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
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
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.
On probably the same night as Ronnie the “Ted” played drums with The Silver Beatles, one young man from Wallasey, near to the Grosvenor Ballroom, thought he could play the drums with the group.
He later said; “I even played drums for them (the Silver Beatles) one night when they didn’t have a drummer. Just one song; that was enough. I was terrible.”
That young 16 year old was Jackie Lomax, who didn’t take up the drums, but the guitar, and became the frontman on Merseybeat group, The Undertakers, one of the finest groups on Merseyside. He was later signed by Brian Epstein, and even accompanied The Beatles to Shea Stadium in 1966. Lomax was advised by John Lennon to go to see Terry Doran at Apple Publishing, as he was writing songs. George Harrison approached Lomax and offered to produce his album, which he did, on Apple Records.