The Daily Mail (Monday, July 6th, 1964)
Undertakers’ Guitarist ‘Shot’ In The Head
“Jackie Lomax, 19 year old bass guitarist and lead vocalist with the Liverpool beat group The Undertakers, was reported to have been shot in the head last night.
The group were in a Glasgow hotel room preparing for their £250 appearance at the city’s La Cave club when it happened.
Other members of the group were examining a heavy air gun one of them had just bought. It went off and Jackie, of Martins Lane, Wallasey, fell to the floor, it was said.
An announcement was at the club saying that the group, who have made several and TV appearances could not appear. Their manager, Mr. Ralph Webster, said early today: ‘I understand that Jackie’s condition is quite serious and he will be out of action for several days at least.’”
Scottish Daily Express (Monday, July 6th, 1964)
Mersey Pop Boy Shot At Fun-fair
“A Merseyside beat star was accidentally shot in the neck at a Largs fun-fair yesterday.
Jackie Lomax, a member of the Undertakers beat group, moved into the line of fire just as another member of the group squeezed the trigger of an air gun.
Twenty year old Jack staggered in the sunlit fairground as holiday-makers ran to help the other four Undertakers get him into their van. Last night his condition was not too serious.
Said Jackie, of Wallasey, Cheshire: “I thought at first I’d been bonked.”
The Undertakers were on the last day of their fort-night’s tour of Scotland and had gone to Largs for some fun before appearing at ‘La Cave Club’ in Glasgow. Their spot was taken over by the Bellrocks beat group.”
Daily Herald (Tuesday, July 7th, 1964)
‘I shot Jackie’, says Beat Star
“Beat star Chris Huston, 20, told yesterday how he shot his best friend – and put the Undertakers pop group out of action. ‘It was my air rifle slug that hit him – but it was all an accident,’ he said.
Jackie Lomax, lead singer with the group, had the slug removed from his neck in hospital yesterday. The group had to call of a £250 appearance at a Glasgow club after the accident. Back home at Rivington Road, Wallasey, Cheshire, Chris told me:
’We had been working pretty hard on our Scottish tour and decided to buy guns to do a bit of shooting in the country. We were on the banks of a loch and the boys were firing their rifles into the water. I aimed at a floating log – and I saw Jackie roll over. I cannot think what happened. I didn’t fire anywhere near Jackie, but it was my slug that hit him.’
Said Chris: ‘We picked him up and bundled him into the coach. Then we were told that the nearest hospital was at Paisley, 18 miles away. We set off there at 85 mph. We went through a radar trap at 80, but fortunately the Police did not stop us.’
Jackie is expected to leave the hospital in a few days.”
Well, there are the front page (above-the-fold) newspaper stories of the accident. As you can see, the first two accounts are totally different as if each newspaper wanted to get something in print and to hell with the details. All the major British papers covered the story but I only have these two press clippings, after all these years.
What really happened?
It was a beautiful Summers day, July 5th, 1964, and we were at the end of a two week tour of Scotland. We were on our way across the equally beautiful Scottish countryside to play our very last gig at La Cave club, in Glasgow.
We had stopped in a little village and found the village store, intending to buy sandwiches and soda. The village store was like nothing we had ever seen before: one end was a butchers shop cum grocery store while the other end was a hardware store. As you walked in, facing you, was a Post Office and to top it all off, in the middle of the store was a huge round display stand with, amongst other things, bicycles and air rifles on it.
We asked about buying the really heavy-duty air rifles and were told that you needed a license. “Oh!”, we said. But the helpful clerk was quick to explain that the licenses could be obtained from the post Office, “…right over there!”. “Oh!”, we said and bought three of them for me, Brian and Bugs. The next thing was to find somewhere to try them out. After continuing on our journey towards Glasgow we decided to stop off at Loch Killarney and test out our new guns. Loch Killarney is a beautiful place, being a wide lake, and we wasted no time in looking for suitable targets, floating in the vast expanse of clear water.
We had been at it for maybe 20 minutes when I moved along the top of the hillside overlooking the loch and set my sights on a big log floating a little way out from the bank. As I pulled the trigger on my rifle I saw something move across my line of sight, in a blur of movement. I looked up from my position of squinting down the sights and saw Jackie. I just didn’t know what had happened. He was about 30 feet in front of me, down the hillside at the edge of the water. Blood was already flowing from the area behind his right ear. I remember he said “Why did you hit me?” or something like that. Although I was 25-30 feet away, he at first thought that I had poked him with the rifle barrel. I guess the mind will do weird things at times like those, magnifying the distance between us, as if I was right next to him.
