Tuesday, 1 August 2017

MEET THE MIDDLEWICH METEORS!

The Middlewich Meteors May 1957: L to R - Elvin Bowyer (washboard), Alan Birchall (guitar), Peter Birchall (guitar), Peter Wilson (double bass), Freddie Moores (banjo), and Brian Eaton (guitar) In front is Edward Tattersall (guitar)



by Dave Roberts

The Middlewich Diary is always at home to talk of Middlewich music matters and from local legend FREDDIE MOORES comes this salutary reminder that music in Middlewich didn't begin twenty-five years ago with the first Folk & Boat Festival.

In fact, although this article is about Middlewich music 1957 style, it goes without saying that there have always been people around town making music of one kind or another.

An older generation, for example, will tell you all about Percy Bailey's Band which played dance music at the old Middlewich Town Hall on Hightown for many a Saturday Night Dance, with Percy famously propping the latest edition of the Evening Sentinel  up on his piano's music stand to keep up with the local news as interminable waltzes, quick-steps and fox-trots filled the smoky air.




                                           The old Middlewich Town Hall



So, to be clear, we're talking about the start of the modern era of Music In Middlewich in the1950s - the age of Skiffle and Rock 'n' Roll!

Fred kindly loaned me a copy of this historical souvenir which features not only a copy of a press cutting from May 1957 about the Middlewich Meteors but also one from 48 years later when Freddie was trying to get hold of a copy of the photo he remembered being published all those years before. There's also an 'ode' to the band (or 'group' as they would, undoubtedly, have been called in those days) which was probably written by one of those young musicians.
We're happy to reproduce these historic documents for the electronic generation and preserve them for posterity.
Let's begin with Fred's 2005 appeal to the local Guardian for information about members of the band, and for a copy of that elusive photograph.
The first thing to note is that Fred was talking to the 'wrong' newspaper - perfectly understandable after all those years, and given the tendency of the Guardian and the Chronicle to wax and wane in popularity locally, seemingly taking it in turns to be the local paper of choice for Middlewichians.

NORTHWICH GUARDIAN
Winsford & Middlewich Edition
Wednesday April 13th 2005.

FRED ON A MISSION TO BE REUNITED WITH BAND

A MIDDLEWICH musician is looking to be reunited with his former band mates nearly 50 years after they first formed.
Fred Moores of Shropshire Close is looking for members of his old skiffle band The Middlewich Meteorites (sic)*, and is trying to source a picture of the band which he believes was taken in 1956 or 1957.
Fred, 67, said: 'The picture was taken at the back of the White Bear pub which is where we used to practise.'
Fred says the picture, which appeared in the Guardian (sic), features guitarists Eddie Tattersall and Brian Eaton, as well as washboard and bass player Peter Wilson.
Fred, who played the ukelele and banjo, would love to know if anyone has a copy of the picture and would also like to hear from his former band mates.
He said: 'We were only aged between about 15 and 17. It was just before we went into the army in 1958. We took part in a few contests at Mr Smiths in Winsford. I'd just like to know where they all are and if anyone has a copy of the picture.'
If you were a member of the Middlewich Meteorites (sic)*, or know someone who has a copy of the picture, contact reporter Gemma Sproston by ringing 01606 813624, email gsproston@guardiangrp.co.uk, or write to 15 Market Street, Northwich, Cheshire CW9 5DT.

*You'll note that we rather sniffily use the term sic to indicate that we are reproducing the Guardian's use of 'Meteorites' even though we know it to be wrong. It's very likely, of course, that Gemma Sproston, who is a very good journalist, only used the name Middlewich Meteorites because that's the name she was given by Fred who himself believed it to be the name of the group. It was, after all, a long time ago - Ed.

Fred's appeal obviously bore fruit because also included in his souvenir is a cutting from The Chronicle of Saturday May 18th 1957 (how long is it since the publication of our local papers switched from Saturday to Thursday?)

