The Kansas City Five
"I'm Goin' To Kansas City"
by Peter R. McCormack

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"Kansas City Five 1961"
L to R: Robbie Hickson, Alan Stratton, Colin Middleborough
Tommy Hughes, Bruce McCaskill and Peter Cook

"When You Wish Upon A Starr"

Every once in a while the planets align themeselves in a manner that is marvelled by all those who have the occasion to be present. This was surely the case, during a chance meeting of Geoff Hogarth and Bruce McCaskill. Of this day, the manager of the Iron Door Club would recall

"I had not seen Bruce McCaskill for some months when he appeared at lunchtime at the Iron Door. I had known Bruce since 1958 and in the course of our conversation I mentioned that I needed to forum a group to back Freddie Starr. Bruce said 'I have a group all ready to go - The Consuls."

Although the existence of this group was a bit of good luck for Hogarth, he was not wild about the name and very shortly would offer one of his own based on their continued discussion. Bruce, filled with thoughts of having recently returned from a trip to Kansas in the United States, stimulated Geoff's creative juices. Hogarth would offer a name with greater stage appeal,"The Kansas City Five" which stuck.

The Kansas City Five were formed in 1961 by Bruce McCaskill who had a knack for forming groups in the day. For those who are unaware of his talent in this area, interested music historians may appreciate that he also founded The Swinging Blue Jeans, Groups Incorporated and later managed the Average White Band. Bruce's many talents included an excellent working knowledge of electronics as he had apprenticed in the television repair trade. His practical experience held him in good stead and would ultimately lead to the job of the road manager for Eric Clapton with a specialization in handling the sound.

The Kansas City Five's Style and Group Members

The Kansas City Five, as with a number of Liverpool artists in the day, were heavily influenced by American artists such as Jerry Lee Lewis and Fats Domino. What separated the group from others performing at the Iron Door Club was the heavy influence that Carl Perkins had on them which characterized their sound as Rockabilly. The Kansas City Five's interpretation of this style of music was somewhat different leaning more toward the Country and Rhythm and Blues genres. It was this approach that enabled them to stand out from the crowd.

The Kansas City Five would undergo a number of changes over the years, but in the beginning its core members included Peter Cook, Tommy Hughes. Colin Middleborough, Robbie Hickson and Alan Stratton. Over the course of the Band's history a number of additional members would join. These included Lewis Collins (known later for his acting), Mal Theory (a Nashville session man), Beryl Marsden (vocalist), Barbara Harrison and Les Stuart (associated with George Harrison and Lee Castle).

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Peter Cooke - Lead guitar

Peter Cooke played lead guitar and was well-known on Merseyside as a recorded artist with Earle Royce and the Olympics. As a group member with Earle Royce he appeared in the movie Ferry 'Cross The Mersey. He was also a member of Faron's Flamingoes.

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Robbie Hickson - Vocalist

Robbie (Dee) Hickson, originally with Dee of the Dynamites, was the vocalist for the Kansas City Five. The Dynamites were quite possibly the first group from Wirral to specialize in rock and roll.

Dee and the Dynamites had a lineup that was most impressive and highly familiar to visitors of the Iron Door Club. They included Dee on vocals, Jackie Lomax on rhythm guitar, Karl Sloan on bass and Peter Cook on lead. Brian (Bug) Pemberton rounded out the group on drums and he would later be replaced by Tommy Bennett.

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Tommy Hughes - Keyboards

On keyboard was Tommy Hughers who to this day continues to perform with the Mojos in Liverpool. Tommy was the original banjo player with the Bluegenes during the early years from about 1957 to 1959. The group would later change their name to the Swinging Blue Jeans.

Hughes began his music career with a group called the Pine-Tops in 1956. They played in a cellar club of a large house in the Old Swansee District of Liverpool. The Club was run by a popular performer in the Liverpool area by the name of Alan Caldwell, better known to most by his stage name, Rory Storm.

