The Big Three were a British beat and rock and roll group. Their power trio format (as implied by their name) and raucous yet refined live performances and groundbreaking high levels of wattage made them one of the most beloved and highly regarded Merseybeat groups, second only to The Beatles in popularity. The Big Three's 1963 single, "Some Other Guy", reached #36 on the British singles charts. Their 1963 live EP, At the Cavern, is a well-regarded document of the live scene of the infamous Cavern Club.
The Big Three evolved from a group called Cass & The Cassanovas which were formed in the late 50's by Brian Casser. Although originally a four-piece outfit, by 1959 they had slimmed down to a trio comprising of Casser (guitar/vocals), Adrian Barber (guitar) and Johnny Hutchinson (drums). In need of a bass guitarist, Hutchinson brought in Johnny Gustafson. At that time Gustafson didn't have a proper bass guitar so Barber converted an acoustic for him.
Late in 1960, Casser left the group and moved to London reducing them to a trio again. In January 1961 the Cassanovas re-emerged as the Big Three. Despite being a three-piece they were one of the loudest bands in Liverpool due to Barber's talents in the electronics field. He built the band giant amps, standing over five feet high, which were nicknamed "coffins".
Brian Epstein signed them to his stable and sent them over to Hamburg. It was during that trip that Brian Griffiths joined the group, Barber left, and the best-known line-up of the Big Three was established. Their musicianship and attack were legendary and they exerted a considerable influence on their contemporaries.
Epstein arranged for them to audition for Decca Records and they recorded "Some Other Guy". The group were not happy with the recording and appalled when they were told that Decca would be releasing it and wouldn't allow them a proper recording session so they could perform the song they way they wished it to be played.
Instead of understanding why the Big Three were so popular - because of their aggressive sound, their wildness, their casual appearance on stage - he put them into suits and began to dilute their sound, choosing lightweight pop numbers and insisting, against their wishes, that they record them.
The Big Three and Epstein terminated their partnership in July 1963, but the damage had been done. Gustafson and Griffiths quit, and with drummer Ian Broad from Rory Storm and the Hurricanes formed the Seniors and left for Germany. Hutchinson replaced them with Faron and Paddy Chambers from Faron's Flamingos.
By mid-'64 their days were numbered. Paddy Chambers left and was replaced by Paul Pilnick from the All Stars. Pilnick only stayed a short time before moving on to Tony Jackson and the Vibrations. Hutchinson received an offer to join Kingsize Taylor and the Dominoes but declined, opting instead to hang up his drumsticks.
Their best memorial is probably the E.P. "At The Cavern", actually recorded in 1963 and featuring the classic Griffiths/Gustafson/Hutchinson line-up, which conveys something of the excitement they created in their heyday.
Another group called The Big Three, including blues giant Willie Dixon and Leonard Caston, recorded for Columbia in the late 1940's before Dixon began his seminal career with Chess Records.
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