If you want to know the key events in Beatles History, then this is the page for you. This will help you navigate the website, to find the Beatles history you need to know. Each link will take you to a different page on the site, where a post, article or interview is located. I will be constantly updating the site, so check back for the latest in Beatles history, discussing Beatles names, Beatles members, Beatles drummers and who the original Beatles were.
To make it easier to find, there is a separate page for each year. Select the page year to find out what happened in Beatles history that year.
1956 – The Quarrymen are formed
1957 – John and Paul meet, and George joins The Quarrymen
1958 – The Quarry Men make a record, and John’s mother is killed
1959 – The Quarrymen open The Casbah Coffee Club
1960 – The year that made The Beatles. Many Beatles drummers, lots of different Beatles names, Allan Williams is the Beatles manager and they go to Hamburg
1961 – The Beatles are the best group; Brian Epstein discovers The Beatles at The Cavern Club
1962 – Decca audition, George Martin signs The Beatles, Pete Best is sacked/ dismissed from The Beatles (the truth is revealed) and Ringo Starr joins. The Fab Four is born and “Love Me Do”, their first single, is released.
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?
‘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
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
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.
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).
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 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.”
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.
David grew up in the Dingle, Liverpool, near the bottom of the street, Madryn Street, where Ringo Starr was born. He later attended St. Silas School, the same primary school that Ringo Starr, Billy Fury and Alf Lennon (John’s father).
He and his wife, Alix, moved to live near Penny Lane, where they have lived for the last 30 years. Their three daughters were born in Oxford Street Maternity Hospital, where John Lennon has been born. The three girls all attended Dovedale School, the same school that John Lennon and George Harrison attended. David has been the Chair of Governors there for nearly 15 years.
When illness forced him to retire at the age of 35, encouraged by his doctor, he began to read, research and write about The Beatles for the London Beatles Fan Club magazine, and helped to found the British Beatles Fan Club. Realising that so many stories about The Beatles and Liverpool were incorrect, he set out to dispel the myths by interviewing the people who knew The Beatles best.
The Fab one hundred and Four: The Evolution of The Beatles
His second book, the follow-up to “Liddypool”, “The Fab one hundred and four: The Evolution of The Beatles” was published in 2013 to further critical acclaim, with original interviews and rewriting Beatles history, by telling of the 104 people who contributed to the early history of The Beatles.
The Beatles Book
In 2016, he published a book with original Beatles biographer Hunter Davies, plus Spencer Leigh and Keith Badman, called “The Beatles Book”.
Inspector Rocke: That’ll Be The Day That I Die
As an aside from his Beatles books, David wrote a crime fiction novel in 2017 around a fictional Liverpool detective called Inspector Rocke. Each story is set around a key moment in Beatles history, and features The Beatles themselves, though not as suspects!
Looking for Lennon
In 2018, he was the Associate Producer and Historian for the documentary feature film “Looking for Lennon”, which was nominated for a National Film Award.
Finding the Fourth Beatle
In 2018, he also published his third book, with co-author Garry Popper, called “Finding the Fourth Beatle“, about the 23 drummers who put the beat in The Beatles.
He has several other book projects, and much more, on the go.
On 14th May 1960, The Silver Beats – as they called themselves for this one occasion – the boys headed up to the north of Liverpool to appear at Lathom Hall. They arrived there with their current lineup – John, Paul, George, Stuart and Tommy Moore. For some reason, Tommy didn’t bring his drums!! So, he asked a fellow drummer, Cliff Roberts from Kingsize Taylor and the Dominoes, if he could use his drums. He declined! So, drummerless, the lads approached Cliff Roberts and asked him to sit in with them that night, which he duly did. That night, they were: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Stuart Sutcliffe and Cliff Roberts: The Silver Beats. Roberts recalled The Silver Beats’ appearance that first night: “They were a scruffy bunch whose drummer hadn’t brought his kit and asked if he could borrow mine. I had a brand new Olympic kit that I hadn’t even used on stage myself, so I naturally refused.” They performed six numbers together, as Roberts recalled, “four rock ‘n’ roll standards that all the groups played, and two originals that they had to teach me.” Cliff Roberts is therefore a member of the “Fab one hundred and Four: The Evolution of The Beatles” Find out more at www.fab104.com David Bedford
Yes, Steve Calrow sang with The Beatles in the spring of 1961. Bob Wooler had begun to introduce The Beatles at The Cavern Club. They had made their lunchtime debut on 9 February 1961 and their first evening performance was on 21 March 1961. Between these two dates, and before Stuart returned to Hamburg on 15 March 1961, Steve Calrow, a local performer who Wooler had seen at Holyoake Hall, made a brief appearance at The Cavern with The Beatles.
Along with John, Paul, George, Stuart and Pete, Steve was called into action to help out with the singing as The Beatles could hardly talk, let alone sing, after a grueling 14 days performing. “I knew Paul and George more than I knew John but we all lived around the same area, which is why I think they worked so well together because they knew each other well.”
Find out more in “The Fab one hundred and Four: The Evolution of The Beatles” at www.fab104.com