The Swinging Blue Jeans, formed in 1957 by Ray Ennis (guitar/vocals) and Bruce McCaskill (guitar/vocals), were a Liverpool group who helped create the Merseybeat sound of the early to mid-1960’s.
The band started out, in the same way that many of the Merseybeat bands had done, as a skiffle group.
Ennis and McCaskill soon recruited Tommy Hughes (banjo), Norman Kuhlke (washboard) and Spud Ward (oil drum bass). Ralph Ellis joined the band shortly after to form the skiffle sextet.
However, such was the number of new bands in Liverpool there were always transfers being made amongst the most popular groups.
Spud Ward soon left the Blue Genes, as they were known at this time, to join Rory Storm and the Hurricanes bringing Les Braid as a replacement.
Meanwhile Bruce McCaskill left the band after some personal disagreements and Tommy Hughes joined the British armed forces.
These two were replaced with Paul Moss and John E. Carter respectively.
Hamburg Star Club
By 1962 the jazz influenced skiffle band were working full time as musicians but felt that a change in style and direction was needed.
Like The Beatles the group had travelled to Hamburg to play the Star Club but had found a less than enthusiastic reception to their music with audiences tending to boo rather than applaud.
As a result the sextet decided to turn to rock and roll and it would prove to be the best decision they would ever make.
Renaming themselves The Swinging Blue Jeans and changing their on-stage attire, the rock and roll band made real headway in the industry and announced themselves as one the top Liverpool bands.
This led to a recording contract with EMI subsidiary label HMV and the chance to work with the producer Walter Ridley. John E. Cartner had left the band in 1961, taking up the opportunity to move to Canada, however the quintet was made a quartet when Paul Moss left the band soon after signing their record deal.
The bands first single, a Ray Ennis composition, was called It’s Too Late Now (which actually featured Moss on the recording) hitting #30 in the UK singles chart.
The band took their place amongst the Liverpool invasion of all the popular TV and radio shows in Europe and the UK and along with The Beatles, The Searchers and Gerry and the Pacemakers.
The bands line-up, minus Paul Moss, looked similar to The Beatles with two guitars, bass and drums and would release six singles and two albums in the next four years.
Hippy Hippy Shake
The bands second single Hippy Hippy Shake, a cover of the 1959 Chan Romero song, reached #2 in the UK singles chart and would become one of the seminal songs of the 1960’s.
The band would enjoy a successful 1964 with more TV and Radio appearances and two major successes in the UK singles chart.
A cover of Little Richard’s Good Golly Miss Molly was released in March 1964 charting at #11 while You’re No Good the Betty Everett 1963 release became a #3 hit for the band in May 1964.
However the popular music landscape was changing rapidly and by 1965 Merseybeat bands were on the wane, partly due to the huge advances that were being made by The Beatles and George Martin.
The bands next single, released in January 1966 charted at a slightly disappointing #31. Another blow was struck when Ralph Ellis, one of the principal songwriters with the group, left the band in early 1966.
Ellis was succeeded by Terry Sylvester from fellow Liverpool band The Escorts. The band recorded a new album at Abbey Road studios but this did not fare well in the UK album charts as the band dropped their edgier rock and roll leanings in favour of a safer sound.
This also failed and when the bands producer Walter Ridley attempted to move Ray Ennis into a solo career recording the single Tremblin’ backed by session musicians and with the singer Kiki Dee.
The song however was still released under the name The Swinging Blue Jeans and the four became five when former Escorts musician Mike Gregory joined the group. Gregory now took over as bassist while Les Braid took up keyboards for the band.
Dropped by EMI
The bands popularity and commercial attractiveness were on the wane by this point and an attempt to market the band as Ray Ennis and The Blue Jeans seemed to be no remedy to this problem.
Terry Sylvester was soon switching his allegiances to the Hollies (Graham Nash had just decided to join up with Stephen Stills and David Crosby) and another name change was crafted for the single Hey Mrs. Housewife.
This failed to halt the slide and the band were dropped by EMI. A final step away from the Swinging Blue Jean moniker was attempted and the name Music Motor was taken up for the single Happy on the Deram label.
This single did not make any headway into the commercial singles charts and the band moved back towards the cabaret circuit.
Ray Ennis was the sole survivor from the original 1950’s line-up after Les Braid’s death in 2005 and the band officially retired from the live music circuit on 30 May 2010 after the final dates of the bands last tour.