The Bluegenes Skiffle Group formed as semi-professionals in 1957, in Liverpool. They progressed from church halls to the Cavern Club and in 1963, started to play rock’n’roll when the Cavern Management realized how popular the music was. The group wore new stage outfits which included blue jeans and turned professional. The Bluegenes became The Blue Jeans, then finally the Swinging Blue Jeans. The group had a standard Merseybeat line-up of two guitars, a bass guitar and drums and the original line up was Ray Ennis (Vocalist / Guitarist), Ralph Ellis (Vocalist/Guitarist), Les Braid (Bassist / Keyboardist), and Norman Kuhlke (Drummer). The SBJ gigged around Liverpool playing regularly in the Mardi Gras and The Cavern. Like many of their contemporaries they went to the Star Club in Hamburg. They managed to get a recording contract on their return and had a minor success with their debut single, “It's Too Late Now" (1963).
Their next attempt was less successful but “Hippy Hippy Shake”, their third single, took the group to the number three position in the hit parade in 1963.
The group appeared on the very first Top of the Pops (BBC) along with the Rolling Stones and the song became an instant international hit charting in the UK in several European countries, US and Australia. Hippy hippy shake was their only US hit and had been written by songwriter, Chan Romero. Chan was a rockabilly artist and recorded the song in 1959.
It was a hit in US, UK and Australia and the singer proved so popular Down under, he toured with the Jerry Lee Lewis in 1960. The Beatles liked the song and often sang it on stage but decided not to release it as a single.
The Beatles version does appeared on "The Beatles Live at the BBC" album in 1994. The Blue Jeans had two more hits in 1964 with "Good Golly Miss Molly" (1964) and a cover of Betty Everett’s “You're No Good" (1964).
By the end of that year the English Invasion had peaked and the Blue Jeans hits dried up. The group did not progress with the new musical tastes of the time and the group continued in the club circuit.
Terry Silvester (The Escourts) joined the group in 1965 then left three years later to replace vocalist The Hollies’ vocalist, Graham Nash. The Jeans continued to be a popular club act but had no longer aspirations as a pop group. They have enjoyed working on the international retro circuit and regularly toured with fellow Liverpudlians and other contemporary acts.
Sadly Les Braid died in 2005, a much loved musician and performer, known for his keen humour and good nature. The current line-up of the Swinging Blue Jeans features: Ray Ennis (lead vocals and rhythm guitar), Les Braid (Bass guitar and backing vocals), Alan Lovell (lead guitar and vocals) and Phil Thompson (drums and percussion).
Worth a listen:
It's Too Late Now (1963)
Hippy Hippy Shake (1963)
Good Golly Miss Molly (1964)
You're No Good (1964)
Don't Make Me Over (1966)