Personalities | The Beatles | The Formative Years (1957) | Key Events
Origins of The Quarry Men
The skiffle craze that swept Britain in the mid-Fifties, spearheaded by Lonnie Donegan, was a defining influence on all four Beatles. They badgered their parents for cheap acoustic guitars and strummed clumsily along to songs like ‘Cumberland Gap’ and ‘Rock Island Line’. John Lennon, a rebel looking for a cause, was the first to form a band, The Quarry Men, in the spring of 1957. It was a six-piece band that included a banjo and a tea-chest bass, although the personnel changed frequently as members found John’s volatile temperament hard to handle.
After an informal performance at a British Empire Day street party in Rose Street, Woolton, on 22 May 1957, The Quarry Men, perhaps over-ambitiously, auditioned for the local TV talent show Star Search at the Liverpool Empire on 9 June. Not surprisingly they failed that audition, and another for a lunchtime spot at the Cavern Club, at that time a jazz club in a dank cellar beneath a warehouse in Mathew Street. Their first ‘proper’ gig was at another street party in Rosebery Street on 22 June. They played on the back of a lorry while the microphone lead was fed through the window of No. 76.
When John Met Paul
Paul McCartney showed up at the next Quarry Men gig, a garden fête at St Peter’s Church, Woolton, on 6 July, invited by a friend who also knew John Lennon and introduced them. ‘As he leaned an arm on my shoulder I realized he was drunk,’ McCartney remembered. ‘John was obviously leading this thing. He didn’t know the words or anything. He’d obviously heard the records and not bought them.’ Lennon remembered playing ‘Be-Bop-A-Lula’ for the first time. After the show McCartney auditioned, playing ‘Twenty Flight Rock’ on Lennon’s guitar (upside down because he was left-handed) and impressed Lennon by knowing the words. McCartney passed the audition but he was still on holiday when The Quarry Men played their one and only Cavern Club show. Mid-way through the owner passed a note onstage: ‘Cut out the bloody rock’. McCartney’s first gig was at the New Clubmoor Hall, Norris Green, on 18 October. ‘A disaster. I got sticky fingers.’
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