The Beatles On The Road … In Their First Cars!

When Paul McCartney was teenager, his plans for his future financial security were very simple:

“If you’d asked me for my fantasies when I was 16 years old, standing at a bus stop waiting to go to Garston on the 86 bus, I’d have said, ‘guitar, car and a house’, in that order. That was it – the entire thing. I thought about £75,000 would cover it.”

As with any young man dreaming of the future, the fact that a car was on the list is not surprising. In fact, he would go on to earn significantly more than £75,000, and be the owner of some of the most desirable automobiles on the market, as would the other members of The Beatles. All of them invested in their first cars before they had really hit the big time … with one exception. Out of financial necessity, those first cars were relatively modest … with one exception.

Ringo’s Standard Vanguard

Ringo Starr was the first future Beatle to buy a car, in 1959, although at this time, he hadn’t yet obtained his driver’s licence, and drove the car without the legally-required insurance. He bought a Standard Vanguard for £75 from fellow drummer, Johnny Hutchinson, of The Big Three, the one that stood in at the 1960 Larry Parnes audition when Tommy Moore was late, and the drummer that Brian Epstein initially approached to replace Pete Best in The Beatles (Epstein eventually signed The Big Three). According to Ringo:

“It wouldn’t go into second gear – and every time it stopped I had a puncture – but I loved that car. I used to like to tell everyone it was hand-painted, which it was; it wasn’t sprayed, it was hand-painted black and white.”

As a sad sidenote, this was the same type of car driven by the off-duty policeman that collided with, and killed, Julia Lennon one year earlier in Menlove Avenue.

George Harrison did things in a more conventional way. He began to take driving lessons at the beginning of 1962, and passed the test first time. At the end of March, he was drinking with friends, including Ringo – at that time still with Rory Storm and The Hurricanes – and told them excitedly that he had just passed his driving test, and had found a car to buy. The most likely scenario is that George had spoken to Brian Epstein, the proud owner of a Ford Zodiac, and he had referred George to his friend, Terry Doran, who worked at a Ford dealership, Hawthorne Motors, in Warrington, east of Liverpool. George needed a ride to Warrington to collect his secondhand two-door blue Ford Anglia 105E Deluxe, and Ringo offered to take him.

George with his Ford Anglia

Terry Doran later became an associate of The Beatles, setting up a dealership with Epstein, and supplying the band with many of their cars, becoming CEO of Apple Publishing, and later still, the personal assistant of George Harrison, alternating between Los Angeles and Friar Park, where he managed the estate. It has been suggested that he was ‘The man from the motor trade’ mentioned in ‘She’s Leaving Home’, but Paul has denied this.

On the 27 March, a day without engagements for The Beatles, George and Ringo, by now the owner of a Ford Zodiac, set off for Warrington. After collecting the car, youthful bravado got the better of them, and they  raced each other back to Liverpool. At one point, a slow car held them up, but George managed to execute a dangerous overtaking manoeuvre, and pull away. Ringo wasn’t so lucky, and when a dog ran into the road, the driver in front of him hit the brakes and Ringo collided with him. As he still had no licence or insurance he was left to foot the repair bill of £67/3/3d (below), a tidy sum in those days! It appears from the date on the repair bill that Ringo’s car lay inactive for some time, probably because The Hurricanes almost immediately left to tour American military bases in France before appearing at a club in Marbella, Spain, before returning to play a summer season at Butlin’s Holiday Camp, Skegness, on the east coast of England. Added  to that, it was while he was at Skegness that he received the offer to join the Beatles.

Sometime shortly after Ringo completed the classic Beatles’ line-up, Paul McCartney purchased his first car, a modest Ford Consul Classic 109E, in ‘Goodwood Green’ (main photo in this post). This was a larger stablemate of George’s Anglia, and shared the unusual inward-sloping rear window. At the beginning of the following year, McCartney received two speeding fines, and upon being stopped once again on 14th June close to midnight in Seabank Road, Wallasey, on the other side of the Mersey, he was summoned to answer charges. The newspaper reported his court appearance thus:

