27 June 1746: Bonnie Prince Charlie escapes the English, leading to Brian Epstein signing The Beatles. Honest!

My Bonnie
“My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean”

When Flora MacDonald in 1746 helped Bonnie Prince Charlie escape from the English to the Isle of Skye, and then to France, little did they know it would help Brian Epstein sign The Beatles! Seriously? Yes! read on.

Bonnie Prince Charlie
Bonnie Prince Charlie

My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean

The Scottish folk song that recorded that story was called “My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean”. When, in 1961, German Producer Bert Kaempfert decided to make a record with Tony Sheridan, backed by The Beatles (as The Beat Brothers), he wanted a song that the German people would know, but was also performed by the British musicians. He chose “My Bonnie” and “When The Saints Go Marching In”.

My Bonnie Record
“My Bonnie” by Tony Sheridan and The Beat Brothers

Recording “My Bonnie”

Kaempfert combined melody with lush orchestral strings and brass. As well as orchestral and jazz-oriented records, he wrote the music for “Strangers In The Night”, recorded by Frank Sinatra, “Wooden Heart” recorded by Elvis Presley, as well as hits for Nat King Cole and Al Martino. Kaempfert must be one of the few, if not only, to have worked with Elvis, Sinatra and The Beatles.

Friedrich-Ebert-Halle
The Hall Where The Beatles recorded “My Bonnie”

Bert worked for Polydor, who often recorded at a school theatre in Hamburg Harburg. But this was no ordinary theatre, as I found out when I visited there in 2017. Kaempfert had The Beatles and Tony Sheridan, who had been playing this song together at the Top Ten Club, set up on the stage. This is where myth and fact combined to create urban myths!

The stage where The Beatles recorded "My Bonnie"
The Beatles recorded “My Bonnie” on this stage

Some say Kaempfert removed Pete Best’s bass drum and other drums, because he was so bad. This, they claim, became the first of many producers to be dissatisfied with Best’s drumming. There is no evidence for that.

What we do know is that Bert Kaempfert was happy to use The Beatles as a backing band, having seen them several times at the Top Ten Club. We also know that he never used heavy rock ‘n’ roll drums on any track, as he was into Easy Listening music. He therefore asked Pete Best to only use his snare drum and hi-hat cymbal, which he used to great effect, as you can tell when you listen to the record. We have evidence of that. Best’s drumming is superb!

Finding The Fourth Beatle

Because there are so many myths, misunderstandings and deliberate mistellings, I was determined in our book, Finding the Fourth Beatle, to ask real drummers what they thought of Pete Best’s drumming on “My Bonnie”. As I said in the book; I am not qualified to offer a professional opinion on drummers, as I am not a drummer, just an author.

Feedback from the drummers

“As Pete Best is not using his bass drum or floor tom, he does a really good job. Maybe Pete at that stage wasn’t experienced or talented enough maybe to play quieter. That is great drumming and a really good, high-speed drum roll in perfect time. How could anyone criticise that?” Mike Rice

“Very tight drum rolls at speed which is hard to do and keep in time. Especially as he didn’t use his full kit, he is very inventive in the use of the snare, with good flicks on the hi-hat, using it like a crash cymbal. A very technical piece of drumming, expertly executed.” Derek and Andrew Hinton

“My Bonnie” and other Songs

What songs were recorded, and in what order, is not known as there is little paperwork completed at the time. It is generally accepted that seven songs were recorded with Kaempfert. On the 22nd June, and possibly on the 23rd June 1961, four songs were committed to tape: “My Bonnie”, plus a German vocal as “Mein Herz Ist Bei Dir”; “The Saints (When The Saints Go Marching In)”; “Why”, written by Sheridan, and “Cry For A Shadow”, George Harrison’s skit on the Shadows, with a virtuoso solo performance, credited to Harrison/ Lennon.

The Beatles were also invited to perform another song, and John chose “Ain’t She Sweet”, one of his favourites, and one that would probably have fitted in with Kaempfert’s desire to record easy listening, old-time songs, that the German listener could identify with. However, what John produced was the harder, rockier sounding vocal performance that they would have done on stage, which didn’t really do him, or the group, justice. There were to be no vocal harmonies that would become their trademark in years to come.

My copy of "My Bonnie" signed by Pete Best
My copy of “My Bonnie” signed by Pete Best

It is also thought that they recorded “Take Out Some Insurance On Me, Baby (If You Love Me, Baby)”, probably at the same sessions, but there isn’t any documentation to confirm this. Sheridan, ably assisted by Paul on bass and Pete on drums also recorded “Nobody’s Child” as well. 

This was the Beatles being recorded for the first time as a group, in a studio, with a bona fide producer.    

“My Bonnie”, Brian Epstein and The Beatles

To complete the story, Brian Epstein became interested in The Beatles when local fans started asking to order “My Bonnie” by The Beatles. This brought them to Brian’s attention, who, as a record retailer, was interested in a local group who could sell records. (Read the interview with Alistair Taylor for more on that story).

And so, the story that started with Bonnie Prince Charlie’s escape from the English way back in 1746 led to Brian signing The Beatles.

