John R. Shell (1947 - 1967)
John Robert SHELL was born 9 April 1947 in Dallas, Texas. His mother was a War bride who returned to Liverpool when John was a couple of years old. He attended the Liverpool Institute High School for Boys in September 1958, aged 11, and left school in 1963 having been in forms 3D, 4B, L5B, U5B and RA.
Soon after school he was part of locally well-known rock group, the Hideaways.
John married Elaine Curtis but shortly afterwards tragically lost his life in the Vietnam War at Phu Loi, Binh Duong Province on 2 January 1968 at the beginning of the Tet offensive.
He left behind his teenage widow, Elaine and their new-born daughter Amanda Jayne.
Merseybeat hero lost on Vietnam's killing fields
(Extract from the Liverpool Echo, 2nd June 2008)
AS MACCA made magic beneath a diamond-studded sky at Anfield, the saddest story of the Merseybeat era lay just a few hundred yards away.
It's the story of a poor boy from Liverpool, the only Scouser with a brick in the Cavern wall AND a brick on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C.
It was a short but talented life that sparkled with promise as he strode down Everton Valley, guitar in hand, and ended on the killing fields of Vietnam, aged just 20.
John Shell, clean cut and good looking, made many a girl's heart beat faster on stage with his beloved band, The Hideaways.
John was a bright lad who would scan the horizon of Liverpool Bay from the top deck of the bus coming down Everton Brow as he made his way to the Liverpool Institute.
The Cunard Yanks were bringing back thrilling music that was igniting a creative flame among Liverpool's likely lads.
He'd been born there, in Arkansas. His beloved mum, Mary, was a GI bride who returned to Liverpool with John when he was just two years old.
After leaving the Institute, John was having the time of his life with his great chum Frankie Connor and the Hideaways band, a happy and talented bunch of lads.
He'd met and married his sweetheart, the pretty and gentle-natured Elaine, just 17 and happily expecting their first child.
But, still holding American citizenship, John's conscience was stirred by the US conflict in Vietnam and volunteered.
One month after taking up his post as a private with the American Ist Infantry Division, John was killed in action.
The last postcard he wrote home to Liverpool, was still standing on the mantelpiece of Frankie Connor's family home in Blessington Road.
Frankie, an energetic and youthful 60 with an army of devoted fans of his show on BBC Radio Merseyside, has never forgotten the boyhood friend who shared his dreams and passion for Merseybeat.
And now the story has come full circle. One of the best Beatles' tribute bands in the world, The Cavern Beat, have fallen in love with a track called Poor Boy from Liverpool, written by Frankie with Alan Crowley and performed with Billy Kinsley and Tony Crane on the impressive Class of 64 CD.
Cavern Beat have asked to perform it when they come to Liverpool on tour in August, playing venues including the Eldonians.
"John Shell once said to me 'I'm just a poor boy from Arkansas' and that's how I got the title for this song," said Frankie. "I'm so thrilled that Cavern Beat are doing it. They are the first Beatles tribute band to choose a non-Beatles song. The guy who does John Lennon with the band sounds so like him and it's the nearest thing I'll ever get to hearing John Lennon singing one of my songs. It would mean a lot to John Shell that four Americans are doing it because we had so many dreams and ideas about going there. There were hundreds of people at his funeral and lining the route to Anfield Cemetery. Me and the Hideaways and many of the Merseybeat lads were there. American soldiers carried his coffin and gave the Stars and Stripes flag to his lovely young widow, Elaine. He went to fight a war he knew nothing about but he was that kind of guy, brave and honourable."
The Class of 64 CD is available at the BBC Radio Merseyside shop in Hanover Street.
When The Vietnam War Came to Mathew Street, Liverpool
(By Peter Alan Lloyd)
While I was doing some historical research for Bombed Out! I came across the sad tale of a former bass player in a Beatles-era band called The Hideaways, who regularly played at the Cavern Club. His name was John Shell, and he had joint British and American nationality, and felt the call to arms during the Vietnam War. ... more
Also see Peter's website.