“James Paul McCartney, 21-year-old musician of 20 Forthlin Road, Allerton, Liverpool, was fined £25 and disqualified from driving at Wallasey for 12 months after he had admitted exceeding the speed limit along Seabank Road. McCartney who had two previous convictions for speeding this year was told by Alderman W.O. Hanford presiding: “It is time you were taught a lesson.” McCartney was also fined £3 on each of two summonses for failing to produce his driving licence and his certificate of insurance within five days of being asked to do so by a police officer. He admitted all three summonses. Inspector L.E. Harrison, prosecuting, said that at 11.45 p.m. on June 14, McCartney’s car was paced for two tenths of a mile at between 50 and 55 miles per hour. When advised of his speech (I think that should read “rights”) and asked for an explanation by Constable Stephen Goodhall, McCartney made no reply. He was unable to produce his driving documents at that time. The documents were not produced until the beginning of July. When asked why he had not produced them before, McCartney said he had been on tour.”

As I hinted earlier, the exception to this youthful spell of car-buying was John Lennon. Although he had occasionally illegally taken the wheel of Neil Aspinall’s Comer van in the early days – with terrible results according to Aspinall – around Christmas 1964 he decided that it was time he learned to drive formally, and he took a series of lessons with a Weybridge driving school, close to Kenwood, his house on the exclusive St. George’s Hill estate. The minimum driving age in the UK is 17, and Lennon was 24 at this time. His instructor, Paul Willson, remembered:

“We were often followed around Weybridge by enthusiastic fans in cars, and whenever we did a practice reverse or three-point turn, they would follow us and do the same.”

After just seven lessons, he applied for his driving test. Watched by around 200 girls at the test centre in Queens Road, he passed first time on 15th February 1965. Success meant that he could afford any car he wanted. Although he had bought Cynthia a Mini Cooper in 1964, he was unindated with offers from local dealers of luxury cars when it came to buying his own first car. Agencies of Maseratis, Aston Martins, Jaguars, and many others, brought them to his door. He eventually settled on a sky blue Ferrari 330 GT 2+2 Coupé (below), with a blue interior, one of only 500 of the model built. After a crash a short time after passing his test, he rarely drove himself, relying on his chauffer, Les Anthony. The Ferrari only covered around 20,000 miles in the three years that Lennon owned it. It cost Lennon £6,500, and was auctioned in 2013 with an estimated price of up to £220,000. By the time the seller acquired it, the car had been painted red and lost its original number plate. It is now restored to its original colour scheme, and has the original registration plate: DUL 4C.

John Lennon’s Ferrari 330 GT 2+2 Coupé

© Copyright 2017 Philip Kirkland. No original part of this work may be reproduced in whole or in part in any manner without the permission of the copyright owner.

Before The Hurricane(s) … Ringo’s First Musical Steps

This year’s 60th anniversary of the fateful meeting of John Lennon and Paul McCartney on 6th July 1957 reminds us the two Beatles more or less grew together musically, Paul joining the Quarrymen within a year of their formation, and at a time when they were really just an unexperienced bunch of lads trying to make music, however badly. Although George joined the following year, his only real public performing experience was a single gig with his makeshift skiffle group, The Rebels. This outfit consisted of his Liverpool Institute best buddy, Arthur Kelly on guitar – Kelly was later successful as an actor in such British TV dramas as Coronation Street, The Bill, Juliet Bravo, Bergerac … not to mention the Liverpool soap opera, Brookside – brother Peter Harrison on yet another guitar, and a tea-chest bass player called Alan Williams. A harmonica player has been mentioned, although no name is remembered. Their repetoire was very limited, and they repeated verses, and even whole songs, to make something of a show at that date at the Royal British Legion in Dam Wood Road, Speke, a short distance from George’s home in Upton Green.

In the case of the last member of the final Beatles line-up, Richard Starkey pretty much hit the ground running. By the time the Quarrymen had morphed into The Beatles and started to sharpen up their act in Hamburg, Ringo was among the most experienced, and sought-after, drummers on the Liverpool scene.

Starkey had tried a number of musical instruments when he was growing up, including a banjo and a mandolin given to him by his grandparents, as well as a harmonica, and the family piano – the first photo of a future Beatle with an instrument in his hands shows an 8 year-old Ritchie with an accordion – but he found his true métier in the drums. His first experience was during an occupational therapy session in the Royal Liverpool Children’ Hospital where he was convalescing from one of his many childhood illnesses, and thereafter he would beat out a rhythm with anything he could find, on anything that made a noise.