For a detailed look at the recording of “My Bonnie”, it is featured in Finding the Fourth Beatle.

David Bedford

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Beatles Drummer Norman Chapman

The mystery drummer is Norman Chapman
He is Norman Chapman!

Norman Chapman – “Big feller; He Was a Good Drummer”

George Harrison said: “Big feller, did not talk much. In fact, I can’t remember a word he ever said to me. He was a good drummer, though, and that’s for sure.” Ringo later commented: “The boys told me they had this drummer they heard rehearsing on his own. They thought a hell of a lot of him.”

When I first came across the name of Norman Chapman, he was a footnote in Beatles history. He only gave one interview, many years ago, to BBC Radio Merseyside’s Spencer Leigh. There were no photographs of him; there was very little biography, and that was about that.

The Exclusive Story of Norman Chapman

Norman Chapman's drums in The Jacaranda Club
Norman’s Drums in The Jacaranda

When I was working on my second book, “The Fab one hundred and Four: The Evolution of The Beatles“, I was determined to find out more about Norman. It took me months of research, and eventually I was able to trace Norman’s daughter, Anne-Marie. After talking together, I was very honoured that she was prepared to trust me with telling her father’s story, and to entrust the photographs to me alone. I gave her my word that she could check the story before it was published, so that it was what she wanted, as this would be his legacy.

She also entrusted me with family photographs, none of which had been published before. If you see any of these photos, they will have been lifted from my book. I was proud and honoured to tell Norman’s story.

The Others Liked Him Too

Fab one hundred and Four: The Evolution of The Beatles by David Bedford
The Fab one hundred and Four

He was only with The Silver Beatles for a few short weeks, but it was clear that he settled in well with them, judging by George Harrison’s quote above. Allan Williams, their manager, also commented that; “He was a big guy, about six feet two, and spoke in a very quiet, gentle voice. His drumming was a hobby and he hadn’t even sat in with a band before. I told him about the band, and that they were playing around Merseyside, earning about ten pounds a night, and asked him if he was interested. ‘I sure am,’ he told me, ‘I could do with the money because drum kits are so expensive. That’ll help me pay off the money for the kit.’ The others liked him too.”

the beatles and hamburg: A National DIS-Service

Norman should have been the drummer who went with The Beatles to Hamburg, but around 2 weeks before they were due to depart for Germany, he was called-up for National Service, and had to join the army for 2 years. He would miss out on the trip, but it created the opportunity for Pete Best to join the group.

Read his fascinating story, and the see the photographs, exclusively in “The Fab one hundred and Four: The Evolution of The Beatles“.

David Bedford

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Global Beatles Day

Global Beatles Day

Today, 25th June, is Global Beatles Day, so wherever you are, celebrate The Beatles! And what a momentous day in Beatles history it is. You can follow their progress from 1960-67:


25th June 1960 – The Silver Beatles performed at Grosvenor Ballroom, with drummer Norman Chapman (more to follow about him)
25th June 1962 – The Beatles, with Pete Best, perform at the Plaza Ballroom, St Helens, just outside Liverpool.
25th June 1963 – The Beatles, now with Ringo, are the number 1 act in the UK and on tour in Middlesborough.
25th June 1964 – After Ed Sullivan, The Beatles are in the middle of their world tour, and after Jimmie Nicol stepped in for Ringo, the Fab Four are back together.
25th June 1965 – The Beatles are performing in Genoa, Italy. However, the shows were poorly attended!
25th June 1966 – The Beatles are in Essen, Germany, as part of their Bravo-Blitztournee.
25th June 1967 – The Beatles perform “All You Need Is Love” in front of a worldwide audience of 400 million people as part of “Our World”.

If ever one date deserves to be Global Beatles Day, this is it.

Yes, but what did The Beatles ever do for us??? Where do you start?

Join in on Facebook

David Bedford

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Stuart Fergusson Victor Sutcliffe

Happy birthday Stuart Sutcliffe
Happy birthday Stuart Sutcliffe

When John and Paul realised that they needed a bass player in their group, they approached two of John’s friends, Stu Sutcliffe and Rod Murray, and offered them the position. The first one to accept would get the job, provided they had their own bass guitar.

They both welcomed the challenge, and Stuart Sutcliffe won. However, Stu has probably had more criticism than any other member of The Beatles over his talent, or perceived lack of musical ability. For decades, the memory of Stuart Sutcliffe has been tainted by those who claim that, even though he was a brilliant painter, he was not much of a musician.

How many times have you heard it said about Stuart?

Rod Murray and Stuart Sutcliffe
Rod Murray and Stuart Sutcliffe copyright Rod Murray

‘He was only in the group because he was John’s friend’.

‘He used to stand with his back to the audience’.

‘He used to play unplugged so that they couldn’t hear how bad he was playing’.

‘He looked great on stage, but he couldn’t really play’.

Stuart’s talent as a painter has never been in doubt, with a long career as an artist assured, if only he hadn’t died at the tender age of only 21.

