In the mean time, Barbara, Hugh and the kids moved from St. Catherine’s Drive to Sneafall Road, Spring Valley and the young Gibbs spend a normal childhood on Man with a lot of playing outdoors and mischief.
Within a couple of years the family would move another two times: to the Strang Road and to Willaston.
Each one has his own early memories of this time on Man.
Maurice and Robin
Maurice and Robin both got stung by a bee in their early youth and because something like that hurts very much,this memory will stay very vivid.
Maurice can also remember the time he fell in the water, got soaking wet and walked backwards all the way back to Snaefall Road so nobody would see his rear. And of course then there were the Mad Sundays when Hugh took the kids on his brightgreen Norton Motorbike and drove round the TT circuit on Man.
Maurice remembers, another highlight was when all four of them being bathed by Barbara in a grey tin tub with hot water from a kettle! One of the first memories of Barry, besides his burning accident was his playing at the ice factory in Spring Valley.
Being bathed by Barbara, illustration from: The Legend
He remembers standing on the loading dock pretending to perform. ( later on in 1974 Barry would go back to all the places of his childhood on Man but not much had been changed).The smell of fresh bread also brings back lovely memories to Barry, from the time he joined his dad in the van to deliver bread and sometimes he then even ate some of the bread which had to be delivered!
And of course the memories they all have of their parents back in the early days singing and playing records at home. Lovely old and melodic songs like for instance The Mills Brothers.
Around 1953 the family moved to Manchester. Barbara wanted to move back to Manchester because most of her family lived there.
It was a very big change specially for Barry for whom it was quite an adventure and he very well remembers all the ruins `caused by the war.
In Man there`d been no war but Manchester was bombed and it was strange walking through this ruined city and not knowing exactly why and how this had happened!!
The first school experience of Barry in Manchester was bad, specially the head master of the school he went to was not fond of him.
He terrorised Barry for some months and Barry really became afraid of him and he and some friends didn`t go to school then anymore for about a year.He didn`t tell his parents but: “if I would have, something could have been done about it probably”: said Barry. Robin loved to play with fire.
He started fires everywhere, even under his bed. He always took a box of matches from the kitchen.
Maurice once tried to shoplift a bottle of orange juice, but he got caught and that was the first and last time he ever tried anything like that.
Barbara and Hugh had their hands full with all the stuff their kids got up to in their childhood days in Manchester and Barbara can go on and on talking about their pranks and mischief.
But inner cities like Manchester were also very desolate places for young kids to grow up in right after the war and a lot of them had the occasional trouble with the police.
Although the Gibb brothers are renowned for their lyrics and compositions, they only spend little time in school and they were mostly self taught.
Their love for music and performing started very early in life. Through the music played by their sister Lesley they regularly heard Rock and Roll music which was very popular then. In those years they also made their first musical instruments themselves; guitars made out of wooden boxes with electric wire for the strings.
They didn’t make any sound but it felt a bit like the real thing. In those days the twins were already singing in the school choir.
They hadn’t developed a preference for a certain kind of music yet, but the foundation for the Bee Gees was already formed.
They`d already started singing in harmony when being 6 and 9 years old but had never done it in front of public yet.
“We`ve never been that kind of family where parents pushed their kids and terrorised them to do more and more in music and go on stage.
We started to sing in harmony just for fun and were never pushed in any direction like some other American show business families.
It all came very naturally.
Meanwhile the family lived in Keppel Road, Chorltoncum-Hardy, a suburb of Manchester. The neighbourhood cinema round the corner, owned by the Gaumont concern, was the place where the young kids watched a movie on Saturday. During the break kids could lip-sync to their favourite records.
That was something the Gibb boys wanted to try and they asked if they could have a go. They practised all week together with some friends and called themselves The Rattlesnakes and the next Saturday, with a breakable 78 r.p.m. record under their arm, they left for the theatre.
But the record broke and so the brothers decided to go on stage and sing with their own voices.
That was really the beginning!!
The children in the audience were enthusiastic and although only Barry had a real guitar it felt like it was their first success and that felt great.The next day there was a picture of them in the paper.
Now they got a taste of stardom, they started to perform on street corners regularly.They enjoyed making music together with their friends Paul Frost and Kenny Horrocks.
