I’ve been digging into Adrian Barber. This is what I've been able to put together …
Born: Ilkley, Yorkshire on 13th November 1938 (so if he is still alive then is next birthday will be his 75th)
Last known living on the island of Hawaii
As I understand it the reason why he happened to be in Liverpool at time was he was undergoing some sort land-based apprentice-style training course that was intended to equip him for a working life on the high seas with the merchant navy. After ‘jumping ship’ so to speak he rented a flat for a while in Falkner Square in the Canning district of Liverpool which from time-to-time he would share with an assortment of fellow occupants.
He was eventually to meet up with one Brian Casser that led to the formation of ‘Cass and the Cassanovas’. The two were quickly joined by the two Johnnies - Hutchinson (on drums), Gustafson (on bass). The then four-piece group began to play regularly at the subterranean Corinthian Club just off Seel Street. With the departure of Brian Casser to the apparent greener fields of London, the remaining three members of the group become known to one-and-all on the Liverpool club circuit of the time as the BIG THREE.
With the aid of Google I’ve tracked down an image of Cass and the Cassanovas on stage at god only knows where …
From left to right … Adrian Barber, Brian Casser, Johnny Hutchinson and Johnny Gustafson
While I’m no guitar buff, I’m led to believe the instrument Johnny Gustafson can be seen holding is a Hoyer Acoustic that Adrian Barber adapted as an electric four string bass. Such was Adrian Barber’s apparent prowess with anything electrical that there is a story within the pages of “How I Didn’t Become A Beatle” by Brian J Hudson, who for a time was Adrian Barber’s Falkner Square flatmate. He remembers the inside of the flat resembling an electrical workshop at times with wires, speakers, cabinets and other such paraphernalia littered everywhere.
This image is of the Big Three taken following the exit of Brian Casser …
From left to right … Adrian Barber, Johnny Hutchinson and Johnny Gustafson
The story goes that those creamy coloured suits that the group can be seen wearing were prone to get absolutely filthy and scruffy looking. So much so, that when they signed up with Brian Epstein he immediately outfitted them in smarter Beno Dorn suits, white shirts and ties.
It’s well documented that Adrian Barber got out-voted 2-to-1 when the Big Three gave up their independence and signed with the Epstein organisation. The final straw coming with the introduction of Brian Griffiths (at the insistence of Epstein) to supposedly fulfil the Star Club’s minimum contractual requirement for a quartet. Following the group’s Hamburg stint Adrian Barber stayed on at the Star Club and became closely involved with the operation of the then newly formed Star Club Record Label.
While playing at the Star Club it was Joey Dee of Joey Dee and the Starliters fame who recognised Adrian Barber’s talents as a budding sound engineer. So next stop was the Peppermint Lounge on New York’s West 45th Street, spiritual home of Joey Dee and the Starliters, where he was given the task of beefing up the sound system.
Enter Chris Huston, former member of the Undertakers, who was making a name for himself Stateside as a recording engineer / producer. Both he and Adrian Barber worked together with the Rascals – who by the way were very closely associated with Joey Dee and the Starliters – on Atlantic Records. The Rascals even went as far to compose an instrumental in celebration of Adrian Barber’s birthday that appeared on their 1969 Freedom Suite album under the not too surprising title of ‘Adrian’s Birthday’.
1973 saw Adrian Barber working with Aerosmith, he was especially involved with the recording of ‘Dream On’. This is an audio only YouTube clip of Adrian Barber talking about making of that recording …
It is my information Adrian Barber is currently living out his years on the island of Hawaii. This photograph of him [on the left] and Chris Huston was taken in 1998 …
Keep it up Peter; excellent article, as a fellow Yorkshire-man I was on good terms with Adrian Barber, we had many discussions on the merits or otherwise of the Big Three joining Brian Epsteins circus. I often visited his flat in Faulkner Square, where he manufactured is famous Coffin speakers!
Thanks a lot Geoff but you’ve really got to credit board member John Westwood (aka “carr”) of Melbourne, Australia for providing the trigger to set me off digging. His reference to Chris Huston in his “The Undertakers” post of 24th May led me to Chris Huston’s website which led me to the photograph of Adrian Barber and Chris Huston together in 1998 – then I was off and running. I always need that trigger or point of reference to get me started.
In terms of the Big Three, Adrian Barber was a touch before my time. He’d about just moved on when the group began to register with me. But, I remember only too well those ‘coffin’ speakers on wheels by way of the following story.
Occasionally on a summer’s Thursday evening a couple of us were in the habit of making our way over to the River Park Ballroom in Chester. We’d catch the train from Birkenhead Central to Chester General (a 40-minute ride). From Chester General we’d walk up the full length of City Road, across St Oswald’s Way roundabout and down Bath Street onto Union Street where the River Park Ballroom used to be. I say used to be because now there is a public toilet where the ballroom once was.
Thursday evening at the River Park Ballroom was Mersey Beat Group Night starting 7:30pm and finishing by 11pm (30 minutes after the ballroom’s licensed bar shut). Which was enough time for us to grab some fish ’n’ chips and get back down City Road in time to catch the last train back to Birkenhead. Usually, if we were thinking about making the journey over to Chester we’d first look up who was booked to play in Bill Harry’s Mersey Beat weekly. If the likes of the Big Three, Undertakers, Dennisons or Mojos were on - and the weather was fine - then we’d think very seriously about going.
Anyway, I remember one such summer Thursday night, it must have been about 11 o’clock. The evening’s entertainment had finished and two of us were standing on the pavement outside the ballroom on our own-some debating something or other. Out the door comes Johnny Hutchinson pushing one of those Adrian Barber made ‘coffin’ speakers on wheels with various other bits and pieces perched on top of it. He makes his way to the group’s van which is parked close by. Unlocks the back of the van and starts stowing away the bit and pieces. After that’s done he looks around and call us over to give him a hand lifting the bulky speaker into the back of the van. Once that's done he says can we do him a favour. Of course Mr Hutchinson, we are at your service. He then said something along the lines of “I don’t know where those other two t*ss*rs have got to. But, can you stand here and make sure nobody thieves any gear out the back of this van while I nip back inside and find out what they’re playing at leaving me out here on my own”. I think he might have added a few more expletives during the course of our brief conversation but nevertheless, we dutifully carried out his instructions.
Eventually, all the group’s equipment gets wheeled out and securely stowed away. Now I can’t remember which one of the Big Three it was, but one of them suddenly disappears back into ballroom. After a few minutes he comes out again carrying a crate of ale. As he passed by us I’m sure I heard him say “Thirsty work this music business, you know” – and with that they drove off into the night.