The Dennisons were just one fabulous band. They looked right; they had all the right gear (Gibson 335s and Vox AC30s) and boy could they play. Very close in popularity in Liverpool to the Beatles, they were loud and brash. They had a great lead singer in Eddie Parry who had all the attributes to attract the ladies. In Ray Scragg they had voice straight out of the Deep South of the USA and in Steve McLaren one of the best guitarists in Liverpool, perhaps getting close to skills of Colin Manley of the Remo 4. I had the pleasure of playing on the same bill as them on a number of occasions mainly at the OPB.
“The Dennisons have created the biggest impact in Liverpool since the Beatles,” said the Cavern Club DJ Bob Wooler in 1963. Recording for Decca, the label which had turned down the Beatles, the Dennisons scored some minor hits, but by 1965 their potential had faded.
Although they had a fine lead vocalist in Eddy Parry, the group became distinctive when their rhythm guitarist, Ray Scragg, took over. He rasped through Ray Charles’s songs like a prototype Joe Cocker.
The Dennisons, who took their name from a Liverpool street, were billed as “five 17-year-old Aintree storm-troopers” They had been formed at Liverpool Collegiate and Scragg worked for a tailor before turning professional. Hornby’s parents became their management, although Mr Hornby found the noise hard to take after a day’s work as a marine engineer.
They were initially influenced to form a group by watching the resident band at their local youth club. This was The Ravens who later became better known as Faron’s Flamingos. The quintet would attend the Ravens’ rehearsals and copy down the chords to their songs. In their early days, Eddie Parry also played guitar, but he soon gave it up to concentrate on his singing and their early success in local dance halls was attributed to Parry’s performances as a showman.
They began their career with a Saturday night residency at the BICC Club in Melling. They signed up with Kennedy Street Enterprises and turned professional in early ’63. At that time the bass guitarist, Alan Willis, didn’t want to give up his apprenticeship and chose to leave the band with Terry “Tex” Carson coming in as his replacement.
The Dennisons made their debut at the Cavern on 5 September 1962 because the original bill toppers, the Beatles, had gone to London to record their first Parlophone single, “Love Me Do”.
Signed to Decca (They did make a few good decisions) they released their self penned debut record ’Come On Be My Girl’ in July 1963. The follow up was a great version of the Rufus Thomas song ‘Walkin’ The Dog’ with Ray Scragg on husky vocals, the ‘B’ side, You Don’t Know What Love was a Ben E King composition written especially for them whilst he toured with them.”Walkin’ the Dog” reached No 36 and outsold the original version by Rufus Thomas. Their third and final single, ’Nobody Like My Babe’ , was released in November 1964 and is considered by many to be their best track, but probably lack of promotion (Those Decca boys again) meant outside of Liverpool it didn’t register in the charts.
The Dennisons were featured on a live album from the Cavern, but Parry left the group in 1965. For a year, the Dennisons performed soul music and they disbanded in 1967. Scragg went into insurance, working for over 25 years for the Prudential. Steve McLaren became one of Liverpool’s best classical guitarists, while Clive Hornby found fame as an actor, portraying Jack Sugden in Emmerdale
What was so special about them? Its hard to define; in Clive Hornby that had a thunderous backbeat, they managed to include Seventh Chords in almost every song, I guess they just gelled. The only mystery is why they didn’t make it big time, but perhaps that’s down to those pesky London Agents who kept stealing the ideas and giving them to favoured southern bands.
After Tex Carson’s death in 1991, the group got together to play a special memorial show for charity. Parry died in 1995 and in 1997 the remaining three Dennisons were reunited for Clive Hornby’s appearance on ‘This Is Your Life’.
In 1997 Scragg was diagnosed with lung cancer. He was determined to make the best of his remaining time and formed a new band, Dennisons 2000, in which he returned to Ray Charles favourites like “Unchain My Heart”. He planned his own funeral, insisting that another Charles song, “Hallelujah I Love Her So”, should be part of the service.
As a footnote I would stay behind after our gigs to watch them, and in the reformed Bumblies we feature one of their great tracks Little Latin Lupe Lu as our little tribute.
Sadly there are no known videos of the band. This is our video tribute at the Mathew Street Festival this year (2009), with yours truly on questionable vocals. The venue was The Hard Days Night Hotel.
Aug ’63 Be My Girl/Little Latin Lupe Lu Decca F 11691 UK#46 Feb ’64 Walkin’ The Dog/You Don’t Know What Love Is Decca F 11880 UK#36 Jul ’64 Nobody Like My Babe/Lucy (You Sure Did It This Time) Decca F 11990 They are also the only band of the era with no living members as I write (November 2009), as sadly Clive died just a few months ago.
- Eddie Parry – vocals (died 1995) Steve McLaren – lead guitar (died 2008)
- Ray Scragg – rhythm guitar (died February 7th 2001)
- Alan Willis/Terry “Tex” Carson – bass guitar (died 1991)
- Clive Hornby – drums (died 2009)