The Real Stuart Sutcliffe

Stu with The Beatles in Hamburg
Stu with The Beatles in Hamburg

Many art experts have said that, had he lived, Stuart would have been one of the pre-eminent painters of the 1960s. On the other hand, there have been many authors and commentators who have told us repeatedly that Stuart couldn’t play the bass. I decided to speak to the people who knew him best: his sister Pauline; Art College friend and flatmate Rod Murray; friend and fellow musician Klaus Voormann; and other musicians who were there at the time.

What evidence can we find to support the claim that Stuart was a good bass player? Or will we find evidence to substantiate the opposing view that he really couldn’t play?

Stuart’s musical skills began when he started playing the piano as a young boy. “Stuart had previously been learning the piano,” said Millie Sutcliffe, Stuart’s mum. “Stuart’s father was a wonderful pianist, a classical musician, though not commercial or anything like that. He played just for his own pleasure. Stuart’s knowledge of music helped him, and he was a pretty good singer, too.”

As Stuart was learning the piano, his father Charles bought him a Spanish guitar, which he played a little, but not to any great level. This alone was not enough to give him an edge in joining the group. As his mum Millie had said, Stuart was also a good singer. He was, in fact, the head chorister at his local church of St. Gabriel’s, Huyton.

Rod Murray or Stuart Sutcliffe – the Bass Race

Rod Murray with the bass guitar he started to make
Rod Murray with the bass guitar he started to make

When John, Paul and George needed a bass player, they offered the position to Stuart and his flatmate Rod Murray. Neither could afford to buy one, so Rod, also at Art College, designed and started to make his own bass guitar.

Stuart’s painting was purchased at an exhibition in the Walker Art Gallery. The exhibition ran from 19 November 1959 to 17 January 1960 and, contrary to some reports, Stuart did not win the competition. However, John Moores, who sponsored the competition, purchased Stuart’s painting, giving him the money to buy the bass guitar. Rod still has his part-made bass guitar, and told me all about it in my interview for The Fab one hundred and Four.

Learning Bass

Admittedly, when Stuart purchased his bass guitar, he couldn’t play it. But as a natural musician, and under the tutelage of musician David May, he soon picked it up.

Hamburg – Howie, Dick and Klaus

In order to provide continuous music, Koschmider split up The Beatles and The Seniors, giving Howie Casey the chance to assess Stuart’s competence as a bass player up close. “I was given Stuart Sutcliffe along with Derry and Stan Foster from the Seniors, and we had a German drummer. Stu had a great live style,” he recalled. (Fab one hundred and Four)

Rick Hardy of The Jets also witnessed Sutcliffe at close hand in Hamburg. “Stu never turned his back on stage,” he said emphatically. “Stu certainly played to the audience and he certainly played bass. If you have someone who can’t play the instrument properly, you have no bass sound. There were two rhythm guitarists with The Beatles and if one of them couldn’t play, you wouldn’t have noticed it – but it’s different with a bass guitar. I was there and I can say quite definitely that Stuart never did a show in which he was not facing the audience.”

One of those who became very close to Stuart in Hamburg was Klaus Voormann, who himself became a great bassist respected the world over. “Stu was a really good rock and roll bass player,” said Voormann, “a very basic bass player. He was, at the time, my favourite bass player, and he had that cool look. The Beatles were best when Stuart was still in the band. To me it had more balls. It was even more rock and roll when Stuart was playing the bass and Paul was playing piano or another guitar. The band was, somehow, as a rock and roll band, more complete.”

Pete Best on Stuart

In a rock ‘n’ roll band, the rhythm is driven by the drums and bass guitar working closely together, so the opinion of The Beatles’ drummer, Pete Best, is an important contribution to this debate. ”Stu was a good bass player,” Pete said. “I’ve read so many people putting him down for his bass playing. I’d like to set that one straight. His bass playing was a lot better than people give him credit for. He knew what his limits were. What he did was accept that and he gave 200%. He was the smallest Beatle with the biggest heart.” (quote from interview for Liddypool).

The Bats

After he’d left The Beatles, not long before his death, Stuart was asked to play with a German group, The Bats. He borrowed his old bass guitar from Klaus Voormann (who had recently purchased it from Stuart) and played with The Bats at the Hamburg Art School Carnival and the Kaiserkeller.

Hopefully, that puts the argument to an end. Stu could play bass!

Stuart Sutcliffe
Stuart Sutcliffe

Stuart brought style, image and a fashion-sense to make The Beatles look cool on stage. He was a great and talented artist too. But he was more than that; he was a good bass player, at a time when John Lennon said The Beatles were at their best. John always remembered his friend; “I looked up to Stu, I depended on him to tell me the truth.”

Read the full story, plus my interview with Rod Murray in “The Fab one hundred and Four“.

Stuart Sutcliffe Fan Club

For the last few years, it has been my privilege to help run the official Stuart Sutcliffe Fan Club on behalf of the family. Join us for free and get updates on events etc to do with Stuart. You can also see examples of his artwork online as well.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY STUART SUTCLIFFE

David Bedford

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The Quarrymen Rehearsed in My Road!

