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NIGHT LIFE

Joys of a Lad From Liverpool : In the right place at the best time, R&B veteran Jackie Lomax made music with guys named John, Paul, George and Ringo.

July 22, 1993|BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Back in the early '60s when Liverpool was the happening rock 'n' roll city, singer and bass player Jackie Lomax, of Wallasey, England, was right in the middle of it all. Lomax and his band, the Undertakers, often played with the Beatles at the Cavern Club in Liverpool and at the Star Club in Hamburg.

Lomax's band also played with Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Bill Haley, Ray Charles and many of the American rockers just beginning that endless road trip.

When the Undertakers began a American tour in the mid-'60s, Lomax ended up getting reacquainted with the Beatles' manager Brian Epstein, who invited Lomax back to England to record an album. That eventually led to Lomax working in various capacities for Apple Records and with, at various times, John, Paul, George and Ringo.

He cut an album, "Is This What You Want?" produced by George Harrison that featured a pretty hot backup band that included Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr.

When Apple went belly-up in the early '70s, Lomax relocated to New York and worked with members of the band and recorded a couple more albums. In the mid-'70s, Lomax followed Horace Greeley's advice and the trail of a zillion New Yorkers and moved to Southern California.

Lomax made a few more albums and did session work for Rod Stewart, Spencer Davis and Keith Moon, among others.

Today, Lomax is doing the local bar scene in Ventura County, adding his R&B repertoire to that of a veteran local bar band, Art Carnage. Lomax will be strutting his stuff Sunday at the Bermuda Triangle in Ventura. The three-buck cover charge also includes a tri-tip dinner. At a recent gig, Lomax discussed a few of his many travels.

Do you remember your first guitar and first gig?

Sure, I was 10 years old when I got my first guitar. It looked real cool, but it was terrible. My first gig was at a Catholic church a few blocks away, sort of a rock night and dance for the local kids.

What was it like being a rocker in England during the '60s?

It was great. I just sort of fell into it. I was playing in a band when I lived in Wallasey, which was across the river from Liverpool. I got offered a gig with a band called the Undertakers when I was 16 years old in 1960. At the time, I was a guitar player, but they handed me a bass and told me we had a couple of gigs that night. That band got pretty good and stayed together five or six years.

In the early '60s, most clubs had never had a rock 'n' roll band. You know, last week it was Bert & His Accordion or something like that. But they tried rock, and it made money. Live music has always drawn people in; it's the Zombie Principle. Music attracts people like moths to a light.

And your band played a lot in Germany?

Yeah, in Hamburg mostly at the Star Club. We played in France, too, but the French were not very hospitable, regardless of the brochures. In Germany, they would have a lot of bands on the bill; we were always the band that stayed. We did five sets a night, so we'd play about every four or five hours with the last set at 6 a.m. Every idol you ever had would play there, and we'd back them up. Sometimes, we'd be on the bill with Ray Charles or someone like that.

The Undertakers played with the Beatles?

Many times. We used to play with them at the Cavern Club in Liverpool, and in Hamburg as well. Back then, everyone was into American R&B stuff. They'd do it with a 20-piece orchestra and we did it with guitars. In America, you had Elvis; in England, we had Cliff Richard & the Shadows. There would be a singer upfront, and all the musicians behind him would dance, you know, do steps. Liverpool bands were different. We didn't dance.

What was your first American tour like?

It was like being taken for a ride. I came with the Undertakers in 1965. We were brought over by a recording studio on 42nd Street in New York. Anyway, they sent us on tour to Canada and abandoned us. Later, Brian Epstein came to see us when the Beatles were in town to play Shea Stadium.

Tell me about your deal with Apple.

Of course, Brian Epstein died in the middle of an album I was making, but I was sort of kept as an obligation to Apple. Later, I remember John Lennon told me, "You write a lot of songs, right?" and I got hired as a songwriter. After George Harrison heard my stuff, he asked me if I wanted to do some more recording. What could you say? At this time, the Beatles were recording the "White Album" and "Abbey Road," so I'd hang out waiting for Harrison and the sessions to be over. They let me hang out because I was another guy from Liverpool.

How many albums did you make?

I made six, but you can only find them at collector's places. A compilation CD came out a couple of years ago, but nobody's paying me. When you play, it's a high no one can sell you, but you don't get paid for it.

What's Jackie Lomax music like?

Well, it's definitely influenced by early American R&B, and all the Motown and Stax stuff. I never tried to be like those guys, and I'm not into the nostalgic stuff of 25 years ago. If you're going to pay, I'll do some of the old stuff, but I have to do new stuff. Music is supposed to be progressive. I'd like to think I've progressed more than 25 years ago.

How did you end up in Ojai?

My ex-wife lives there, but I don't really live anywhere. I just go where the music is. I play as often as I can, maybe four nights a week.

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