McCartney Times

Bob Wooler

Bob Wooler

Bob Wooler
April 26
08:44 2017

Bob Wooler

By Bill Harry

You had to be actually there, witness to the Liverpool scene in the late fifties and early sixties, to appreciate Bob Wooler.

I remember in 1960 when we used to sit around in the Jacaranda and I was planning Mersey Beat. Bob was disc jockey at numerous ‘jive hives’ around Merseyside. This was initially on a part-time basis.

Allan Williams then offered him a full-time job as disc jockey of a new club he was opening, the Top Ten in Soho Street, so Bob gave up his job as a railway clerk.

Derry & the Seniors, who were the first Liverpool band to appear in Hamburg, had returned from their stint at the Kaiserkeller and were booked at the new club. The Beatles were to follow them on their return from Germany.

The Top Ten club was burnt down in an arson attack, destroying all the Seniors equipment, causing them to disband, although they were to reform as Howie Casey & the Seniors.

The Beatles had no gigs set up, apart from appearances at Mona’ Best’s Casbah Club, which provided them with the first gig on their return. It was Bob who approached the major Liverpool promoter at the time, Brian Kelly, and talked him into booking the Beatles at Litherland Town Hall on December 27. This was the gig that started them on the road to local fame.

When Ray McFall decided to introduce more local rock groups onto the Cavern in 1961 and cut down on the jazz, he hired Bob as compere – and it was Bob who created the famous phrase when he welcomed all the Cavern dwellers to: ‘the best of cellars.’

Bob’s witticisms were legend and he also created what were known as Woolerisms: tags he gave to people, groups and venues. He called me ‘the Boswell of Beat’ and he was to call Brian Epstein the ‘Nemperor’. Epstein liked the name so much he registered it as a company name.

On launching Mersey Beat I had Bob provide a column for me that he called ‘The Roving 1.’ This was at a time when Brian Epstein had shown an interest in the Beatles following the front-page story in Issue 2 in July 1961 about the Beatles recording in Hamburg. Epstein requested that he become my record reviewer and he began his column in Issue No.3. He also took out advertisements and one of his Nems adverts was the only other item on the full-page feature that Bob wrote about the Beatles in the August 31, 1961 issue. This was a highly prophetic article, which Bob ended by writing “Such are the fantastic Beatles. I don’t think anything like them will happen again.”

Bob was not simply a compere. He advised the groups about their repertoires, their presentation on stage and helped them out in various other ways.

He felt that one group, who’d been called the Mavericks, sounded too country music, so he suggested they name themselves after my paper. As I had the name registered at the time they came to the office with Bob to ask my permission – and I gave it, so they became the Mersey Beats (later truncated to the Merseybeats).

Bob also noticed that I swamped the paper with publicity for the Beatles, because they were my closest friends on the group scene and I gave them more promotion than anyone else. He came to see me one day to complain. He said that the other groups were grousing over the fact that I gave so much coverage to the Beatles that they felt I should rename the paper the Mersey Beatle. Later on, I liked the title so much I introduced a regular ‘Mersey Beatle’ page.

Bob had a distinctive voice and made the perfect announcer. His love and knowledge of the music, allied with his penchant for puns, acid wit, and punctilious nature had to be witnessed to understand how the groups looked up to him.

The first item the Beatles ever received in the national press was when the Daily Mirror ran the story of John Lennon beating Bob up at Paul’s 21st birthday party. John had returned from Barcelona on a short holiday with Brian Epstein and Bob, in his typical sardonic manner, said, “How was the honeymoon, John?”

It was a mistake to say such a thing to John when he was drunk and John had to be pulled off him by Billy J. Kramer and Billy Hatton of the Fourmost.

Bob did upset various people with his bizarre sense of humour.

When the Cavern closed and the Liverpool sound was seemingly on the wane, Bob became a bingo caller.

I’d always felt he’d be a great radio disc jockey because of his marvellous voice and when Radio One was being organised in London I arranged for Bob to have an appointment with the controller as I felt he had a great future on radio.

Virginia and I booked him into the Madison Hotel in Sussex Gardens and we waited for him at the Bag O’ Nails club. He arrived at the club late and we had to tell the small hotel that he was on his way as they locked the front door at a certain time. We put Bob in his taxi and reminded him of the time his morning appointment was at Broadcasting House.

Later that evening, as we took a taxi home, we passed Piccadilly Circus and Virginia told me to look out of the window. There was Bob, talking to a young boy.

He returned to Liverpool without turning up for his Radio One appointment and never explained to us why.

Bob, with such talent, didn’t seem to achieve much for the rest of his life. He lived alone and was constantly troubled by ill health.

However, he always remained in the affection of the members of the Liverpool bands, who never forgot his effect on the original Mersey scene.

When I think of Bob, I think of the saddest words in the English language: “What might have been.”

Written by: Bill Harry ©2017. All rights reserved. No unauthorised copying or re-publishing of this material is allowed by law. Please contact the writer for re-print permission.
(Contributor, McCartney Times)

 

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Martin Nethercutt

Martin Nethercutt

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