The Fourmost man who thumped Lennon and told McCartney Hey Jude was sh***
Scousers love to tell tall tales. And there are few tales taller than those told by veterans who claim to have known the Beatles, especially in the early years.
Well, maybe they hadn't actually KNOWN the Beatles. But their brother knew someone who'd been in the same class as Ringo when he was Ritchie, or who'd been sworn at by John, or whose girlfriend's friend had had a fling with George...anything for a bit of reflected glory.
Billy Hatton didn't need to tell tall tales about the Beatles, to embellish the yarns. For they really happened.
It was John who asked Billy's opinion about the new drummer, Ringo, after their first gig together.
It was Billy who famously thumped John at Paul's 21st birthday party, when John overstepped the line with a girl.
It was Paul who played the rough draft of Hey Jude to Billy (and others) just hours after it was written. And it was Billy who told Paul that it was a "load of shite”.
He would laugh at his poor judgement in later years. Oh well, you couldn't get them all right.
He talked of the nondescript little American who once shared a dressing room and stank of weed. But he could do things with a guitar that Billy just didn't think possible. Name of Hendrix
William Hatton had been a war baby, born in 1941 in the Dingle, an exact contemporary of the Beatles and from a similar social background: a bright boy from a working-class family who had passed his 11-plus and gone on to a grammar school - in his case, the Bluecoat in Wavertree.
In theory he should have made a career as a draughtsman. But the first sounds of rock'n'roll were echoing across the Atlantic and the ability to play a few amplified chords on a guitar could take a young man a long way.
Billy's best friend from the Dingle was Ronnie Wycherley, whose star blazed brightly early on as another Billy: Billy Fury.
He was a hard act to follow, but when Hatton was asked by another Dingle schoolmate, Brian O'Hara, to join his band the Two Jays (eventually making the Four Jays), the good times beckoned.
They rehearsed at the Florrie, they played at the Cavern Club before the Beatles did and, in 1963, became part of the Brian Epstein stable of acts as the Fourmost: four young men who, even in their early 20s, were veterans of the local music scene who'd learned their professionalism the hard way.
As the Fourmost they were often the supporting band when the Beatles went on tour. They were on the bill the night Ringo debuted for the Beatles and the two acts worked hand in had throughout the 60s.
Their first hit, Hello Little Girl, was written by John Lennon, allegedly in the back of the van. Produced by George Martin on EMI's Parlophone label, it reached number 9 in the UK hit parade in August, 1963. The Fourmost reached the Top 10 just one more time, with A Little Loving going to number 6 in mid 1964.
Video: The Fourmost visit the tailors
And despite extensively touring the UK and Europe, in the end they all went their separate ways. Mike Millward, one of the Fourmost who had joined the band shortly after Billy, died from cancer in the 60s, and with changes in personnel came changes in direction up the point where none of the original members now play in the band called the Fourmost. (Founder member O'Hara took his life in 1999.)
In later years Hatton worked a lot at LIPA, the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, mentoring young bands and warning them of the realities of life on the road. Always ready with recollections, but without bragging.
There was the time when he lent a guitar to his hero, Carl Perkins; and also he talked of the nondescript little American who once shared a dressing room and stank of weed. But he could do things with a guitar that Billy just didn't think possible. Name of Hendrix.
He was a particular admirer of The Coral, even playing with them on occasions but declining an invitation to go on tour. "It's your band, you won't want to be seen with your grandad playing…"
He never found much in the way of fortune, never married, and turned away from the fame that was there for the asking. A gentle, humorous man who enjoyed his pub quizzes and would always find time for old fans.
Maybe one day a fame of sorts will arrive. He had written out his memories of the Merseybeat years and at the time of his sudden death, at his sheltered home in Liverpool 8, he had been looking for a publisher. They should make interesting and amusing reading.
*William (Billy) Hatton, Fourmost bassist and vocalist, born 9 June 1941, died 18 September 2017.