18th October 1957: Paul McCartney’s debut with The Quarrymen (or was it?)

The Quarrymen performing at New Clubmoor Hall
The Quarrymen performing at New Clubmoor Hall

Was This Paul McCartney’s Debut with The Quarrymen? Colin Hanton says No!

For years we have accepted that Paul made his debut at New Clubmoor Hall on 18th October 1957. However, I spoke to Quarrymen drummer Colin Hanton who says that can’t be right.

“All I knew was that one day Paul turned up, and Rod had left by then. His parents were giving him some grief about homework and not messing about with these silly boys and the music.”

Charlie McBain and Wilson hall

“I have my doubts about Paul’s debut being at Clubmoor,” said Colin. “It was Wilson Hall before Clubmoor, which was run by the same guy Charlie McBain. We did a paid gig at Wilson Hall after Clubmoor, but we appeared before it too.”

st. peter’s church hall

St Peter's Church Hall, where The Quarrymen played with Paul McCartney
St Peter’s Church Hall, where The Quarrymen played with Paul McCartney (copyright David Bedford)

Colin says that after John and Paul met, they played at the hall regularly. This was before playing Wilson Hall or New Clubmoor Hall. “After the summer fete in July ‘57, we used to play a lot at St. Peters church hall on a Saturday night. The guy had no microphone for us, and we kept asking for one. The Saturday dance became very big and they were getting all of their friends from school to come.”

A memory then springs to Colin’s mind. “I’ve just remembered: Paul was there. He said to John, there was no mic and he had been promised there would be a microphone. We got there late afternoon to set up, and John was looking round and there was no mic. The guy said he couldn’t get one. John argued with the guy who said he hadn’t been able to get a microphone.

paul mccartney

“Paul said, ‘He’s rattled now, because he’s whistling’ and so that was that. John decided we were not playing and we walked out, which was a bit of a mistake. I went home with my drums, and then back to the hall to look for the others. I got to the door and asked if John and the lads were there. The guy said, ‘no, and he’ll never get back in here!’

“This was soon after the fete and we used to rehearse there too. They had a dance evening with a record player there by the stage, which was cranked up to full volume. Then they danced the usual three waltzes and three quick steps and then The Quarrymen would play.”

From St. Peter’s Church Hall, the next step was to Wilson Hall, Garston.

Wilson hall

“This is how we got into Wilson Hall. Charlie McBain had a good system whereby he had a 6-piece dance band/ orchestra who would play and then want a 45-minute break to go to the pub. In the past he put the record player on, but he decided to have a skiffle contest. All he needed were 5 or 6 groups.

“You needed to pay two shillings and sixpence to get in. At 4 or 5 people a group, and 5 or 6 groups: a great idea and he was quids in. John said, ‘I’m not paying that, we’re here for the competition’. Paul said, ‘the prize is £1, so just pay the money then we’ll split the winnings’. We didn’t win!” However, it worked as an audition.

“McBain must have seen something, even though we didn’t win and that’s how we got our bookings with him. Nigel Walley was a bit of a manager and he got us 5 ten-shilling notes – £2.50 – for playing.

how they got to new clubmoor hall

New Clubmoor Hall, where The Quarrymen played on 18th October 1957
New Clubmoor Hall, where The Quarrymen played on 18th October 1957 (copyright David Bedford)

“We definitely did Wilson Hall before Clubmoor, and that’s how we got it, from the competition. That’s how we also then got up to Clubmoor. We were just desperate to get onstage. We got on at the Cavern – Paul wasn’t there because he was with scouts. It was Open Mic night which was how we got down there, and then we got paid for it. There was no way Paul joined in July and did not play until October at Clubmoor. We rehearsed and played in St. Peter’s Hall, and then appeared at the contest at Wilson Hall.

the locarno

“We also went to the Locarno, another of the endless round of talent contests. There was a poster at the back for the following week for singers only, so Paul said to John, ‘why don’t we go in for it’, but John said, ‘no we’re a group’. John wasn’t interested in getting up on his own, just for the group. I think John would have been happy to keep doing what we were doing.”

Playing at New Clubmoor Hall, and the famous photograph showed how having Paul in the group had changed the balance.

mccartney gets john lennon into a suit

How New Clubmoor Hall celebrated John and Paul playing there in 1957
How New Clubmoor Hall celebrated John and Paul playing there in 1957 (copyright David Bedford)

“Paul never challenged John’s authority, but he was very diplomatic, very subtle. He always got his own way, but with subtle means. I remember at the start Paul wanted to smarten the Quarrymen up. He never said let’s get jackets, he just said to John, ‘I’m going to wear a jacket’. He didn’t say that we should wear one – it was sort of oatmeal colour. So, of course, John went out and got one too. So Paul got John dressed up without having a row or telling him to do it. And that was for the Wilson Hall gig, before the Clubmoor one. So it certainly wasn’t the first time Paul played with us. Maybe the first time in those jackets, so again, we played Wilson Hall before Clubmoor.”

