Personalities | The Beatles | The Formative Years (1960) | Key Events
Stuart Sutcliffe Joins
Although the bookings had dried up again at the beginning of 1960, John Lennon’s art school friend Stuart Sutcliffe was persuaded to join the band on bass. Having sold a painting for £65 he was able to buy a big, stylish Hofner bass that he couldn’t actually play. But no matter; it looked good and he could learn to play as the four of them continued to rehearse and practise new songs. Stuart also brought a new name for the group: The Beetles. But what good was a name without gigs?
Johnny Gentle Tour
The Beetles’ prospects improved in May when Allan Williams, owner of the Jacaranda coffee bar, a hang-out for local bands, became their part-time manager. He rechristened them The Silver Beetles, found them a drummer, Tommy Moore, gave them a regular spot at his club and secured them an audition with impresario Larry Parnes to back his protégé, Liverpudlian Billy Fury. Parnes had reservations but a few days later offered the group a job backing Johnny Gentle, another young Liverpudlian, on a tour of the Scottish Highlands. The tour was not a success but the experience was invaluable.
Back in Liverpool, The Silver Beetles found themselves booked on a series of dancehall gigs across the Mersey. They played at the notoriously rough Neston Institute and the even rougher Grosvenor Ballroom in Wallasey where Stuart Sutcliffe was badly beaten up one night, an event that probably caused his brain haemorrhage a couple of years later. But they couldn’t hang on to drummer Tommy Moore who opted for the life (and wage) of a fork-lift truck driver rather than enduring John Lennon’s caustic comments.
Janice the Stripper
Drummer-less once more, The Silver Beetles were in no position to refuse Allan Williams’ unlikely offer: backing a stripper called Janice at an illegal strip club he’d opened. Paul McCartney recalled, ‘We played behind Janice and at the end of her act she would turn round and … well, we were all young lads, we’d never seen anything like it before, and all blushed … Four blushing red-faced lads.’ McCartney covered some of his blushes by playing drums.
Pete Best Joins
Finally The Silver Beetles got a break. In early August Allan Williams was asked to supply a band to play at the Indra Club in Hamburg, Germany. He offered it to the band if they could find a drummer. A few days later the band were in the Casbah Club on a night off where they found the owner’s son, Pete Best, playing with The Blackjacks. Even better, The Blackjacks were splitting up. They asked Best if he wanted to go to Hamburg. Then they asked if he wanted to join the band. Somehow Best passed the hurriedly-arranged audition for the band that was now renamed The Beatles.
First Hamburg Trip
On 16 August Allan Williams drove The Beatles to Hamburg where they signed a contract...
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