The Big Three
|Also known as||Cass & The Cassanovas (1959–1961)|
|Genres||Beat, Pop, Rock and roll|
|Years active||1959–1966, 1973, 1999|
|Associated acts||The Seniors|
|Past members||Adrian Barber|
Brian J. Hudson
J. Peter Robinson
The Big Three evolved from a group called Cass & The Cassanovas, formed in May 1959 by Brian Casser as a trio comprising Casser (rhythm guitar, lead vocals), Adrian Barber (lead guitar, vocals), and Brian J. Hudson (drums). The original line-up played at St George's Hall, Liverpool, on Friday, 15 May 1959. Johnny 'Hutch' Hutchinson replaced Hudson in July 1959. In need of a bass guitarist, Hutchinson brought in Johnny Gustafson in December. At that time, Gustafson did not have a proper bass guitar, so Barber converted an acoustic for him. Gustafson's first gig was at The Tower Ballroom, New Brighton, on Thursday, 31 December 1959.
In May 1960, the band auditioned for Larry Parnes at the Wyvern Social Club, Seel Street, Liverpool, with a number of other bands including The Silver Beetles. Hutchinson sat in with the band when their drummer Tommy Moore (born Thomas Henry Moore, in 1931, Liverpool died in 1981) failed to turn up. In December 1960, Casser left the group and moved to London, reducing them to a trio again, and the band re-emerged in January 1961 as The Big Three. Despite being a three-piece they were known as "one of the loudest, most aggressive and visually appealing acts".
Brian Epstein signed them to his agency and sent them over to Hamburg. It was during that trip in August 1962 that Brian Griffiths (born 27 August 1943, Liverpool) joined the group when Barber left, and the best-known line-up of the Big Three was established. Barber would subsequently emigrate to the United States, where he would later become known as an in-house recording engineer and producer at Atlantic Records, where he produced the Allman Brothers Band's debut album in 1969.
The Big Three and Epstein terminated their partnership in July 1963. Gustafson and Griffiths quit in November 1963, and with drummer Ian Broad from Rory Storm and the Hurricanes formed the Seniors and left for Germany. Hutchinson replaced them with Faron Ruffley (born William Faron Ruffley, 8 January 1942, Walton, Liverpool) and Paddy Chambers (born Patrick John Chambers, 3 April 1944, Liverpool, died 18 September 2000) from Faron's Flamingos.
Chambers left in March 1964 and was replaced by Paul Pilnick from the All Stars. Pilnick only stayed a short time before moving on to Tony Jackson & The Vibrations in October 1964, with Ruffley leaving around the same time.
The next agency to manage the band was Kennedy Street Enterprises.
Various musicians passed through the band after Pilnick left, including bass players John Bradley, Adrian Lord (ex Mojos), and Mike Bankes., and Ray Marshall and Howie Casey played Sax on a trip to Germany. Barry Womersley was guitarist for a while, but was replaced by Brian Griffiths during the time that they were managed by Chris Wharton. Chris had hopes of reenlisting Johnny Gustafson but these came to nothing,(Conversations with Chris Wharton 1965-6). Hutch had played with the Spidermen,(mention in Mersey Beat) but reformed the group with Barry Womersley and Ray Marshall
Between 1964 and 1966 the line-up consisted of John Hutchinson, Ray Marshall (vocals, bass) and Barry Womersley (lead guitar). During 1966 the band folded. Hutchinson received an offer to join Kingsize Taylor & the Dominoes but he declined, instead deciding to retire from music.
Arty Davies of Liverpool Beat says that following the demise of the Womersley/Marshall/ Hutchinson lineup a couple of bookings featured the following:
Dave Blackstone lead guitar The Tabs Johnny Hutchinson drums Pete Mumford Bass guitar
There is an apocryphal story in Alan Clayson's book "Beat Merchants" that Johnny Hutch packed up his drums after a first set at the Blue Angel, collected his pay and went home, with another drummer taking his place. Presumably this was the band's last gig.
In 1973, Gustafson and Griffiths teamed up with Elton John drummer Nigel Olsson, and Quatermass keyboardist J. Peter Robinson for a reunion album, Resurrection, released on Polydor Records. In 1999 Griffiths got together with another former Big Three member, Faron Ruffley, to do a small spot of Big Three numbers at the Merseycats charity night; the drummer for the get-together was Arty Davies (Faron's Flamingos).
In 2009, RPM Records issued a CD compilation entitled Cavern Stomp.
At the Cavern was a live extended play 45 rpm record released in 1963 by The Big Three. It was released on Decca Records as DFE 8552 in mono and reached #6 in the UK EP charts in December 1963.The liner notes are by Bob Wooler, the DJ at The Cavern Club in Liverpool where this live recording was recorded.