Conclusion? Paul’s appearance at New Clubmoor Hall was probably the first time Paul played and The Quarrymen were paid! It was certainly not the first time he played with them.

Liddypool: Birthplace of The Beatles by David Bedford
Liddypool: Birthplace of The Beatles by David Bedford

Taken from my interview with Colin Hanton for Liddypool (now in its third edition)

Colin still plays drums with The Quarrymen (photographed in St Peter's Church Hall)
Colin still plays drums with The Quarrymen (photographed in St Peter’s Church Hall)

Colin Hanton has a new book out called “Pre:Fab“, which is a great read, and being turned into a documentary.

David Bedford

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12th July 1958: John, Paul and George make their first record

Why Percy Phillips got there before George Martin did

Percy Phillips Record by The Quarrymen
The First record made by John, Paul and George
Percy Phillips Studio
Percy Phillips’ Studio was in the back room of his house

This small studio tucked inside a Victorian terraced house at number
38, Kensington is where The Quarrymen made their first and only
demo record. It was a disc that eventually became one of the most
historic recordings in popular music. John, Paul, George, Colin
Hanton and John Duff Lowe paid seventeen shillings and sixpence
(87.5 pence) and cut a two-sided disk made of shellac. They couldn’t
afford to pay for a tape and so the recording was made straight to
disk.

McCartney/ Harrison Song

The five-piece ensemble recorded Buddy Holly’s “That’ll Be
The Day” and “In Spite Of All The Danger”, an original McCartney-
Harrison tune. It was seen as Paul’s song with George providing
the guitar solo.

Percy Phillips in his studio
Percy Phillips (right) in his studio

Percy Phillips owned the studio, which was on the ground floor.
His clients waited in the front parlour and recorded in the back room
studio. The studio consisted of two tape-recorders, a microphone
hanging from the ceiling, a piano and disc-cutter, which produced
these shellac discs.

Interview with Colin Hanton

Colin Hanton spoke about that famous first recording. “We met at a theatre and walked up there. All I remember was this back room with electronic equipment in the corner. We set up our equipment with me in the corner and the lads with their guitars: there were no amps, it was all-acoustic. John Lowe was over by the wall on the piano. I was hitting the drums and he said that they were too loud, so I tried again but there was still the same problem, which was finally fixed by putting a scarf over the snare to soften it and keep it as quiet as possible.

Colin Hanton of The Quarrymen

“John Duff Lowe reckons there was one microphone hanging down from the ceiling, which picked everything up. He was complaining because he said we should get the tape, which was a pound, but we just had enough each— three shillings and sixpence (17.5 pence). I always felt that was one of the reasons to invite John Lowe along to split it five ways. John and Paul went white at the thought of a pound. “Percy was fed up because we were taking too much time, and starting to look at the clock. ‘In Spite Of All The Danger’ was quite long, and he said to chop a verse off. John said no. John Lowe could see Phillips from where he was sitting and he was apparently telling John to finish. We kept going, so the record ended with the song going almost to the centre of the disc, right to the hole in the middle.

We had a record!

In Spite of all the Danger
In Spite of all the Danger by The Quarrymen

“He gave us the disc and off we went. It was a big thing. How many people had records like popular crooner, Matt Monro? So we had a record too, and could listen to ourselves. We had heard our group before because the girl who lived next door to me, Geraldine Davies, had a Grundig tape recorder. She’d record us and then we’d all sit down and listen to it. It was a momentous day for us. I can still remember it so clearly”.

The songs appeared on Anthology Disc 1.

This interview first appeared in “Liddypool“. Read the full interview in the book – get your copy here.

Liddypool
Liddypool by David Bedford

David Bedford

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6th July 1957 – Part 1: The Quarrymen on Parade

The Quarrymen in the parade
The Quarrymen, including John, on the wagon during the parade

On 6th July 1957, the day John Lennon met Paul McCartney for the first time, there was a parade around the village of Woolton. At the front of the parade was a marching band, and at the back was The Quarrymen. In the above photo, you can see that John is singing, though nobody else is doing anything!

The Quarrymen (left to right) are: Pete Shotton, Eric Griffiths, Len Garry, John Lennon, Colin Hanton and Rod Davis. The photos of the parade were taken by Rod’s father James Davis. This photo appeared in my first book, Liddypool, and was inserted at the last minute, when the book was on the printing press ready to go! We literally said; “Hold the presses!” It was the first time it had appeared in a book.

When I was working on my second book, “The Fab one hundred and Four: The Evolution of The Beatles”, I gained permission from Rod Davis to reproduce all of the photos from the parade, the only book to include all of the photographs. These include the marching band, brownies and guides, the youth group, the Rose Queen and another of The Quarrymen. They are incredible. You can get your copy of the book here.

As the parade finished, everyone left the parade, as The Quarrymen clambered down from the wagon, and walked along the side of the church to the field behind the church. In that crowd watching closely was Ivan Vaughan, and his school friend Paul McCartney. Who could have predicted what would happen this day would still be talked about all these years later.

David Bedford

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