The Quarrymen
The First photo of The Quarrymen

When you’ve been researching The Beatles for nearly 20 years like I have, there aren’t many things that can surprise me. Having gone to Ringo’s school in the Dingle, and lived near Penny Lane for 30 years; my three daughters were born in the same hospital as John Lennon, and attended the same primary/ elementary school as John and George. But there was one surprise waiting for me when I spoke to Charlie Roberts.

Meet Charlie Roberts

Charlie Roberts
Charlie Roberts

Charlie decided to ask his friend Colin Hanton’s group The Quarrymen to perform in his street in Toxteth; Rosebery Street. The occasion was the 750th anniversary of the founding of Liverpool in 1207. Charlie thought that a skiffle group would add some great fun to the celebrations. Not only did he invite The Quarrymen, but when he borrowed a little camera and took a few photos. These turned out to be the very first photos ever taken of John Lennon performing with The Quarrymen.

The Quarrymen by Charlie Roberts
The Quarrymen by Charlie Roberts

“At that time,” remarked Charlie, “The Quarrymen would play anywhere for free, because they were doing it for fun. They became more serious after Paul joined, and maybe John was taking it serious, but it was really just friends having some fun. They all turned up, and set themselves up on the back of a wagon that Fred Tyler had brought along. He also wired up a speaker system so that they had something for the microphones, so they made quite a loud noise, which was good.”

The Quarrymen (2) by Charlie Roberts
The Quarrymen (2) by Charlie Roberts

“I thought they were great, playing good music and entertaining. When you compare them to other bands, I suppose they weren’t that good, but I enjoyed listening to them, and so did the crowd “I can’t remember what songs they played, but it was good fun. The street was decorated with bunting, and we had sandwiches and drinks, and had a good time.”

The Quarry men (3) by Charlie Roberts
The Quarry men (3) by Charlie Roberts

John Lennon causing trouble!

“There was an incident involving John, who seemed to upset some of the lads in the crowd. I think he had been winking at some of the girls, and it became obvious that there could be trouble, so as soon as they finished, they grabbed their instruments, and ran into my mum’s house. Some reports have said that the police came and escorted them to the bus stop, but The Quarrymen just stayed in our house for about an hour, and then after everyone had gone, they went home.”

“The party was such a success,” said Charlie, “that the City Council awarded us a prize for the best decorated street, and so the following week we had a second party, with entertainment provided by The Merseysippi Jazz Band, all paid for by the City Council, which was great.”

Charlie followed The Quarrymen to many of the venues they played, like Wilson Hall in Garston, where one particular incident sticks in his memory. “I remember Wilson Hall, when we all had to suddenly run away after the performance. I don’t know who started it or what it was about, but everyone legged it! I was okay, because I hadn’t been performing, so nobody knew me, but the others had to run. The first thing to discard was the tea-chest bass, which was too big and heavy to run with.”

The Quarrymen often went to “Barneys”, the club at St. Barnabas Church Hall. But, like most venues, alcohol was not available. “We used to meet in the Rose of Mossley pub on Rose Lane,” recalled Charlie, “and then we would go on to “Barneys”. We all had to wear proper suits and ties to get in there. After “Barneys” closed, we would then go to the Dutch Café on Smithdown Road, which was open late, one of the few places still open into the early hours of the morning.”

Cement in the Lock!

One of Charlie’s funniest memories takes place in an area called Ford to the north of Liverpool: “The Quarrymen had been booked to play at a party, and so we all travelled up there on the bus as usual. However, the party was in a house, and so there was not much room for the boys to play. By the time they had realised what time it was, the last bus had gone, and so they all decided to stay the night in the house. At some point, John and Paul went out for cigarettes, and there were obviously road works nearby, because they returned with a warning lamp they’d picked up. Everything went quiet, but when we tried to go home, we went to open the door, but somebody had put cement into the door lock! Nobody admitted doing it, but we all had our suspicions, because only John and Paul had been out. So, we all just left through the back door and said nothing.”

Charlie with his Photograph
Charlie with his Photograph

Charlie also talked about driving around with his friend Arthur Wong.

“Arthur’s dad had a very good business,” Charlie recalled, “and so Arthur had a Vauxhall Cresta PA, a great car with fins, two-tone paint, very much like the American cars. We used to drive around, and I clearly remember John and Paul on the back seat of the car, with Paul trying to master ‘Raunchy’. We had a great time driving around in it with Arthur and we would often end up at Arthur’s home at 42, Heydale Road, in Mossley Hill.”

John Lennon Played in My Road?

And that is where the coincidence comes in! Because, since 1989, I have lived in Heydale Road! And when we moved into this road, Mrs Wong still lived in 42, Heydale Road. As you can see, wherever I go, I am surrounded by The Beatles! A few years ago, I was giving a talk at the Liverpool History Show, and a man came up to me and wanted to see my book, The Fab one hundred and Four: The Evolution of The Beatles. Why? Because he was Arthur Wong’s brother, and told me how he remembered Charlie and friends hanging out with them. Small world this Beatle world isn’t it?

The Fab one hundred and Four

There are more great stories from Charlie in The Fab one hundred and Four, along with those other important people who played a part in Beatles history.

And if that isn’t enough Charlie for you, he now has his own book about his life, and hanging out with The Quarrymen and The Beatles; Just Like Starting Over; John and The Quarrymen, My Teenage Years.