In early 1956, Ritchie had still not reached the age of 16, but had already had two unsuccessful attempts to enter full-time employment. His stepfather, Harry Graves, got talking to someone in a pub who knew of vacancies at Henry Hunt & Sons at 89-93 Windsor Street, a ten minute walk from Ritchie’s home in Admiral Grove. This was the same street where John Lennon’s maternal grandparents had lived, and where his Aunt Mimi was born – his father, Alfred, was born close by in Copperfield Street. Hunt’s was a manufacturer of sports and leisure equipment, school gym apparatus and diving boards. Ritchie joined the company initially on a five-year apprenticeship as a joiner, but found himself doing all the menial jobs around the factory, as well as being sent out on the delivery bike. As they didn’t have work for joiners, he changed his apprenticeship to engineering. It was at Hunt’s that he met Roy Trafford, a fellow music lover, who introduced him to skiffle and set him on the path of the career that would bring him worldwide fame.

Roy Trafford and Ritchie Starkey decided to get a band together and find some places to play regularly. Ritchie’s next-door neighbour in Admiral Grove was Eddie Miles, also a colleague at Hunt’s, and already a relatively accomplished guitarist. He took the stage name ‘Eddie Clayton’, and together with fellow work colleagues, Peter Healey or Frank Walsh on guitar, John Dougherty (possibly ‘Docherty’) or Micky McGrellis on washboard, and Trafford on tea-chest bass and vocals, The Eddie Clayton Skiffle Group was born. Quite what drumkit Starkey was using at this time seems to be an issue of some confusion among Beatles’ historians. Some maintain that he put a kit together from bits and pieces, receiving a full secondhand kit, brought back from London, as a present from his stepfather at Christmas 1957. Others say that he had the London kit before joined the Clayton Group, while yet other claim that he borrowed £50 from his grandfather as a deposit on a brand new kit. Ringo’s own account is that he did indeed have the kit before starting work at Hunt’s. Whichever it was, he didn’t always have the full set when he was playing gigs, due to the problems of carrying it on public transport, and the danger of it being stolen. He also played standing up, eliminating the need to carry a stool around with him.

The Eddie Clayton Skiffle Group played private parties and weddings, and their first public engagement was at the Labour Club on Peel Street in the Dingle. They eventually secured a residency there and also played at the Florence Institute on Mill Street, in the same area, the Wilson Hall in Garston (in the main photo of this article), and the newly opened Cavern Club. They appeared at the Cavern on 31st July and 4th December 1957, and in 1958 on 29th January, 7th, 10th, 16th and 23rd February, and 8th and 28th March. In 1958, Eddie Miles got married, and the group disbanded. Miles would later return to music, playing with Liverpool Country & Western band, Hank Walters & His Dusty Road Ramblers. Ringo stayed in touch with Roy Trafford in the following years. They shared a passion for Country & Western music, and Trafford once brought an album called ‘Midnight Jamboree’, recorded in 1962 by country group Ernest Tubb and His Texas Troubadours, to a party at Ringo’s Admiral Grove home. One of the tracks that Ringo liked was called ‘Pass Me By’, sung by LInda Flanagan. He used it as the inspiration for his future song, ‘Don’t Pass Me By’.

All this time, Ritchie would sit in with other bands, but his next permanent group was the Darktown Skiffle Band, named after the 1917 jazz composition, ‘Darktown Strutters’ Ball’, which by then was a standard of the genre. The Darktown band had been on the same bill as The Quarrymen when they made their first appearance at The Cavern Club on 7th August, the previous year, but had impressed club owner, Alan Synter, much more than John Lennon’s rag-tag group, mainly because, a rarity among the testosterone-charged Liverpool music scene of the time, the band had been formed as a backing group for a female singer, Gladys Jill Martin. Other members of the group were Alan Robinson, Dave McKew, Keith Draper and David Smith. Little is known about where they played, but like the Eddie Clayton Skiffle Group, it is known that they entered many skiffle contests in the city. At this time, many of the groups were moving away from skiffle, and becoming Rock & Roll bands. The Darktown’s followed this trend, and became known as The Cadillacs.

