How Lowestoft helped to create rock ’n’ roll legends The Rolling Stones
- Credit: Nick Butcher
It was one of the most sought-after tickets in town.
Fifty years ago today, a 'London group' arrived in Lowestoft to perform to capacity crowds – and they have never looked back.
Within two years this group had released their first hit song 'It's All Over Now' – and now, global rock phenomenon The Rolling Stones have celebrated more than 50 years of captivating audiences across the world.
But way back on September 6, 1963 they were performing in Lowestoft.
And for Terry Balls, from Oulton, it was an occasion he will never forget. Along with his band-mates Gerry Peterson, Geoffrey Plastow and David Manthorpe, he had the honour of performing on a stage soon to be graced by Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman.
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The Felines had been specially chosen to support The Rolling Stones for their first performance in Lowestoft.
Mr Balls, 70, said: 'We had done a lot of work for the agent, and he invited us to play as a support act at the Royal Hotel, which is now the East Point Pavilion in Lowestoft.'
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He said: 'I remember on the booking that they gave us we were supposed to play until 9pm, but The Rolling Stones got lost. So we had to play for another 45 minutes after the first set. It was full – so full they had to come through the side doors to get in!'
Recounting the history of The Felines, Mr Balls said: 'We were all from Lowestoft – I was the bass player, with David on drums. We first started at Colville House youth club as a skiffle group, before we turned to rock. Our lead guitarist Terry Chaston left and Gerry came in, as we changed our music and turned to the style of the day – all singing and dancing.'
So what was it like to have this claim to fame of meeting and supporting The Stones?
Mr Balls said: 'Brian Jones was the only one not there, as he was in hospital at the time. Yes, we did mix with the band afterwards, but we didn't have the foresight to have a camera.'
Were the likes of Jagger, Richards and Wyman approachable?
'To be honest, they all seemed a bit shy, especially Charlie Watts who was a bit embarrassed,' Mr Balls said. 'They were all approachable though. They did come back later in January 1964 and played at the South Pier, but they had another band backing them then.'
With a real buzz about the music scene in Lowestoft back then, Mr Balls said: 'At the time we always had big bands coming down here to play. We performed with The Tornadoes, The Hollies – it was really good times for music in Lowestoft.'
The Felines split up in about 1967.
'We performed across Lowestoft, Great Yarmouth, Norwich and at American airbases, playing the music-style of the day,' Mr Balls said.
Today, three of the quartet still perform – with Mr Balls and Gerry, 68, performing in the local band Circa 64.
And, much like The Rolling Stones, he said: 'We are still keeping the music alive.'
At the end of September 1963, after their Lowestoft gig, The Rolling Stones were embarking on their first-ever British tour, alongside headliner acts The Everly Brothers, Bo Diddley and Little Richard.
In an interview with the EDP in 1999, Bill Wyman, who has links to Suffolk, having previously lived in Bury St Edmunds, remembered performing in Lowestoft with The Stones.
Before a performance with his band the Rhythm Kings at Lowestoft's Marina Theatre, he recalled how that Lowestoft gig at the Royal Hotel in 1963 had been instrumental in shaping The Stones' progression – because it was there that the band finally realised just how big they had become.
Mr Wyman said: 'It was the first time that we were actually mobbed on stage. The kids started coming on stage – there was no security in those days – and they attacked us. We got our clothes ripped off. I lost jewellery – a ring, stuff like that.'