The Undertakers were one of the hardest-rocking Liverpool groups, although they were handicapped by the lack of songwriting ambition that hampered most Merseybeat outfits.
No notable commercial success awaited them on either side of the Atlantic, although they managed to record nearly half a dozen singles before breaking up in the mid-60s.
On the evidence of their energetic 45s, they were most likely an excellent club band, and on record at least, they were better than the other Liverpool band that was noted for pursuing a tougher, blacker sound than the usual Mersey groups – The Big Three.
But they didn’t have the originality to compete either with the early British Invasion groups that wrote their own material, or the more ferocious and imaginative R&B bands based in London.
Whatever press they got in the United States was due to their publicity stunts of dressing up in real undertaker costumes, and after three singles (including a raving version of Solomon Burke‘s Stupidity) The Undertakers decided that their name – and the coffin they carried on stage with them at every performance – might be harming their image.
So they streamlined themselves to The Takers . . . and were promptly allowed on the telly, appearing on Thank Your Lucky Stars in September 1964. A drama teacher was recruited to teach them to smile – something not required in their previous incarnation.
The final chapter of The Undertakers’ story was a strange one. After letting their Pye deal lapse, they went to America at the behest of a promoter looking for British bands to work in the States (Pete Best’s group was taken in by the same offer).
Unable to play in the US because of visa problems (although they did perform in Canada), The Undertakers spent much of their American visit working in New York City studios.
One very rare US-only single emerged from this period on a tiny label. As it happened, it was their most impressive one, presenting the first Jackie Lomax original to make it onto record (Throw Your Love Away Girl).
The Undertakers dissolved at the end of 1965. Jackie Lomax went on to make an album for Apple in the late ’60s with George Harrison producing.
Brian ‘Boots’ Jones
Dave ‘Mushy’ Cooper