In 1959, Ritchie Starkey met Alan Caldwell at a talent contest called ‘6.5 Special’, where Alan was told Ritchie he was looking for a drummer for his own group, ‘The Raving Texans’. Ritchie took up the offer and first appeared with the group on 25 March 1959 at the Mardi Gras Club in Mount Pleasant, close to the city’s Catholic cathedral. The group changed its name various times during 1959, first to Al Storm & the Hurricanes, then Jett Storm & the Hurricanes and finally, by the end of the year, Rory Storm & the Hurricanes. It was during his time with the Hurricanes that Ritchie adopted the stage name, Ringo Starr. Until The Beatles had developed into the hottest band in Liverpool due to their gruelling schedule in Hamburg, Rory Storm & the Hurricanes was considered the holder of this title. Apart from sitting in with his future employers a few times in Germany, Ringo stayed with the group until August 1962, when his biggest opportunity yet came knocking…


© Copyright 2017 Philip Kirkland. No original part of this work may be reproduced in whole or in part in any manner without the permission of the copyright owner.

The Other Hayman’s Green Basement Club … And The Other Quartet

1959 was a very quiet year for The Quarrymen, but the events of that year were also pivotal in the formation of the band that would go on to get a recording contract in three short years, achieve unprecedented national fame in four, and international fame in five. Most of those events took place in two large houses in the same street – Hayman’s Green, West Derby, Liverpool.

Of the group that had recorded ‘In Spite Of All The Danger/That’ll Be The Day’ in Percy Phillips’ Kensington studio the previous year, pianist, John ‘Duff’ Lowe, had left, citing the long distances he had to travel to rehearse and perform, as well as a complaining girlfriend. Drummer, Colin Hanton, also departed, remembering:

“I left the Quarrymen after playing a booking at LCPT Club in Norris Green. We had drunk a few beers during the interval and an argument started on the way home on the bus. I got off to catch another bus to take me home to Woolton and somehow or other that was that, they never contacted me again to ask me to play.”

The remaining three members were the nucleus of the group that would soon become legends: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison. They would still get together and rehearse, and John and Paul continued writing songs together, but bookings were scarce. For George, this was frustrating. He had recently bought a Hofner President guitar for £30, and took a job as a butcher’s delivery boy to help with the payments. Working in the same shop was a certain Tommy Askew, who impressed George by owning the first Dobro Resonator guitar he’d ever seen. Tommy went to college with an 18 year-old called Les Stewart. Stewart played banjo, mandolin and guitar, and at the beginning of 1959 he formed his own group called the Les Stewart Quartet, with Geoff Skinner on drums, and Ken Brown on guitar. The fourth member of the quartet left in the earlier days of the group, and Tommy introduced Stewart to his young workmate, who was invited to join the band. George once again found himself the ‘baby’ of the group, as he had been in the Quarrymen, although, according to Stewart:

“I never thought of George as being younger, he was just a neat guy. I liked him a lot, and he was a pretty decent guitarist. He used to practice and practice until he got things note-perfect. This was something I never did – I just used to wing it all the time, and didn’t have much patience.”

Despite that, Stewart was a quite accomplished guitarist, and played lead in the band. George played rhythm. Nevertheless, the short time spent in the quartet was fundamental to George’s development as a guitarist. While most Liverpool groups were playing just American Rock and Roll and skiffle, the Les Stewart Quartet played blues from the likes of Big Bill Broonzy, Muddy Waters, and Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee. With only a basic knowledge of the blues, George had to work hard to learn this style. He also contributed some Carl Perkins’ songs to the repetoire, which he also provided vocals for.

Les Stewart lived at 32 Ballantyne Road, a fifteen minute walk from Hayman’s Green. In early 1958, a new teenage cellar venue, ‘The Pillar Club’, had opened at the West Derby Community Association building at 13 Hayman’s Green, the first of its kind in Liverpool. The impressive Italianate mansion, named ‘Lowlands’, was built in 1846 for his own family by architect, Thomas Haigh, who was then living at Gambier Terrace in the Georgian Quarter, three doors down from where Stuart Sutcliffe and John Lennon would rent a flat more than a century later. The Pillar Club operated as a youth club during the week, with bands playing on Sundays. The Les Stewart Quartet became the resident group in early 1959, as well as playing regular dates at the nearby British Legion at 25 Marlborough Road, and various parties. As George lived some 15 miles away at 25 Upton Green, Speke, needing to take various buses to get to Les Stewart’s house for rehearsals, or to the various venues in the same area, he often took John Lennon along with him, and John occasionally joined George and the Quartet on the Pillar Club stage.