David Bedford

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The Beatles and the Stripper!

Paul McCartney on drums
Paul McCartney on drums with The Beatles

In June 1960, with no drummer, and very few gigs, Allan Williams arranged for The Beatles to back Janice the Stripper at a strip club in Upper Parliament Street, Liverpool, that Williams ran with his business partner, Lord Woodbine. Paul played drums, accompanied by John, George and Stuart on a tiny stage.

How? Why? A Stripper?

After some initial resistance, the four Silver Beetles had haggled out an equitable financial deal. Supposedly, Stuart was a tough negotiator and got them a fairly decent fee. “Why so much?”, Williams had  asked them during the negotiations. Paul had replied, “For the indiginity. The bloody indignity of it all!”

Lord Woodbine recalled the club, and The Silver Beetles’ appearance, very well. “Allan Williams and I used to run some clubs together, and The Beatles used to play there. There were actually two clubs. In the first one, they used to play at dinner time (noon) until 3:00pm. The second was a striptease club in a basement, called the Cabaret Artistes Club.

Their job was to play music for the strippers. The strippers used to get them to play very slow numbers, which The Beatles did not really like. There was only one who wanted an up-tempo song. She used a hula hoop in her act. The Beatles weren’t interested in the strippers or the music. They just did it for the money.”

Paul obviously remembered the occasion very well, in a private letter to Bill Harry, for inclusion in Mersey Beat. “John, George, Stu and I used to play at a Strip Club in Upper Parliament Street,” recalled Paul, “backing Janice the Stripper. At the time we wore little lilac jackets, or purple jackets, or something. Well, we played behind Janice and naturally we looked at her, the audience looked at her, everybody looked at her, just sort of normal. At the end of the 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.

Janice the Stripper

“Janice brought sheets of music for us to play all her arrangements. She gave us a bit of Beethoven and the ‘Spanish Fire Dance’. So, in the end, we said ‘We can’t read music, sorry, but instead of the ‘Spanish Fire Dance’ we can play ‘The Harry Lime Cha-Cha’, which we’ve arranged ourselves, and instead of Beethoven you can have ‘Moonglow’ or ‘September Song’. Take your pick. Instead of the ‘Sabre Dance’ we’ll give you ‘Ramrod’. So that’s what she got. She seemed quite satisfied anyway.”

And The Beatles refused to play a strip club ever again! And they didn’t; well, until they went to Hamburg two months later!

Fab one hundred and Four
The Fab one hundred and Four

Read the full story in “The Fab one hundred and Four: The Evolution of The Beatles“.

Paul McCartney – Beatles drummer

Finding the Fourth Beatle
Finding the Fourth Beatle

As Paul was the drummer that day, it wouldn’t be the last time he sat behind the drum kit. In our recent book, “Finding the Fourth Beatle“, we discuss the times he sat in with other groups, plus the tracks that Paul played drums on for The Beatles. While working in the studio on the “White Album”, Ringo walked out on the group. Needing to keep going, Paul sat behind the drumkit, playing on “Back In The USSR”, “Dear Prudence”, “Martha My Dear” and “The Ballad Of John and Yoko”.

So from backing a stripper, to back in the USSR, Macca was more than a capable drummer, though was he as good as Ringo? We discuss that in depth in “Finding the Fourth Beatle“.

David Bedford

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Paul McCartney’s Birthday – Coincidences and Incidents!

Paul McCartney's birthday

James Paul McCartney was born on 18th June 1942, and Paul McCartney’s birthday has some interesting stories associated with it.

John Lennon’s first friend in Woolton when he moved to live with Aunt Mimi and Uncle George was Ivan Vaughan. They soon became great friends, with Ivan also going to Dovedale Primary School, though 1 year behind John. When John moved to Quarry Bank Grammar School, it was assumed that Ivan would follow the next year. However, Ivan’s parents were not happy with that. However, as “That Lennon” was so much trouble, and would get Ivan into trouble too, they decided he should go to a different school. Instead of the local Quarry Bank, he was sent all the way into town to join the Liverpool Institute.

Happy Birthday Ivan

Ivan Vaughan (left) with Pete Shotton

One of the biggest coincidences in Beatles history is that Ivan Vaughan was born on exactly the same day as Paul. With Paul also at the Institute, Paul and Ivan ended up in the same class. They became friends, and realised they had a mutual taste in music. It was Ivan who invited his new friend Paul to come to meet his old friend John at the Woolton fete. If it hadn’t been for Ivan, it is highly unlikely that John and Paul would have got together; no Ivan, no Lennon/ McCartney, no Beatles. Thank you Ivan! Ivan remained friends with John and Paul, though sadly died young from Parkinson’s disease. (Read more in The Fab One Hundred and Four)

The Beatles First Left-Handed Bass Player

Who was the Beatles’ first left-handed bass player? It wasn’t Paul McCartney! When The Beatles returned from Hamburg at the end of 1960, Stuart stayed in Hamburg with Astrid. They needed a bass player. Pete Best suggested his old bandmate Chas Newby, who had played with him in The Blackjacks, who was home from College for Christmas.

