‘Cass & The Cassanovas’ (later The Big Three) were formed in May 1959 by Newcastle Upon Tyne born Brian Casser along with Adrian Barber on guitar and Johnny Hutchinson on drums and vocals.
By July 1959 the band played the first gig with Johnny Hutch at the Corinthean club in Liverpool’s Slater Street but they needed a bass player to complete the line-up.
Enter John Frederick Gustafson born in Liverpool on the 8th August 1942.
Johnny Gustafson as he was known didn’t even have a bass at this time but Barber reconstructed an acoustic which he used on a New Years Eve gig at the Tower Ballroom in New Brighton.
The band continued as a four piece for the next year playing gigs at the Liverpool Stadium, St George’s Hall and The Cavern Club. Casser, the founder member, moved to London causing his exit from the band.
The band, now a trio, sorts a new name and decided on ‘The Big Three’.
This was an awesome (LOUD) three piece, not only because of Adrian Barber’s electronic wizardry but because Johnny Hutch had his drum kit tuned for ultimate volume.
Some people said he used sticks carved from brush handles and that his bass drum skin had a wooden centre which was struck by a bass drum pedal with a steel hammer attached.
One musician I spoke to about the bands sound said “Johnny Hutch’s bass drum would take your head off!” But this was not to be the bands final or most successful line up.
The band signed up with the monopolistic Brian Epstein Co. for management and were sent to Hamburg. Adrian Barber left the band and was replaced by Brian Griffith in august 1962.
Their reputation grew and they were without doubt the most formidable and influential band on the Merseyside scene. They recorded what was basically a demo of ‘Some Other Guy’ for Decca, which Decca released against the bands wishes, causing a split with Epstein in July 1963.
This was ultimately the end of ‘The Big Three’ and in the latter part of 1963 Gustafson and Griffiths left and went to Hamburg with another band ‘The Seniors’.
Hutchinson replaced them with Paddy Chambers and Faron Ruffley but this group would not live up to the bands former reputation.
In 1973 former members of the band, Johnny Gustafson and Brian Griffiths brought in drummer Nigel Olsson and recorded an album ‘Resurrection’ for Polydor. In 2009 a compilation CD was issued called ‘Cavern Stomp’.