While the SFA’s Web site list of Famous People Who Stutter includes many high-profile names, we like to think that every person who stutters is unique in their own right.
One person who stutters who unfortunately never became famous was Rory Storm.
Born Alan Caldwell in Liverpool in 1942, he took the name Rory Storm when he formed his own rock band, Rory Storm & the Hurricanes. Rory stuttered badly but was totally fluent when singing, as is the case for many people. All accounts of Rory describe his speech problem as being severe.
Rory Storm & the Hurricanes was the most popular band in Liverpool and — at one point — even had more fans than their friends The Beatles. Rory’s blonde hair and blue eyed good looks made him quite popular with young women in Liverpool.
Rory would indirectly make history when he advised his drummer, Ritchie Starkey, to change his name because it did not sound artistic. Not wanting to change his name, the drummer finally did when Rory suggested he take the name “Ringo” because of the drummer’s penchant for wearing rings.
Ironically, Rory Storm & the Hurricanes played in the same club in Hamburg with the Beatles for a year. Ringo Starr had to fill in many times for original Beatle drummer Pete Best and it always went well.
When the Beatles canned Best just prior to recording their first record in 1962, Ringo was the unanimous choice to replace the popular Best.
Rory was sorry to lose Ringo but wished him well. Unfortunately for Rory, he and the Hurricanes would never see any glory days. With Beatlemania in England, other groups out of Liverpool, such as Gerry & the Pacemakers, achieved some success. However, Rory and his band fell on hard times and were constantly passed over for a recording contract.
Rory had to deal almost on a daily basis with the Beatles’ success because his sister Iris was Paul McCartney’s girlfriend for awhile, both before and after the Beatles’ success. She was Paul’s last Liverpool girlfriend, and even after their break-up, Paul kept in touch regularly with Rory’s mother, Violet Caldwell. In fact, when Paul wrote Yesterday, the first person he called was Violet Caldwell to sing it to her over the phone.
It was difficult for a talented person like Rory to be passed over during the Liverpool craze in rock history. He found it most difficult to adjust to a life in which he had to speak rather than sing.
Another hardship would come later. While known on the club scene throughout England, his trademark moves on stage coupled with his blonde hair and good looks were legendary. It is widely believed that an upstart singer Rod Stewart, who saw Rory perform many times in the early days, “stole” the singer’s trademark persona and found success of his own with well-choreographed moves on stage and flaunting his blonde hair.
Rory successfully treated his speech problem and became a fluent disc jockey for several years. However, tragedy would follow. In 1972, shortly after the death of his father and down on his luck, Rory took an overdose of pills and whiskey to end his life. His distraught mother died hours later of a heart attack.
True followers of the Liverpool club scene prior to 1962 know that Rory Storm was just as talented as any of the acts that found fame in the “British invasion.” Success was all around Rory Storm for many years, but life dealt him an unfortunate hand. While he did not achieve fame and fortune, his unique accomplishments put him on our radar screen as a famous person who stutters.