How a Hartlepool musician became an overnight star

John Rogan (centre) pictured with old school pals Jimmy Corner and Frank Mayes during a visit to Hartlepool in 2013.
John Rogan (centre) pictured with old school pals Jimmy Corner and Frank Mayes during a visit to Hartlepool in 2013.

A tragic car crash helped pave the way for surprise musical stardom for the son of a Hartlepool trawlerman in the Swinging Sixties.

Adam Faith was forced to hold open auditions after losing his guitarist, Johnny Rogers, in an accident on May 27, 1963 – just before opening night at Sunderland’s Empire Theatre.

Galleys Field Secondary Modern School in 1960/61 - a young John Rogan is pictured on the back row.

Galleys Field Secondary Modern School in 1960/61 - a young John Rogan is pictured on the back row.

“This could mean a Cinderella-like transformation for one special youngster – one night just a guitarist with a local group, the next as part of Faith’s famed backing band the Roulettes,” reported the Mail.

Faith, who had “brought the house down at the London Palladium” only the previous week, saw dozens of hopefuls, many travelling from across Tyneside and Wearside to audition.

But it was 19-year-old Hartlepool musician Mod Rogan, better known to his school pals as John George Rogan, who eventually won the star’s approval.

John, a rhythm guitarist with local band The Hartbeats at the time, spotted Faith appealing for a musician on TV, and was urged by his niece to go for it.

“Reluctantly I rang the number,” he later told the Mail. “A number of bassists had already auditioned, and the group had someone in mind as a replacement.”

John was, however, still offered the chance to try out and, despite being a Mod while the rest of the band were rockers, thrashed out his own version of Twist and Shout by The Beatles.

“The chemistry was so right,” he recalled. “They said ‘You’ve got the job’. I was gobsmacked.”

John, the youngest of 15 children from Friar Terrace, who went to Baltic Street and Galleys Field schools, had to leave his job at Lumley Street Stores immediately.

And, instead of stocking the shelves and serving customers, he found himself playing at the London Palladium later that week, before flying off to Singapore.

“We looked for a bass guitarist and we found John Rogan,” said Roulettes musician Bob Henrit at the time. “His CV was extraordinary.”

John went on tour the world over the next four years, playing on the same bill as The Beatles, Eric Clapton, The Searchers, The Beach Boys, Tom Jones and Cliff Richard.

“The Beatles looked at us as being the big band,” he later told the Mail. “I remember meeting John Lennon; nobody knew The Beatles as such back then, it was quite bizarre.”

The Roulettes finally split up in 1967, following a European tour, but John continued to make music for several decades, until turning to teaching the piano and guitar.

“I’ve had a wonderful life,” he told the Mail just a few years ago. “It was a living dream. This sort of thing doesn’t happen to little Johnny Rogan from Hartlepool.”