Having played with the likes of Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent, Brian ‘Liquorice’ Locking was at the centre of early rock ‘n’ roll in the UK. He remembers his days with The Shadows. Interview by Ed Reed.
Before The Beatles, came The Shadows. Cliff Richard’s backing group developed one of the most distinctive musical styles of the 1960s, aside from the Fab Four. And while the quartet from Liverpool rewrote the musical rulebook to eclipse many acts who had come before, The Shadows remained an enduring act of the 60s and beyond. Thanks to a string of hits, the group are still revered for forging a whole new musical genre that was both commercially and critically successful.
Brian ‘Liquorice’ Locking was The Shadows’ bass player when they were at the height of their powers and accompanying a young Cliff on all his adventures – including the famous ‘Summer Holiday’ to Greece.
Locking, who now gigs around the UK and Europe, remembers those days fondly. Before working with Hank Marvin and Cliff, Locking had toured with rock ‘n’ roll legends Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran, along with his friend, the drummer Brian Bennett. In fact, the pair took part in Cochran’s last tour, as the singer died shortly afterwards in a car crash. “We were playing to packed houses. It was a great show, actually. We played ‘Come on Everybody’ and ‘Summertime Blues’. But of course Eddie died in a car crash coming from Bristol to Heathrow at the end of the tour,” remembers Locking.
He had embarked on his musical career while still at school. “I was 15 and my mother brought my sister, who was only about five, a little plastic mouth organ. I took it to school and started blowing it and got a tune out of it.” He formed a harmonica duo with his friend Roy Clark and eventually travelled down to the 2Is coffee bar in London to be spotted – as did all aspiring 50s rock stars.
Taking up the bass guitar, he was joined by Brian Bennett on drums and Tony Sheridan on lead guitar and the three became the Tony Sheridan Trio before backing Marty Wilde to become his Wildcats. After the tour with Cochran and Vincent, Locking and Bennett also stopped playing with Wilde. “Then Brian said how about we get a little job in a pit orchestra in Yarmouth?”
They performed for a summer season there with rock ‘n’ roller Tommy Steele in 1961. Then Bennett went on to replace Shadows’ drummer Tony Meehan and when Jet Harris decided to leave The Shadows, Brian Bennett recommended Locking as bass guitarist. “I went for an audition and got the job. I was sort of thrust into it. It was a great period. The Shadows were already established with Cliff Richard. During the time I was with them a lot of hits came. Summer Holiday was the first thing we did. We went to Athens to film that.”
The hits with Cliff kept racking up and included Bachelor Boy, The Next Time and It’ll Be Me, while the Shadows struck gold with Guitar Tango, Theme For Young Lovers, Foot Tapper, Dance On and Atlantis together with the adventurous EPs The Boys and Los Shadows as well as a chart topping album in 1962.
The Shadows had become international A-listers who appeared in a string of films and pantos, as well as TV and radio shows. Those were exciting times for the young stars. “Everything was original. We weren’t copying anybody because there was nothing like that before The Shadows. And I was thrust right into the middle of it, although it was a hard act to follow where Jet was concerned,” says Brian.
The energy of the music is what he recalls most vividly. “All the recordings were done straight the way through. There was no stopping and starting. The only things that we added were strings or timpani drums. But for the actual basic recording like Summer Holiday or Bachelor Boy if we made a mistake; tough. We had to stop, have a cup of tea and start again.”
The Beatles transformed the pop world and many established acts simply vanished. The Shadows, however, continued to thrive thanks to their unique sound and their music has endured for 40 years.
The 66-year-old Locking now regularly appears at ever-more popular Shadows conventions while he is in big demand to work on collaborations with other recording artists. “It’s the only music that people can sit down and listen to, intentionally, for two or three hours. It’s the sound and simplicity of it all. It’s very symphonic when it’s played.”
Although the Shadows eventually split up, they occasionally reform to tour or get together to talk about old times and meet fans. Locking, a deeply religious man, famously gave up his place in The Shadows to devote his life to his beliefs as a Jehovah’s Witness. “I didn’t have to leave. It’s just that a lot of things were encroaching on my time and I had to make a decision, I did make it and it was very difficult. It was a life decision and a very serious decision for me. Something had to come first and it was that.
“It involved all my time and I was completely out of the business, in actual fact. Then John Rostill [Brian's replacement] became ill in the mid-60s and I rejoined the Shadows for a month.”
While still with The Shadows, Locking would chat to Cliff Richard about religion, while Hank Marvin later joined him in becoming a Jehovah’s Witness. The young Cliff began his career emulating a gyrating Elvis before adopting a far more clean cut image on his path to spirituality. “He always had a leaning that way because his auntie and uncle were Jehovah’s Witnesses and his mum became one as well,” recalls Brian.
Eventually returning to music, Locking played in the band The White Liners for nearly 20 years gigging around the country. And he continues rocking on, thanks to collaborations such as the CD album ‘Me and My Shadow’ with guitarist Chick Holland and also ‘Liquorice and Lemmen’ with Dutchman Gijs Lemmen, as well as recording work with Brian Bennett’s son, Warren.
Brian’s CDs are available from Lahaina UK. Phone 01409 211148 or visit the website www.chick-holland.co.uk