After one Sunday night performance, the group was leaving Lowlands when they encountered a neighbour in the street. Mrs. Mona Best had recently moved into 8 Hayman’s Green with her sons, Pete and Rory. No. 8 was another large 15-room house, albeit not as impressive as Lowlands, and Mona was planning to open a similar club in her cellar for her sons to get together with their friends and listen to music. While recorded music would be played on the Dansette record player, she was looking for a band to play on the opening night, and perhaps have the opportunity to play there regularly. She offered the Les Stewart Quartet the job, and they accepted. Ken Brown soon became friends with the Best boys, and spending a lot of time with them, started to miss rehearsals with the group. George went hitchhiking with Paul in Wales in August, and intending to return in time for a date at the British Legion, arrived late. Ken Brown had also failed to turn up, leaving Stewart and Geoff Skinner to do the gig alone. Despite Ken, and later, George, trying to convince Les Stewart to continue with the band, he decided to break it up, taking Geoff Skinner with him.

Les Stewart later played with a group called Frank Knight and the Barons. They wore Bill Haley-style plaid jackets, and were considered an accomplished group. He left that group when he married and started a family, but later formed another group called The Kansas City Five. Their drummer was called Lewis Collins, a handsome young man who had won a ‘Most Beautiful Baby In Liverpool’ contest in 1948. He later became famous as ‘Bodie’ in the British TV crime drama, ‘The Professionals’ in the 1970s and 80s, and could boast two more Beatles’ connections. After leaving school, he started an apprenticeship at the André Barnard Salon in Church Street, where one of his fellow apprentices was Paul’s brother, Mike McCartney. His father, Bill Collins, later became manager of a group called ‘The Iveys’, who were the first non-Beatles act to be signed to Apple, and were renamed Badfinger. Les Stewart later had a modicum of success as a member of the group, The Short and the Tall, who had some minor hits on the Decca record label.

Meanwhile, George Harrison and Ken Brown had a problem to solve. Mona Best had been promised a quartet to play on the inaugural night of the Casbah Coffee Club on 29th August, and now only had a duo. George, of course, knew two pretty good guitarists and singers called John and Paul, and invited them to make up the quartet, creating a new line-up of The Quarrymen. The four played the first night, appearing with one microphone, Brown’s ten-watt amplifier, an all-guitar line-up, and no drummer. They played such songs as Three Cool Cats and Long Tall Sally, and Brown and the Quarrymen played every Saturday at the Casbah for the next seven weeks.

One night Ken Brown was getting ready for a Saturday gig at the Casbah, when he felt a crippling pain in his leg. He could barely stand, but insisted on doing something to help. Mona asked him to take the money at the door. After the gig, Paul had been talking to Mona and found out that she had still paid Ken, even though he hadn’t performed. The fee was £3, 15 shillings (75p) for each member. Ken replied that it was Mona’s decision, leaving Paul fuming. He declared that Brown was now out of the group, and that The Quarrymen would never play the Casbah again – a promise that he didn’t keep! The Quarrymen were down to three again, until Stuart Sutcliffe joined them the following year.

The bespectacled Ken Brown, who cut something of a Buddy Holly figure, was born in London in 1940, where his father worked at the Royal Ordnance Factory in Enfield. When Ken was nine months old, his father was transfered to Liverpool, and moved his family to the city. After being ejected from The Quarrymen, Ken formed a group called The Blackjacks (ironically the same name John Lennon chose for the Quarrymen) with Pete Best and Chas Newby. When the Beatles returned from Hamburg the following year without Stuart Sutcliffe, Brown claims that Best suggested to his then bandmates that Ken should take his place. His three ex-bandmates vetoed the idea, and in fact, the job went to Chas Newby for four gigs, until Paul took over bass duties. To bring the story full circle, Chas Newby now plays bass regularly with the re-formed Quarrymen. The Blackjacks broke up when Pete Best was asked to join The Beatles in Hamburg. Brown did see John, Paul and George again. He moved to London and married his girlfriend, Marcia. On 16th March 1963, he received a telephone call from Neil Aspinall. Despite The Beatles having had two hit singles, (the Please Please Me album would be released the following week) the royalties weren’t coming through, and they were short of money. Despite the bad way they had treated him four years previously, Ken lent them £20, which they repaid six weeks later.

