Brighton, Autumn 1961
Faron's Flamingos

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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