What had happened was that Jackie had walked along the waters edge and lay down, with his shirt off, to get some sun. Laying down, at the bottom of the hill, I couldn’t see him from my position at the top. He said that he got up suddenly to get his cigarettes out of his jeans and was patting his pockets for his lighter when the slug hit him.
I ran down the hill towards him as he was starting to stagger and I didn’t know where he’d been hit. All I knew that there was blood and he was in danger of collapsing. I reached him and started to half carry and pull him up the hill at the same time shouting to Johnny Booker, our roadie, to get the Commer van started. Everyone was in shock of course – just standing there. It ended up with Bugs and me, with Jackie in between us, and Booker driving. By this time Jackie’s bare chest was covered with blood and I was holding a handkerchief over the profusely bleeding hole behind his ear, trying to staunch the flow.
We were speeding along the country roads, heading in the general direction of were we thought the next big city or town would be. We were doing at least 70 mph on an open stretch of road we saw a Police car parked on the side of the road with the trunk open. By way of explanation: In those days radar systems were primitive, still in their 15th Century incarnation. The way they set up the speed traps back then was that car with the radar equipment was parked at the side of the road waiting for victims. Once a speeding car passed the parked radar unit, a second chase car came into the picture. By law, the speeder had to be paced for a distance of a quarter of mile for the ticket to stick.
We passed the radar unit at around 70 mph and continued down the road. A little ways down we saw a charabanc (a tour bus) pulled over, with a police car parked in front of it. We slowed down as a policeman walked into the road and waved us down. We pointed at Jackie, who was by this time was in shock and not looking too good, and explained that there had been an accident and we needed to know were the nearest hospital was.
The policeman waved us on and a few seconds later over took us and led us into Paisley, to the nearest hospital. We must have looked funny speeding along behind this silly little police car with its little brass bell clanking away, our van covered in lipstick messages from girls which our roadie had to clean enough to see out of the windows, daily.
Upon arrival, Jackie was taken into the Emergency Room and Bugs and I sat around waiting. Around 45 minutes later, Jackie, lying on his side on a gurney and looking very pale was wheeled out. He was conscious and they had given him a local anesthetic. They had cut a quarter-sized hole behind his ear in a vain attempt to locate the slug which apparently had deflected off the mastoid and migrated down into his neck. Further surgery, we were told, was scheduled for early the following morning to retrieve the missile.
Jackie asked Bugs for a ciggie and Bugs lit one and put into Jackie’s mouth. I felt so bad at seeing Jackie still shaking and looking so small on the gurney. All the ramifications of what had happened started to set in. I remember being chastised by a nurse for allowing Jackie to smoke. Both Bugs and I were camera buffs and Bugs asked me for my micro lens attachment so that he could take some close-ups of the hole in Jackie’s head. I don’t know what happened to those pictures – I wonder if they still exist?
Johnny Booker, our intrepid roadie, had gone back to retrieve the other members of the group and after he had called our manager, Ralph Webster, he took us all (minus Jackie, of course) to the airport in Glasgow, where tickets had been quickly organized to fly us home – a rare luxury in those days. Upon arrival at Speke airport later that evening, Ralph took us all home in his flash American car, a bright blue American Motors 1963 Rambler Classic. I was amazed at the sight as we pulled up to my house: Even though it was raining, about 14-15 people, mostly girls, were standing around talking and crying. The news had already been on the radio and the TV. When I went in the house my mum had 7-8 fans sitting down in the front room, drinking tea. My parents were, understandably, very concerned and wanted to know what had happened. Next day several newspaper reporters came by, unannounced, and wanted to know what had happened.
Jackie was out of commission for about two weeks. During that time we had quite a few gigs lined up in the south of England. Luckily, Tony Jackson of the Searchers went out on the road with us and enabled us to fulfill those obligations. Jackie has fully recovered but still to this day, whenever we’re together at a party, or meet somebody whatever, he jokingly warns them to watch out for me while pulling back his long hair to show the scar down the back of his neck, behind his ear. What can I say about this story except that it is a part – although not the best of things to have happen – of my life and times. Another one of the experiences that have served to balance and color my life so wonderfully.
© 2004 Christopher Huston