Happy Birthday Chas

Chas Newby, The Beatles first left-handed bass player

Charles “Chas” Newby was born on 18th June 1941, and so shares a birthday with Paul McCartney; it must be something to do with being left-handed?? For the four performances over the Christmas on 1960 at the Casbah (twice), Litherland Town Hall and the Grosvenor Ballroom in Wallasey, Chas was The Beatles’ bass player. Not many people had come across Chas when I first tracked him down around 2007 and interviewed him for my first book, Liddypool, where you can read the full interview.

Happy 21st Birthday Paul!

Paul’s 21st birthday party on 18th June 1963 should have been a great celebration, but it will be remembered for something else. The party was held at Auntie Jin’s house in Dinas Lane, Liverpool. John Lennon had just returned from a short holiday in Spain with Beatles manager Brian Epstein, even though John had just become a father to Julian. At the party, John, who was not a good drunk, got himself “blitzed” and was involved in two unsavoury incidents. Bob Wooler, a great friend and help to The Beatles and many Liverpool groups, was always one for a funny phrase. However, he chose the wrong day for this one!

Looking for Lennon

Everybody knew that Brian Epstein was gay, and so eyebrows were raised when John went on holiday with Epstein. Wooler couldn’t resist a joke, and said to John; “How was the honeymoon?” Lennon took great offence and, being very drunk, decided to beat up Bob Wooler. Eyewitnesses were appalled, and had to drag John off Wooler, who ended up in hospital. Thankfully for John, and The Beatles, Brian was able to appease Bob, who was a decent man too, and, after an apology, didn’t press charges.

However, that wasn’t the only incident of the night. In his drunken state, John approached Billy J Kramer’s girlfriend, and decided to make a grab for her breasts. Needless to say, according to Billy J Kramer and Billy Hatton (from The Fourmost), the girl immediately smacked John, as she was fully entitled to do. John, however, just smacked her straight back! He was not entitled to do that! Billy Hatton and others dragged John away, and put him in a taxi home. It was not his greatest day. Billy Hatton’s interview is featured in “Looking for Lennon“, the documentary feature film for which I was historian and Associate Producer. (It is out on DVD in the US, and due for release in the UK and rest of the world soon.)

No Social Media

Thankfully, for The Beatles, there was no such thing as social media, facebook, twitter, and living lives online! This was 18th June 1963: The Beatles were the new top group in the country, with Number 1 singles and album, and on a UK tour. Imagine if there were smartphones back then? The Beatles career would have been over before it had begun. Thankfully, the incident over Bob Wooler only made it into a small column in the Daily Mirror newspaper. They had got away with it, but only just.

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Jimmie Nicol – Not Getting Better all the Time

Jimmie Nicol at the airport
Jimmie Nicol at the airport

Some photographs don’t need much of an explanation. The above photo of Jimmie Nicol says everything; 300,000 people screaming to sitting alone in a matter of days.

On their last few hours together, the five Beatles headed back inside for their next interview with the waiting journalists. As with the first interview, the banter between John, Paul, George and Ringo was as funny as ever, with Ringo prominent throughout. It was as if Nicol was the invisible Beatle; Ringo was back and all was good, except for Jimmie Nicol. At one point, a reporter asks him about his plans while the other Beatles are still being interviewed. He is quickly shut down.

On reflection, Nicol was asked about how he was treated and how he felt sitting in for Ringo in the biggest group on the planet. “After Ringo returned, they changed. It was like welcoming a close member of the family back. They treated me with nothing but respect as a musician. And I think they thought I was very good. John once told me I was better than Ringo but that I just missed the ship. When I was on the plane back to London, I felt like a bastard child being sent back home from a family that didn’t want me. When you have had the best, you can’t accept anything else.”

Interview with Jimmie Nicol
Interview with Jimmie Nicol

Under Curfew

The Beatles were under curfew, instigated by Brian, and overseen by Derek Taylor and Mal Evans. However, it was Nicol’s last night in Australia, and he wasn’t going to abide by any curfew. After all, he had sneaked out before and had fun, going mostly unrecognised. This time, it was different. He had only been out for a short time when Taylor and Evans turned up at the bar, grabbed Nicol and took him back to the hotel. After all, he was still a Beatle! Everything had changed, because not only had Ringo arrived, but Brian Epstein as well. Nicol’s short career with The Beatles ended not in a blaze of glory, but a mild whimper. 

Back Home – Hello, Goodbye

On 15th June 1964, Brian took Jimmie to the airport before he could even say goodbye to the Fab Four, who were still in bed. If ever there was a photograph that needed no caption, it was the one of Jimmie sitting all alone in a near empty airport with nobody paying any attention to him. How things had changed in just a matter of days. When asked about that photograph, and if he felt lonely, Nicol said: “That’s a beautiful picture. Well, if you look at that photograph, that answers your question.” (Evert Vermeer) No words were needed.