To put this piece of Middlewich history into context, remember that the Middlewich of May 18th 1957 was somewhat different to the town we know today.
Middlewich Station was still open to passengers and 'The Dodger' was still whisking passengers from Middlewich to Northwich in as little as 7 minutes. It would only continue to do so, however, until the last day of 1959.
The Alhambra was still open for business as a cinema and  there were, as now, many pubs, but the only place you could get something to eat or a cup of tea was  Heathcote's Cafe in Lewin Street.
The open-pan salt works were still going strong, with Seddon's in Pepper Street - just a matter of yards away from the Meteors' rehearsal room - belching out black smoke and white steam all through the week. The other Seddon's works in Wych House Lane and Brooks Lane were also thriving, as was Murgatroyd's Brooks Lane works. This venerable method of salt-making would continue for another ten years (nine in the case of Murgatroyd's) before falling to progress in the shape of the British Salt works which replaced them all in 1969.
And Fountain Fields - now re-christened 'Tesco Park' by a new generation - which seems to have been there forever was, in 1957, a mere five years old.

Middlewich then was a dirty, dingy, smoky little town just crying out for some great entertainment - something Fred and friends were determined to provide...


THE CHRONICLE
Saturday May 18th 1957

They aim to 'rock' the town in a big way

MEET THE MIDDLEWICH Meteors, the skiffle group that is currently 'rocking' the town three or four nights a week at its practice sessions. You can see them in action at their headquarters - a room in what was a stable block in the ancient coaching yard behind the White Bear Hotel.
The group had originally planned to form themselves into a harmonica gang. Then came the skiffle craze. Nobody wanted to listen to harmonicas*, so the seven friends set about acquiring the necessary instruments.
The double bass is a simple matter of a tea-chest, a wooden pole and a piece of string. The washboard is of a kind any housewife can buy at a hardware store. The guitars were all bought second-hand.
So far the group has only had one official booking - they played at the British Legion Club a fortnight ago - but they are on the look-out for future engagements.

(the photo illustrating this story is reproduced at the top of the page)

The White Bear Hotel in the early 1970s. In a former stable building behind the pub the sound of the Middlewich Meteors was  born in 1957.


So where did the long-lost cutting come from? I'm making an educated guess that it was bass player Peter Wilson who kept it for almost half a century. Also reproduced in Fred's souvenir is a short poem, signed by 'PW' Is this also Peter Wilson? If so, he obviously, like Fred, never forgot his time as one of the MIDDLEWICH METEORS!

ODE TO A SOUND

One time when lightning struck in Middlewich
And the MIDDLEWICH METEORS emerged from the sky,
Was the single moment in the world of Skiffle
When each player soared nine miles high,
Freddie, Eddie, the two Peters, Brian - and Alan and Elvin too;
We don't forget those that shone as bright in our souls as they will always do,
An era we all belonged to that will never come again,
Arte those times of joy and fun that forever will remain,
And in this hour once more together in minds and thought , and heartm
Forever we rekindle the flame that began its throbbing youthful spark. PW

And a quick glance at the music chart (an institution which had at that time only been running for five years) gives us an inkling into the music which inspired the formation of the MIDDLEWICH METEORS fifty-eight years ago.

Selected number one hits of  1957:

11th January Singing The Blues - Tommy Steele
12th April - Cumberland Gap - Lonnie Donegan
17th May - Rock-A-Billy - Guy Mitchell
28th June - Gamblin' Man/ Puttin' On The Style - Lonnie Donegan
12th July - All Shook Up - Elvis Presley
1st November - That'll Be The Day - The Crickets.

*'...nobody wanted to listen to harmonicas' Very ironic, really, as Fred is well-known today as a master of the blues harmonica. Together with his equally talented son Craig, Fred formed Moore & Moore Blues a few years ago. Fred and Craig are also members of the Salty Dog Blues Band



Many thanks to Fred for sharing this fascinating piece of Middlewich musical history with us.-Ed

First published 1st August 2015.
Re-published 1st August 2017 to mark the 60th Anniversary of the Middlewich Meteors.



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