More and more they developed the close harmonies and even though it often appeared you were listening to a record being played in the other room in the Gibb house, Hugh’s father knew better: it were his grandchildren singing!
The owner of another theatre asked them to come as well and so they performed at the Odeon and from there they started to sing more and more and even Hugh brought them through the backdoor of an adult club: The Russel Street Club where he performed as well with his band. The boys started to earn their first cents.
In the mean time the name of the group changed in Wee Johnny Hays And The Blue Cats and if they weren’t performing somewhere they would make music at home pretending to be in a television studio for recordings.
Meanwhile brother Andy was born and Barbara’s sister Audrey had plans to emigrate and Barbara and Hugh liked the idea too.
In those days you could board a ship to Australia voor 20 Pounds and to the kids these plans seemed like a big adventure.
The performance in the Russel Club was just about their farewell performance before they left for Australia and for the first time the boys connected with the audience and that felt very special. Ever since that night in the Russel Street Club Hugh had felt that the three brothers had a special magic which could lead them into his life of show business!!
Also on the ship the boys performed, now their name was Barry And The Twins.Those 5 weeks on the ship they performed a lot for the ships audience.They usually sat on the front of the ship, started to sing and the people came standing all around them.
On September first 1958 they arrived in Sydney, Australia.It was Barry`s 12th. Birthday.
They settled on Morton`s Bay in Queensland and became to make a name for themselves in Australia from that moment on.
Life in Australia had an immediate advantage, the weather was much more pleasant. Hugh had to find work and being a photographer often kept him away from home for long periods.In that time, when the boys minds were already focussing on show business especially Barry’s, Barry also had a “normal” job for a while.
He worked for a tailor, but his head was already on writing songs.With their first self written songs with them and very nervous the boys took the next step on the road to their professional career in music.
Close to their house in Brisbane was a racetrack: Redcliffe Speedway.
The boys didn’t only wanted to sit on the side but asked if they could perform in between races. They told they sang al three and that Barry played the guitar. They got their chance and although they were too young to get paid for their performance they were allowed to pick up the money people threw on the track.
The money wasn’t the most important part anyway: they got to perform and that’s what they wanted to do! This was when Barry was 12 years old and the twins were 9 years old.
It was at the end of 1959 and a race car driver named Bill Goode noticed the excited audience and came to check out whatwas happening. He heard the boys playing and was impressed.
Bill knew a DJ from Sydney named Bill Gates and he arranged the contact between him and the boys.
Gates noticed the immature talent of the boys very clearly and the harmonies were fantastic.
Hugh, still working far from home, had heard about what was happening with his sons and he was advised it would be best to come home.
Bill Gates became the boys` promoter.They were by that time also performing in hotels and soldier clubs and then the radio appearance started with Bill Gates who`d taped some of the boys` material: the first taped BG material ever!!! Which Gates later on would give to Barry and which of cause is a very precious memory.
Barry still keeps this tape and the letter of Bill Gates in a special place.!!
In that time Bill Gates had a daily radio program: Midday Platter Chatter and the songs of the boys he taped featured in his program regularly.
This airplay did the boys a lot of good.The radio listeners inquired where records by that group could be purchased.Of course by that time there was no official group yet but the act should soon get a name.
With Bill Goode, Bill Gates and Barry Gibb representing three sets of BG`s , and the same initials signalling “Brothers Gibb” the group was so christened, just with those initials at first and later around early 1963 the name would be expanded to The Bee Gees.
During this period Gates even asked sister Lesley to be a part of the group and sing together with her brothers, but Lesley being as shy as she was, wasn’t very interested.
Robin and Maurice in Australia
The boys singing for sister Lesley
Maurice and Robin with Tommy Steele
Barry now was busy composing himself already.
To his credit were, besides Time Is Passing By, three songs that probably predate the move to Australia; Turtle Dove, Twenty Miles To Blueland and Let Me Love You, which was recorded in that first Gates session.
This song was recorded by Tommy Steele in 1960 which probably made it the first BG cover ever.?!
At this time Bill Gates quit as their promoter.
He was a disc jockey, not a businessman and there was nothing else he could do for the boys.
Hugh took over and did everything for the Bee Gees.
He basically became their manager and drove them to all shows because the boys themselves were much too young to go on their own.
A next very important phase was the TV breakthrough in Brisbane round 1960.
To be continued.
Part three: History, starting in 1960.