However, a TV reporter spotted him, and Nicol gave his final interview as a Beatle, reflecting on his exploits in Australia. He was asked, in a different way, the same question about what he would do next. “Well I hope to do something that I want to do. Now there might be a possibility that I might be able to do something….maybe earn enough money to study in America. That is what I want to do, is study drums in America and American music. And learn to arrange.” (The Beatle Who Vanished)

With Brian sitting nearby, the television interviewer brings him into shot to say an awkward ‘thank you’ on camera to Nicol. “I’d just like to say to you Jimmie that The Beatles and I are very, very grateful for everything you have done. You carried out a fine job for us and we’re very, very pleased. We hope you have a great trip back to London and every success to you in the future.” Jimmie’s response? “Thank you very much Brian.” It looked and sounded staged, broadcasting an obvious lack of emotion between the two men. In front of the camera, they were both professional, but Nicol, like so many people who featured in the story of The Beatles, had his part to play and then retired to virtual anonymity.

WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?

In his interview with Teutsch, Nicol reflected on his time with The Beatles.

T: “Did you ever see them after the tour?”

JN: “I had a band (The Shubdubs) and Brian put us on the same bill with The Beatles and the Fourmost one night (12 July 1964 at the Hippodrome Theatre in Brighton). Backstage, we talked, but the wind had changed since we last saw each other. They were pleasant.”

T: “Why do you think you were forgotten after all this?”

JN: “When the fans forget, they forget forever. After the Beatles thing was over for me, I played around for a few years then got away from the music scene. I mean, when you’ve played with the best, the rest is just, well, the rest.”

T: “Any regrets?”

JN: “None. Oh, after the money ran low, I thought of cashing in in some way to other. But the timing wasn’t right. And I didn’t want to step on The Beatles’ toes. They had been damn good for me and to me.”  

SHUBDUBS, LIVERPOOL, SPOTNIKS, MEXICO………

When he returned home, he formed a band, The Shubdubs, who had a couple of singles, but not much success. He joined Swedish group The Spotniks, who had international hit albums and tours, when he ended up, after a disagreement, stranded in Mexico, where he stayed for a while, working on a number of projects, before coming out of hiding in 1984 in a Beatles Unlimited show in Holland. It was 20 years since Jimmie had played there with The Beatles. Nicol got up on stage with a local group, and promised a book would follow. It never did.

Jimmy Nicol in 1984
Jimmy Nicol in 1984 copyright Guus Kok

This is an excerpt from “Finding the Fourth Beatle”

How did The Beatles remember Jimmie? His phrase on tour with them, when they asked how he was doing, replied; “Getting Better”, as commemorated in the Beatles song.

And Jimmie has disappeared. Jim Berkenstadt, author of The Beatle Who Vanished, is now taking Jimmie’s story to the big screen, which is some story; looking forward to that!

However, if you know where Jimmie Nicol is, let us all know please??????

David Bedford

Get your copy of Finding the Fourth Beatle at www.thefourthbeatle.com

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The First Fifth Beatle is the Fourth Beatle for a Fortnight

The Fab Five
The Fab Five – Jimmie Nicol, George, Ringo, Paul and John

Jimmie Nicol was the first Beatle to be called the “Fifth Beatle”, when he joined The Beatles at short notice, after Ringo fell ill on the eve of their world tour. George wanted to call it all off; that wasn’t possible. After a recommendation by Bobby Graham (the first drummer to turn Brian down as replacement for Pete Best), Jimmie soon joined up with John, Paul and George.

Until a few years ago, there was not much known about Nicol, until Jim Berkenstadt’s book, “The Beatle Who Vanished“, was published. An incredible piece of research by the Rock ‘n’ Roll Detective.

How Jimmie Nicol joined The Beatles

The Daily Mail covered the story on 4th June 1964. Under the banner “Ringo Is Replaced”, they revealed the truth behind the headline. Nicol “told reporter Robert Bickford, ‘I’m knocked out man. It’s quite a laugh being one of The Beatles. I can handle the job okay. Ringo can swing all right, but I’ve got more range.” The newspaper was keen to support Nicol’s addition to the tour: “An expert drummer, he is highly regarded by the record industry and was at home in Barnes, Middlesex, when The Beatles’ recording manager George Martin phoned and asked him to go straight to the EMI studios where the other three band members were recording.

After a two-hour rehearsal, John Lennon told him: ‘You’re in. This should be worth a couple of quid to you.’” The journalist also spoke to Ringo in the hospital to see how he was feeling. ”I’m not too bad really”, he said. “I feel pretty groggy but I am sure I’ll be well enough to go with the boys on Sunday to Hong Kong. It’s pretty nice in here. I’m surrounded by hot water bottles but I am still shivering. It’s a terrible drag not being able to go with the boys to Europe.”

This enigmatic drummer hit the heights that only the Fab Four had experienced, but it was over quickly. With exclusive photographs from the tour, and interviews with fans who attended the concerts and members of the support groups in Denmark and the Netherlands, and promoters too.

Top Six Records

With his battered Trixon drum set feeling its age, Nicol felt it was time for another upgrade: a shiny blue Trixon Luxus kit with a crocodile-style design. Nicol worked closely with Johnny Harris, trumpet player with the band, and the two became good friends. Their relationship would be especially important to Jimmie’s career when Harris was offered the position of Producer/Arranger at Pye Records, where he developed a great reputation and came to the attention of an Australian executive from Top Six Records.

