Beyond legends: lesser-known 60s acts for your rock collection

Everyone collects The Beatles. But, how about Mersey Beat acts? Look beyond legends for your rock memorabilia collection and you'll find rich avenues aplenty. 

Collecting is above all a personal passion. Finding yours is the way to get a really deep and rewarding experience.  

Here are five 60s acts that aren't quite in the top tier, but which will broaden the range of your music collection. 

1 - Jan and Dean 

A signed photograph of surf rock duo Jan and Dean

A signed photograph of Jan and Dean from early in their career. 

Who came first The Beach Boys or Jan and Dean? 

It depends how you define things, but Jan and Dean, (under the name Jan & Arnie) released a single in 1958, 3 years before the Beach Boys released their debut. 

They worked with Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, who co-wrote with Jan Berry (Dean Torrance was the full name of Dean) as the duo embarked on a long run of hits from 1963. They included the self-mythologising Surf City and Drag City.

But, it was the Beach Boys who took the spotlight in the California/Surf Rock scenes.

Jan was badly hurt in a Los Angeles car accident in April 1966. After months in a coma, he came to, but with serious physical impairments, and out of sync with the rapidly changing 60s pop world. Eerily, Berry had been close to Deadman's Curve, the title of a Jan and Dean single. 

The duo never recovered, but their starry story, links to the Beach Boys, and tragedy fascinate fans to this day.

A signed photo from the pair is worth close to £500 today, and they came of age in the era of mass pop hysteria, meaning lots of merchandise with a kitschy, Californian feel that could easily become fashionable again.

2 - The Nashville Teens 

A poster for a Ready Steady Go concert from 1966 prominently featuring The Nashville Teens

The band were big enough to headline with their first hits. Where are The Truth now?

The story goes something like this: the Blues was a product of American slavery and racism. Not something to celebrate. And so the stars of the genre found themselves more popular in a far away country - south east England. 

The 60s beat group explosion that The Beatles headed was accompanied by a Blues Boom. The Stones were in this camp, and so were the Nashville Teens, who came from one of its heartlands, Surrey. 

They started off in very classic style: playing in Hamburg's Star Club and backing visiting US rock and R n B legends Gene Vincent and Chuck Berry. 

They hit big in June 1964 with their first single, Tobacco Road. The very southern US sound made it an international hit, despite someone debatable authenticity.  

They were a great band. But not overburdened with star factor. And by the end of the decade they were back playing as back-up band to the stars who had inspired them. 

Autographs of the whole band can be found for under £100, and they are important bit part players in the Beat Boom/British Invasion collecting scene. 

3 - The Lords

A poster for the German beat group The Lords

Funny guys. The Lords were not entirely serious about their career.

A great way to diversify your collection is to look outside the US and UK. The Lords were Germany's biggest 60s band. 

They started out as a skiffle outfit - like a certain gang of lads from Liverpool. And when that foursome broke big the Lords were well placed to cash in, which they first did by winning a contest linked to the release of The Beatles' A Hard Day's Night. 

As you can see, they didn't take themselves entirely seriously. Their haircuts were a deliberate parody of a Beatles mop top, and their suits were waiters' togs. They did lo-fi dance routines while they performed. 

It's served them well in their homeland, though they were often relegated to support-act status when big, serious rock acts like The Who came to Germany. 

They provoked curiosity in international audiences, and a genuine enthusiasm in Germany, where a version of the band still tours. Their memorabilia has a lot of colour and charm. 

4 - The Animals

A 1960s concert poster prominently featuring The Animals

The band were a sensation when they burst onto the 60s beat scene in 1964.

Now, I think The Animals should be regarded as a top-level act. But in popularity and status terms they're not there.

That's despite their enormous status with fellow musicians, and two of their  founder members Eric Burdon and Alan Price having major, influential solo careers. 

The Animals came from Newcastle, yet another gang of blues-obsessed kids. Alan Price's distinctive organ style, Burdon's massive vocals, some good song choices, and a lot of luck helped elevate them into international stardom. 

Like many 60s stars they were not well managed, and that contributed to their short-lived success. Their defining second single, House of the Rising Sun, was released in June 1964. By September 66 their race was run.

Full sets of the original line-up's autographs can reach into the hundreds, and their records are also collectible. If you're after a band to follow for musical depth, then The Animals are a great choice. 

5 - Mersey Beat Sound 

Billy J Kramer autograph from the 1960s
A 1964 autograph from Billy J Kramer. John Lennon told him to add the J to his name.

Instead of collecting a band, you could put together a collection that reflects a sound. 

You have lots of options: regional (most cities had sizable beat scenes in the early 60s), stylistic (mods, rockers), genre (beat, modern jazz, skiffle, blues), production or management or label and more.

The Mersey Beat scene is a great place to start. And it's still collectible and lucrative today because of its association with The Beatles, the single members of this scene to transcend it. 

You could specialise even further by focusing on Brian Epstein's stable of acts, who included Gerry and the Pacemakers, Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas and Cilla Black. 

An autograph from Gerry Marsden of Gerry and the Pacemakers

Walk on. Gerry and the Pacemaker songs are still sung today.

Or look for Beatle connections: Ringo was a member of Rory Storm and the Hurricanes before joining the Fab Four. 

Some of these acts still play today: The Merseybeats are still around, so you can collect autographs in person.

This is a diverse scene and one with a tonne of interest. A trip to Liverpool is a highly recommended addition to your collecting schedule. 

New angles

A collection of press stills from lesser-known 1960s pop acts

Name those acts. These lesser known contenders all shot for the stars in the 60s.

It's easy to pick out the big names - The Beatles, Stones, Dylan - and go down those well-trodden roads. 

But you'll get an extra dimension if you plough your own furrow. 

I think you'll also get better value as a collecting experience. It's easier to find defining, important artefacts.

The 60s were about the shock of the new, about change, excitement - collect in that spirit.

Will you get monetary returns in the long run? 

That's less easy to predict. 

If you'd like to look at what's available our store is a great place to start. 

And we're always glad to hear from you with your wish-lists or items for sale. Just drop me a line on info@paulfrasercollectibles.com. 

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