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 Fourmost

The Fourmost and Brian Epstein
Brian (Owie) O'Hara and Joey Bowers originally teamed up as The Two Jays at the age of thirteen, performing for a season at the Isle of Man. They were joined by Billy Hatton and Brian Redman and, in September 1959, called themselves The Four Jays. Owie played lead, Billy was on bass, Joey on guitar and Brian on drums. The three guitarists also vocalised. The group had a rock/jazz/comedy act, but each member was pursuing a career and initially decided to remain semi-pro. Joey turned down an offer to join Jan Ralfini’s Band at the Locarno, Billy turned down the opportunity of backing his friend Billy Fury, Owie the offer of joining a television group and Brian a position with the Nat Allen Band.

As the Four Jays, they appeared regularly at the Cavern with The Beatles and were the special guests on a Beatles Fan Club night on Thursday 5th April 1962. By mid-1962 an argument resulted in Joey leaving the group and Mike Millward, former member of Bob Evans and The Five Shillings replaced him. Redman left the group for three months to play in Hamburg on the assurance that his position with the group was safe, but on his return Owie told him they’d decided to keep his replacement, Dave Lovelady.

Later that year the group changed its name to The Four Mosts, having learned that a Southern group called the Four Jays was managed by London impresario Lou Prager. By the time Brian Epstein signed them on 30th June 1963, their line-up had settled at Mike Millward, Billy Hatton, Brian O’Hara and Dave Lovelady.

According to Dave, they were the second group that Brian Epstein had approached with a view to managing them. He asked them to turn professional, but they turned him down, preferring to remain semi-professional. He made them a management offer three times and it was only after Gerry and The Pacemakers and Billy J. Kramer had their initial chart hits that they decided to sign with NEMS. Following his usual practice, Epstein placed them with George Martin, but they found they had no original material strong enough for them to record. Owie asked John Lennon if he had a number he could give them and John told him he had one that he’d written while sitting on the toilet. When they appeared with The Beatles at the Queen’s Theatre, Blackpool on 4th August 1963, John told them that the number they could have was called ‘Hello Little Girl’, which he’d penned in his teens and had included in the group’s repertoire since 1958.

The Fourmost The Beatles had also recorded it at their Decca and Parlophone recording auditions. John was to say: “This was one of the first songs I ever finished. I was then about 18 and we gave it to The Fourmost. I think it was the first song of my own that I ever attempted to do with the group.” He also commented that it was loosely based on a couple of old standards which his mother used to sing to him when he was a small child and was an attempt to capture the mood of those songs written in the 1930s.

Billy Hatton told Mersey Beat: “We arranged to go to John Lennon’s house, and they gave us a copy of the words. We hadn’t heard the number before, and George and John gave us a rough idea of it by taping the tune. We received the tape at 4 o’clock on Monday morning. As we had to record on the following Wednesday, we had two days in which to make an arrangement good enough to put on disc. As a matter of fact, when we were recording, we were just learning the song as we went along and were tremendously encouraged by A&R man George Martin.”

‘Hello Little Girl’ reached No. 9 in the British charts. Their next release was unusual in that it was a Lennon and McCartney number that the Beatles hadn’t used on an album and was written specifically for The Fourmost. A romantic number called ‘I’m In Love’; it reached No.17 in the British charts. They appeared in The Beatles Christmas Show at the Finsbury Park Astoria in North London in December 1963, during which they performed ‘Hello Little Girl’. The group was arguably the very first Beat group to perform impressions.

Dave Lovelady was to comment: “We did them long before the Barron Knights and the Rockin’ Berries.” The Finsbury Park audience were given an opportunity to see this side of The Fourmost as Brian O’Hara sang ‘White Christmas’, during which he did impressions of Elvis Presley, Gracie Fields, Adam Faith, Dean Martin – and The Beatles. They issued an EP called ‘The Fourmost Sound’ and appeared in the film ‘Ferry ‘Cross the Mersey’, with their NEMS stablemates Gerry and The Pacemakers and Cilla Black.

Their biggest hit, ‘A Little Loving’, which reached No.6 in the charts, wasn’t by Lennon and McCartney. The Fourmost had gone to Dick James to ask him if he had a number for them to record and he played them several tracks that didn’t excite them.
The Fourmost

Then James remembered a song that had come in that morning’s post. He played them the demo of ‘A Little Loving’, written by Juliet Mills’s husband, Russell Alquist, and although Owie hated it, the others liked the number enough to vote it in as their next single.
They had three remaining hits in their career, ‘How Can I Tell Her?’ ‘Baby I Need Your Lovin’’ and ‘Girls Girls Girls’, but they were never to have a hit in America.

From 13th May 1964 they were booked to appear for a four-month season at the London Palladium on a bill with Frankie Vaughan, Cilla Black and Tommy Cooper.
It was so popular that the run was extended until December. Sadly, just before the Palladium season began, Mike Millward became seriously ill with leukaemia and needed radium treatment. He had to enter Clattterbridge Hospital in the Wirral, where he died.

A special show, ‘A Night for Mike’, was presented at Liverpool’s Grafton Ballroom on Tuesday 5th April 1966. Mike’s place was filled by a number of different Liverpool musicians over a period of time, including Georgie Peckham, Ian Edwards and Frank Bowen. Eventually, Joey Bowers, an original founder member of the band, returned to the fold.

The band continued appearing in cabaret during the 1970s, but split in 1978. Three of the members – Joey Bowers, Billy Hatton and Dave Lovelady – teamed up with Joey’s wife to form a quartet called Clouds, which performed on a semi-pro basis in Liverpool clubs until 1993. Owie found three other musicians and continued performing for a time and then sold them the name The Fourmost for a reputed £1000. He was said to have regretted it. The group then appearing as The Fourmost had no association with the original hit makers and was locally referred to, with typical Scouse humour, as the Fraudmost or the Four Almost.

Where are they now? Mike Millward died of leukaemia in 1966. Billy Hatton still lives in Liverpool, is now retired and has completed his autobiography. Together with original members Joey and Dave, he occasionally performs as The Original Fourmost because a group who had no association with the hit band now owns their original name. Joey Bowers lives in Crosby, Merseyside, is now retired and, apart from appearances with the original Fourmost, occasionally plays bass with local bands, sometimes alongside his former band mate Dave Lovelady in Vince Earl’s group, in addition to various charity concert appearances.
The Fourmost

Dave Lovelady also lives in Crosby and is still an active drummer, playing in the Stevie Hodge Band, a country rock group, and also backs singer Vince Earl (Ron Dixon of ‘Brookside’), in addition to appearances with the original Fourmost. Brian O Hara, sadly, hung himself on 17th June 1999. The coroner reported that he had committed suicide due to depression over financial problems. Georgie Peckham has lived in London since the 1960s and ran his own successful studio, Porkys Prime Cut Studios, but has now retired.

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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