Merseybeats lead singer Tony Crane reflects on 50 years in show business
PUBLISHED: 01:16 19 September 2011 | UPDATED: 20:00 20 February 2013
It's 50 years and counting for the Merseybeats and their lead singer Tony Crane, the saviour of Hoylake's heritage, as Paul Mackenzie reports Photography by Kirsty Thompson
Fifty years ago Tony Crane thought his music career had got off to the worst possible start. His band The Mavericks had been taken on by a new manager who, despite having reservations about their name, had assured them he would get them on the top of the bill in Liverpool that week.
I bought the paper and found the advert but we werent on the bill so I ran round to see him at The Cavern. I said were not there, theres just some group called The Merseybeats. He said Thats you, Ive changed your name.
At that time Merseybeat was a newspaper. We thought we might as well have been called The Daily Mails. But we stuck with it.
And this month Tony will lead the band back on to the stage at The Cavern to celebrate half a century since Bob Waller, the DJ at the legendary Liverpool club introduced them that first time.
The Merseybeats have retained a loyal fanbase and still perform a punishing schedule of gigs all over the world. This year alone they have toured the UK, have played in Germany and Scandinavia and have entertained on luxury cruise ships. They also have a new album Keeping the Dream Alive due out soon.
Tony, now a 66-year-old grandfather, is the only original member left and he has no plans to hang up his guitar just yet, in fact hes never been busier. When hes not on stage he can often be found in the studio where he is helping to produce an album for his sons band, who are about to undergo their own name change from Hudson Four to the Black Swans. And as if that wasnt enough, he also runs a successful property developing business from his home in Hoylake on the Wirral.
That started by accident, he said. Someone came up to me in the street and said they were concerned about Central Hall and asked if I could do something about it.
I said Id have a look and ended up buying it and renovating it. Then the council came to me and asked if I wanted to buy the Town Hall, the only offers theyd had were from builders who wanted to knock it down and develop the site. I bought it 1998, exactly 100 years after it was built and restored its beautiful features. I didnt know what to do with it when it was finished but the Department of Work and Pensions rent it from me now for use as a job centre.
After that a lot of other councils around the North West came to me with buildings they wanted me to buy. I didnt buy them all but there are some beautiful buildings around and they are a part of our heritage which I dont think we should lose. I think its disgraceful that people are willing to knock these wonderful buildings down.
Preserving historic buildings may seem a world away from the typical rock and roll lifestyle although his childhood ambition was to be an architect but Tony does enjoy the trappings of celebrity too, he has a place in Bermuda where his neighbours include Oprah Winfrey and David Bowie.
After leaving school aged 15 with no qualifications Tony took a job as an insurance clerk working in the Liver Building where his father was the maintenance man and his two sisters worked as shorthand typists. He had met his future wife Carole there too and his parents were hoping he would progress through the company ranks. But Tony had other ideas.
He was taking extended breaks to play lunchtime sessions at The Cavern and after just a year he left his secure job to become a full-time musician. My bosses thought I was crazy and my parents didnt talk to me. But I took great joy in going back to pick my dad up in my Facel Vega and made sure all my old bosses saw me.
It was one of the most expensive cars in the world at that time and there were only five others in the country the others were owned by Ringo, Lord Snowdon, Stirling Moss and the Royals.
The hit parade
Singles released by The Merseybeats
Its Love That Really Counts
I Think Of You
Dont Turn Around
Wishin and Hopin
Last Night (I made A Little Girl Cry)
Dont Let It Happen To Us
I Yes I Do
I Stand Accused
This Is Merseybeat
And as The Merseys...
So Sad About Us
Rhythm Of Love
Penny In My Pocket