Bill Wellings had this idea to put out an EP of cover versions of the top six chart hits, offered at a cheap price so those music fans who wanted the latest songs, but couldn’t afford the real artists, could have a version of six songs for the price of one. When Wellings approached Johnny Harris to arrange the songs, he knew which drummer was experienced and versatile enough to do the job: Jimmie Nicol. As well as being a great drummer, Nicol could also read music, which was a tremendous advantage to Harris who had to record lots of songs on a tight budget, and with a quick turnaround time. This was 1964, and which band was on top of the charts? The Beatles, of course. It was this twist of fate that would, within a few months, help to earn Nicol the biggest job on the planet.

Jimmie Nicol and Beatle Mania

In January 1964, Top Six released an EP entitled “Beatle Mania Special” using the phrase coined in October 1963 to describe the fans’ love of The Beatles. This record, which featured “She Loves You”, “Twist and Shout”, “Please Please Me”, “I Wanna Hold Your Hand”, “From Me To You” and “Love Me Do”. Incredibly, this record sold 100,000 copies. Nicol was now a successful recording artist and session drummer whose skills would be required very soon. In February 1964, as The Beatles were heading off to conquer America on The Ed Sullivan Show, Nicol was asked to form his own band and release a single, arranged by Johnny Harris. Jimmie Nicol and the Shubdubs released a ska version of the old nursery rhyme “Humpty Dumpty” on Pye Records.

DENMARK – COPING IN COPENHAGEN: 4th June 1964

On Thursday, 4th June 1964, John, Paul, George and Jimmie headed to London Heathrow Airport with their chauffeur Bill at the wheel of their Austin Princess car. They were allowed to board the aircraft before the other passengers and, of course, were asked for autographs by the crew. The co-pilot, who had probably been asked by his daughter to get their autographs, mistook Paul for Ringo – who wasn’t even on the plane! George, spotting the chance for a laugh, urged Paul to sign. “Go on, Ringo”, he told Paul, “Give him your signature”.

With exclusive photographs from the tour, and interviews with fans who attended the concerts and members of the support groups in Denmark and the Netherlands, and promoters like DJ Ray Cordeiro in Hong Kong.

But Australia was where Ringo caught up with his fellow Beatles.

On 13th June, DJ Bob Rodgers interviewed The Beatles and quizzed Nicol about his adventures with the band and the fact that his final appearance with them was that very evening.

BR: “Jimmie, you’ve got your final performances tonight and then Ringo arrives tomorrow.”

JN: “Yes, that’s right. I’m looking forward to meeting him.”

BR: “And then it’s all over for you. What’s going to happen? I hear you may not be going back to England?”

JN: “Not for a little while, no. I fancy going back to Sydney.”

That didn’t happen.

Sunday 14th June 1964 was a strange day, because, with a recovered Ringo now in Australia, there were five Beatles to be interviewed in Sydney Airport. However, the focus was now on Ringo, not Jimmie, as the interview bounced back and forth among the four of them. Eventually, Nicol was predictably asked about life after The Beatles. He confirmed that he wanted to remain in Australia, but with no firm offer, nothing was certain. As the questioning returned to the reunited quartet, the limelight was beginning to fade on Jimmie.

How the story ended – tomorrow…………..

Excerpts taken from “Finding the Fourth Beatle”

David Bedford

Buy the book – www.beatlesshop.co.uk

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Tommy Moore not the Merrier

Tommy Moore
Tommy Moore with the Silver Beatles

When John, Paul, George and Stu needed a manager, they got Allan Williams. When they needed a drummer, Allan found them Tommy Moore, a talented drummer. However, his first appearance was at the Larry Parnes audition, for which he was late, so Johnny Hutchinson sat in until he turned up. In the 5 weeks he was with the group, they were known as Beatals, Silver Beats, Silver Beatles among other names. They did a tour of Scotland backing Johnny Gentle, which was the turning point in Tommy’s career with The Beatals (etc).

After an accident in which Tommy lost teeth and had concussion, Lennon dragged Tommy from his hospital bed and made him sit behind the drums, which obviously didn’t help his headache! Lennon also tried to make Tommy laugh to burst the stitches! And then John was bemused when Tommy wanted to quit!

But who was Tommy Moore, the first “Beatles” drummer? For the first time, we now have the most complete biography ever published of Tommy, in “Finding the Fourth Beatle”, thanks to his family, friends and fellow musicians, with exclusive interviews and stories never told before, or appearing in any book. He even gave a television interview in the early 1970s, which you can hear on the exclusive “Finding the Fourth Beatle” Double CD, which comes with the Limited Edition book, or you can buy it separately.

Having not turned up at the Grosvenor Ballroom, meaning that Ronnie the “Ted” and Jackie Lomax tried playing drums, Tommy agreed to play one last time at the Jacaranda for Allan Williams. Tommy returned to the Garston Bottle Works, and refused to play for them again, even though the Beatles went to his workplace and pleaded with him.

Discover the real Tommy Moore story in “Finding the Fourth Beatle“.

David Bedford

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