Brown never made it as a professional musician. He later wrote a 38,000-word autobiography, ‘Some Other Guy’, but never found a publisher. He sold the amp that the Quarrymen had used at the Casbah at Sotheby’s as a piece of Beatles’ history and later reunited with Pete Best and Chas Newby to play at the Casbah in 1999 to celebrate the club’s 40th anniversary. Around 15th June 2010, Ken Brown was discovered at his home in Essex after a concerned relative had raised the alarm. Police forced their way in through his front door and found thim lying on the living room floor. He had been suffering from emphysema. It is thought he may have died five days earlier. He was 70 years old.

The Pillar Club at Lowlands operated until 1966 and many great groups played there in their early days. They included Gerry and the Pacemakers, The Searchers, The Hollies and Billy J. Kramer. Beatles manager Brian Epstein was a visitor, although he was reportedly annoyed to be asked for the entrance fee, protesting: “Do you know who I am!” The Lowlands building still operates as the West Derby Community Association to this day, but its main fame remains being the place that indirectly played a part in maintaining the momentum of the emerging Beatles at a time when the group was in danger of ceasing to even exist.


© Copyright 2017 Philip Kirkland. No original part of this work may be reproduced in whole or in part in any manner without the permission of the copyright owner.

The Smiths Of Woolton … John Lennon’s Favourite Uncle and His Family

Lesser known among the Beatles’ sites to visit in Liverpool is 120a Allerton Road, Woolton, known as the ‘Dairy Cottage’, which was recently on the market for £325,000. It is a grade 2 listed building dating back to 1839.  Originally part of a guest house, the cottage then became the shop for Smith’s Dairy Farm. George Toogood Smith was uncle to John Lennon, who lived here briefly with his parents at the age of 2. John visited other family members at the house regularly throughout childhood and Beatle years. The Smiths were well known in Woolton, owning two dairy farms, as well as other property in the High Street. The residents would look forward to a visit from the horse and cart with the large milk churn on the back, emerging from their houses with various receptacles, into which the deliveryman would ladle the fresh milk. John’s older cousin, Stanley Parkes, remembered John, their other cousin, Liela, and himself riding on the cart on the milk round, and according to him, “The horse, without a word of command, knew every customer’s house at which to stop. It even went past a non-customer’s house or two, to the next known customer! We were fascinated by it!”

Uncle George’s parents were Francis (born 1866 or 67) and Alice Smith (born 1868), and they were the fourth generation of dairy farmers, making Smith’s Dairy Farm one of the oldest such continually operating farms in the County of Lancashire (which Liverpool used to be part of) at that time. The Smiths had eight children, three girls and four boys, and one other that died at birth. George was born in 1903, probably at the larger house adjoining the Dairy Cottage (photo, right). In 1932, George’s father, Francis, was reported missing from his home in the High Street, and was found two months later floating in a water-filled pit in Speke, where the inquest returned a verdict of suicide. The High Street properties were inherited by his wife, Alice, but the Allerton Road dairy farm and houses were bequeathed to George and his brother, Frank. George sold his share of the land to the Bear Brand hosiery company, which built a factory on the site, but retained the houses. Many years later, the factory was demolished, and a Tesco supermarket now stands in its place.

George first met Mary Elizabeth Stanley, John Lennon’s Aunt Mimi, in 1932, when he was delivering milk to the Woolton Convalescent Hospital, where Mimi was a trainee nurse. The Stanleys came from a far more humble background and the idea of marrying into the Smith family must have appealed to the woman who always saw herself as more middle class than her family, the woman who once declared that she wouldn’t ever marry. Nevertheless, she managed to hold out for another seven years, before marrying George Smith on 15th September 1939, just two weeks after World War II broke out. They moved into 251 Menlove Avenue, the now famous ‘Mendips’, named after the range of hills in Somerset in the south of England, a favourite walking place of the original owner. (At this point, I can’t resist mentioning that I spent the first 39 years of my life living at the foot of the Mendip Hills! – and that the town of Cheddar, of cheese fame, is found at the west end of the range.)