Geoff Hogarth recalls the circumstances under which Tommy joined the Blue Genes.

"Bruce McCaskill had recently formed a rudimentary skiffle group and was in the audience on one of the group's appearances. After the show he contacted Tommy and invited him to play with the "Blue Genes", a skiffle band. Tommy readily accepted and also agreed to the conditions to joining. Bruce informed Tommy 'You'll have to wear Martini labelled T shirts and light blue jeans."

Tommy Hughes - Martini Shirt

You can see the Blue Genes' lineup and read more about Tommy Hughes with the band in Tommy Hughes Joins The Bluegenes.

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Colin Middleborough - Drums

Colin Middleborough was on drums in the beginning. He was employed in a bank and would eventually become a Bank Manager. After leaving the Kansas City Five he would later play with "The Four Originals."

Colin was also a drummer with Dale Roberts and the Jaywalkers for a time.

Colin Middlebrough - 2008

A Recent Photo of Colin

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Bruce McCaskill - Rhythm guitar and vocals

Bruce McCaskill carried out rhythm guitar and vocal duties and was instrumental in organizing the group.

The Kansas City Five were formed in 1961 by Bruce McCaskill. His talents would go well beyond those of a performer and his early management abilites stood him in good stead over the years leading him to be instrumental in the success of The Swinging Blue Jeans, Groups' Incorporated and the Average White Band. He was responsible for a very early recording of the Kansas City Five at the Iron Door Club in 1962.

Please read more about Bruce in Bruce McCaskill Achieves Success.

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Alan Stratton - Bass Guitar

The last, but certainly not the least, of the orginal members of the Kansas City Five was that of Alan Stratton who played bass. Alan played bass with the Black Cats in the late fifties and has played with a number of bands. He had experience playing the stand up double bass with Big Band and Jazz-Modern-Traditional genres.

He would go on to be a well-known artist in Liverpool playing alongside many of Liverpool's finest including the Beatles, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Rory Storm and the Hurricanes and numerous others.

You can read more about Alan in Alan Stratton With The Black Cats.

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"Kansas City Five Hamming It Up"
L to R: Bruce McCaskil, Alan Stratton, Tommy Hughes,
Colin Middleborough, Robbie Hickson, Peter Cook

An Iron Door Moment: McCaskill's Cars

Geoff Hogarth recalls the first name of the group.

"The name of the group was "The Consuls" and named after the Ford Consul motor car that Bruce was running at the time."

An astute observer and having just returned from America, it would seem that Bruce was keenly aware of an emerging trend in which group names were taken from models of automobiles.

Names such as the Cadillacs, the Capris, the Falcons and others were indeed popular at the time. It would seem, however, that Ford Consul did not light a fire for Geoff Hogarth and he quickly renamed the group the Kansas City Five. Ironically, the group began with six members.

For those who have followed Jazz closely during the late 1930s, perhaps there will be memories of the Kansas City Five associated with Duke Ellington. This group, Eddie Durham (trombone and electric guitar), Freddie Green (Guitar), Walter Paige (bass), Joe Jones (drums) and Buck Clayton (trumpet) recorded "I Know That You Know" and "Laughing At Life" which was released on a 78 rpm record (Commodore 510) in 1938. Whether Hogarth had this association in the recesses of his jazz mind or purely coincidental, the name is in keeping with the Iron Door's jazz roots.

Bruce certainly had a love of automobiles which held a special significance for him. In what must have been a surrealistic moment, Eric Clapton gave him his Ferrari sports car in recognition for his support over the years. It would seem that Bruce sold this vehicle and used the proceeds to move the group to New York. His connection with Clapton and the talents of the Average White Band eventually led to a record deal with Atlantic Records.

Just In Case

The Ford Consul

September 29, 2008 - Revised October 4, 2008
2001-2008 Peter McCormack. All rights reserved.

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