Ritchie Galvin

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The Independent Online

Richard Hughes (Ritchie Galvin), drummer: born Liverpool 28 December 1943; married (one son, one daughter); died Liverpool 13 July 2001.

Ritchie Galvin was the lively, boisterous drummer with the Merseybeat group Earl Preston and the TTs, and the closest Liverpool came to having to its own Keith Moon.

Galvin was born Richard Hughes in Liverpool in 1943 and, encouraged by his father who had been in a pipe and drum band, started playing drums at the age of eight. In 1960 he joined his first group, four lads from the Wavertree area called the Tigers, who played instrumentals by the Shadows and the Ventures. "The Beatles came back from Hamburg," said Hughes,

and I thought, "They're great. What am I playing this rubbish for?" I stuck the microphone between my legs and started to scream Little Richard and Gene Vincent numbers like the Beatles. The promoter Bob Wooler renamed us Larry Galvin and the Galvinisers. I said, "No, I'll keep my Christian name, thank you very much", and I became Ritchie Galvin.

In 1961 Galvin joined Earl Preston and the TTs, who had strong lead vocalists in Earl Preston (George Spruce) and Cy Tucker (Thomas Thornton). They were performing original songs before the Beatles and they often worked with them. Galvin recalled,

There was a floating beat night on the Royal Iris with Earl Preston and the TTs and the Beatles. We shared the captain's cabin as our dressing room and John Lennon was helping himself to the whisky in the captain's rack. Girls were coming in for autographs and you know what ship doors are like. One girl had her hand on the jamb and John Lennon kicked the door shut and laughed. No one else laughed and the girl's hand was dripping with blood. To be honest, I never liked him much.

However, Galvin caused his own problems as Bob Wooler, by then the disc jockey at the Cavern, remembers,

Ritchie was like a spoilt child in those days as he would fly off the handle over nothing at all and I had to be very diplomatic with him. He would really thump his drums and the others would turn up their speakers to compete. The equipment wasn't very good and so their sound would be distorted, but it was very hard to get him to play quieter.

The London band the Tornados knew nothing of Galvin's reputation:

We did a gig at the Cavern with the Tornados and Clem Cattini said it would be

easier if I used his drums. It was a brand new Ludwig kit as they'd just gone to the top with "Telstar". I didn't think it was very wise and during the first number, I banged his snare skin through his bass drum.

Once the Beatles had hit records, every label wanted Mersey groups on their books. John Schroeder of Oriole brought a mobile unit to the Rialto Ballroom and recorded one group after another. Earl Preston and the TTs performed "Thumbin' a Ride", "All Around the World" and "Hurt", and both volumes of Oriole's This is Mersey Beat were big sellers. They also recorded a single for Jack Baverstock at Fontana, "Watch Your Step" and "I Know Something", and Baverstock employed them to back a London hitmaker down on his luck, Eden Kane. They restored him to the Top Ten with "Boys Cry" (1964).

Although Earl Preston and the TTs recorded enough material for an LP, it was never released because the group split up. Preston and Tucker formed new bands, while Galvin, Lance Railton (lead guitar) and Wally Shepherd (bass) worked with a succession of lead vocalists including Vic Wright, Amos Bonney and Karl Terry.

For all his loudness, Galvin had a fondness for country music and he formed a long-standing relationship with Phil Brady and the Ranchers. Brady, who retired earlier this year, was taciturn and reserved while Galvin behind him was a showman. Over the years Galvin worked with many Liverpool country bands, including Joe Piper, the Stringdusters and Western Union. Dave Howard, the lead vocalist in Harvey, recalls,

Ritchie was a shed-builder of a drummer, a great force to have behind you. Sometimes we'd be booked in a club that didn't want us or didn't want live music but it never bothered Ritchie. He would say, "We're going to win them round", and he always did.

Spencer Leigh