Shortly after marrying, George was called up for war service, and saw action in the Battle of France. He was discharged in 1942, and served the rest of the war in an aircraft factory in Speke, now the location of Liverpool John Lennon Airport. By this time, the Ministry of Supply had commandeered the farms for the war effort, although the milk round continued for some years. Eventually, five generations of the family business came to an end. George later opened a bookmaker’s business, much to the chagrin of Mimi – gambling was among the activities she looked down on, and by all accounts she had good reason, as it appears the wealth that was built up during the successful years of the dairy business was diminish by the time of George’s death, requiring Mimi to take in lodgers at Mendips.

In September 1942, John Lennon’s father, Alf, started another job as a merchant seaman, this time requiring a long spell away from home, and Mimi suggested that John’s mother, Julia, and John should move into the Dairy Cottage. Being close to Mendips, Mimi could see more of her nephew. They returned to their Newcastle Road home, near Penny Lane in 1943. In 1946, due to Julia’s perceived irresponsibility, Mimi convinced her to let John go and live with her and George at Mendips. It was here that John would finally settle down into something approaching a normal stable family environment and live out the rest of his childhood, adolescence and, notwithstanding a few attempts to strike out on his own, through to the start of Beatlemania.

Uncle George became a surrogate father to John. He taught him to read, draw and paint, and told him bedtime stories and tucked him into bed each night. He also had an influence on his later writing, showing him how one could play with words, and give them different meanings. He taught him how to solve crossword puzzles, inspiring John’s lifelong love of language. He was much more easy-going than the strict Mimi, and often annoyed her by spending more time with John than she did. He was an educated man, fluent in French, although he had been expelled from school – something else he had in common with John! Lennon was expelled from Mosspits Lane Infants School in 1946 for bullying a classmate, Polly Hipshaw.

At the beginning of June 1955, John was visiting relatives from the Stanley family in Durness, Scotland. When he returned to Mendips, George wasn’t there. He asked Mimi where he’d gone, and his Aunt had to tell the devasted 14 year-old that his favourite uncle had died at home on Sunday 5th June of a liver hemorrhage at the age of just 52. John kept his memory alive during the next few years by wearing an overcoat belonging to his uncle, until it was so tattered and worn so as to be no longer servicable. George Toogood Smith is buried in St. Peter’s Church graveyard along with his mother, Alice, who died in 1949. They were later joined by his sister Eleanor (1965) and brother Albert (1975). Albert never married and became an English teacher at the Liverpool Institute. Two of his students were Paul McCartney and George Harrison who called him ‘Cissy’ Smith because he was such a smart dresser, but according to McCartney, “…a total berk”. Also remembered on the headstone of the family grave is George’s World War I hero brother Robert.

If Uncle George told John stories about war heroes, it’s very probable that he regaled his young nephew with accounts of the war exploits his long-deceased brother.

Robert (photo, left) was born on the 29th July 1898. When war broke out, eldest brother Frank joined the Navy, but Robert was too young to enlist and had to wait until 1916 before turning 18. He joined the 2/6th (Rifle) TF battalion, King’s Liverpool Regiment. He arrived in France on the 18th August 1917 as part of a draft. At the time of his arrival the battalion was in and out of the line at Fleurbaix, Passchendaele. By early March 1918, when the Spring Offensive started, the 2/6th KLR were further South and missed most of the heavy fighting, mainly patrolling and raiding the German trenches. One such raid took place on the 20th June and Robert was to take part. Local newspaper, Woolton Weekly News, reported his first act of heroism:

“Information has been received that the Military Medal has been awarded to Rifleman Robert Smth, KLR, second son of Mr Frank Smith, 120 Allerton Road, Woolton. Rifleman Smith showed notable courage and gallantry in going out, with a comrade, believed to belong to Aigberth, to the rescue of a wounded officer. As they were bringing the latter in, the comrade was wounded and young Smith brought in the officer alone, and afterwards went out to his wounded comrade and brought him back safely. Smith is a well known and popular Woolton youth and has been on service 12 months. He is not yet 20 years of age.”

