We made five or six visits to the Star club as the Cherokees between 1963 and 1966 and we always stayed in the Hotel Pacific in St Pauli. We soon learned that the owner of the Star Club was
Manfred Weislieder and as one of “his boys” we could explore the area with impunity although we were witness to a few violent scenes involving those who lacked Manfred’s protection. Hans Buchenberg
(or something similar) was the manager and we were treated well.
We arrived for the first time shortly after the Beatle's last session before their fame but heard lots of stories about their unforgettable carryings-on. Some of the acts/bands we played with were
(in no particular order):
Tony Sheridan who was always asking us to let him get up and play with us – not on guitar but on drums. We always told him “no thank you” or words to that effect! Sam the Sham; Lee Curtis; Millie (My
Boy Lollipop); Checkmates and Henry and the Road Runners from Liverpool; Spencer Davies Group; Jackie Lynton; Tony Ashton and later + Roy Dyke who together with Gardener became Ashton, Gardener and
Dyke (Roy celebrated his 60th birthday on February 12 2005 at the Downtown Blues Club. Numerous buddies, among them Carl Terry (& The Cruisers), Ted "King Size" Taylor (& The Dominoes), and
Brian Parrish (Londoners) brought him their musical congratulations during an other instalment of "Eine Nacht im Star-Club"); Kingsize Taylor & The Dominoes; Liver Birds; Cream; The Londoners who
became The Knack with Paul Gurvitz and later, his brother Adrian. The guitarist Brian Parrish (Londoners/Knack) later went on to work with Paul Gurvitz as Parrish and Gurvitz, their career blighted
by their being the next act after the Beatles to be produced by George Martin – rubbed out by the “follow that” syndrome!. The Gurvitz brothers went on to form The Gun and with Ginger Baker, became
the Baker Gurvitz Army.
Please forgive the total lack of chronological order but I am absolutely useless at dates.
Our early days at the Star Club served as an excellent
apprenticeship for a striving band and like many bands before and after us, we returned to England much tighter and better for our experience. There were usually about four bands during the week,
doing consecutive sets between about 5pm and 3:30am. At weekends there were more, often local guys and I remember the Rattles being there one time. This regime was hard at first to get used to but
with the help of a few substances we managed to survive. We played every day apart from National holidays and our stay was usually from four to six weeks. I recall the fact that there was a curfew
for young people under eighteen years and at the time, the set between about 8:30 and 9:30pm was dubbed by us British bands as “Children’s’ Hour”. Ironic really, as we weren’t much more than children
ourselves although we grew up very quickly in Hamburg!
I recall with affection playing with guitarist and drummer Griff & Parry (I remember their having some connection with the Big Three) At the start of this particular stint, Parry (or was it
Griff!?) “Lost his crack” (the snap in his snare sound). Sad to say, he never found it and was miserable for the whole of the stay. I wonder if he ever did retrieve it!
Muff Winwood (Spencer Davies Group) was reluctant to have the band do any slow numbers and we were loud in our encouragement for them to do “Georgia”. The band thought we were sending them up and putting them in a position where they might do
themselves no good with the audience who were famous for their encouragement to the bands to, “Mak show!”. However, we assured them of our honesty
and pointed to the girls who worked behind the bar at the back of the club whose lantern waving (a bit like the Mexican wave made famous by football supporters) was legendary in slow songs that they
liked. Muff took the risk and absolutely brought the house down when they played “Georgia” and the magnificent spectacle of the lantern waving accompaniment was a sight I shall never forget. We were
honoured many times for our slow numbers with the lantern waving which was similar at the Star Club to the phone waving after dark in pop concerts these days.
I remember standing in the wings with Eric Clapton and Jack
Bruce whilst Ginger Baker remained on stage doing one of his famous drum solos. It was the time of their first album and the number was The Toad played to an absolutely packed house. Clapton and
Bruce were both castigating Baker’s drumming on that occasion as “Shite, he plays like a pillock!” To us and those in the audience, Baker was brilliant and the set was totally electrifying.
Cream’s roadie asked us if we would mind his setting up the equipment for the band during our time on stage. Now this was a departure from the usual courtesy afforded to bands lower on the bill but
we were happy enough for him to do it. I shall never forget playing and then looking behind at the end of our set to see a “Berlin Wall” of Marshall amps erected in no time at all at the back of the
Apart from the playing, the way of life for those few short weeks is never to be forgotten: the Beer Shop – Horst , the huge gentle giant who ran it; the Mambo, Block Hut; oxtail soup between sets;
big sausages; and of course, copious amounts of beer. There was English breakfast at the Seaman’s Mission and Granny’s, next door to the Beer Shop, two doors down from the Star Club, where we ate
cutlets and delicious fried eggs. We never found out Granny’s age but she looked about 100.These inexpensive eating places were absolute life savers to us British bands.
I did a session on one visit, at the nearby Polydor Studios, playing guitar for Ricky Barnes and Jacky Lynton (pictured) under the name of Boots Wellington and His Rubber Band. Jacky was our first
“famous friend” at the club as he had a record in the Hit Parade at the time with “Teddy Bear’s Picnic”. We struck up a firm friendship on that first visit which has lasted to this day.
I recall the British band members’ enthusiasm for a stroll down Winkel Strasse (Street of Windows), especially if it was rewarded by a glimpse of the legendary Queen! The rest is a haze but at the
heart of everything was the fabulous Star Club itself and the fact that we were unaware of contributing to a legend although we knew it was all pretty important at the time. And we were not proved
wrong. I was there and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
©Tez Stokes 2009
Back to Music Page