The next report in the Weekly News, from the Battle of the Scarpe, was not so happy:

“Lance Corporal Robert Smith, King’s Liverpool Rifles, of 120 Allerton Raod, Woolton, was killed in action in France on August 30th, in his twentieth year. Many sympathetic letters have been received by Mr and Mrs Smith, the deceased soldier’s parents and they all speak well of Lance-Corporal Smith’s excellence as a soldier … The men (involved) were specially praised for their good work in that action and he (Robert) died as a brave soldier fighting for his country. Lance-Corporal Smith enlisted at the age of 18 in February of last year and has been in France 14 months. In June of this year he was awarded the Military Medal for conspicuous gallantry. He also held a medal for being the best shot in the Battalion.”


© Copyright 2017 Philip Kirkland. No original part of this work may be reproduced in whole or in part in any manner without the permission of the copyright owner.

Norman Chapman … The Other Quiet Beatle

Some people who have found themselves on the periphery of the story of any legendary rock act are very happy to tell their own part of the story, perhaps by writing a book about it and being available for any events related to their past life (and that’s fine – we treasure their memories and first-hand knowledge), others reluctantly come forward when asked, while there are those that are more than happy to let the past be the past, and measure their lives by what they later achieved in another field. Norman Chapman, The Silver Beatles drummer for just three gigs in June 1960, falls squarely into the last category. Consequently, there is little information about his life other than that offered by his family, and by determined historians. I have tried to piece these snippets together to at least give the fullest mini-biography of him that I can.

chapman-passport.pngNorman Chapman was born in 1937,  the youngest of a family of nine children. One of his brothers, David, died young in a swimming accident. He married at the end of 1959, and his first child, Ann Marie, was born in August 1961. Shortly after marrying, he bought a drumkit on hire purchase, but was unable to find a place to play it at home without disturbing everyone, so kept it in a room above the offices of the National Cash Register Company (NCR) on the corner of Seel Street and Slater Street, where he could practice after work. He chose this location as he was working in the nearby Jackson & Sons art shop as a picture framer and renovator. Jackson’s was nearly opposite Allan Williams’ Jacaranda Club. (As of September 2016, the shop still had the original name above the window and art objects on display, although the whole shopfront looked a little worse for wear – see photo below).

jackson

After the departure of Tommy Moore as the drummer of the band, which I detailed in my previous article, John, Paul, George and Stu were in the Jacaranda one night discussing the situation with Williams, and trying to think of who they could approach next when, by some strange twist of fate, they heard a pretty good drum rhythm coming from outside the coffee bar. Going out into the street, they traced it to the NCR offices. When they knocked on the door, Chapman opened an upstairs window. They asked him if he was interested in becoming their drummer, and he accepted. The 23 year-old Chapman was 6′ 2″ tall, taller than any other member of the band, and must have been a commanding presence behind the drums. He first played with the band at the Grosvenor Ballroom in Wallasey on Saturday 18th June, Paul McCartney’s 18th birthday. The Silver Beatles had midweek dates at The Institute in Neston, on the Wirral, during this time, but Chapman only played on the Saturday dates at the Grosvenor, probably due to his work commitments. It isn’t clear who filled in on drums at the other dates, and indeed between Chapman leaving, and Pete Best being signed up in August, but logic dictates that, if they used a drummer at all, it was Paul, given that the group had three guitarists at this time, and Stu Sutcliffe was performing bass duties. Norman played the next two Saturdays, his final gig taking place on 2nd July. On this occasion, they were joined on stage for part of the evening by Johnny Gentle, with whom they had undertaken a tour of Scotland two months previously. Gentle was visiting Liverpool for the weekend with his father and dropped into the Jacaranda, where Allan Williams told him where the group was playing. They reprised their Scotland repetoire for the tough Wallasey crowd.

Norman Chapman’s brief career with The Beatles ended abruptly due to receiving his call-up papers for mandatory military service, known as National Service in the UK. At this point, it is worth explaining why Chapman, at the age of 23, was required to answer the call of his country while none of The Beatles ever were.

After the end of World War II, mandatory military service from the age of 18 was established under the National Service Act of 1948. In 1957, it began to be phased out. It was decided that those born on or after 1 October 1939 would not be required – thus ruling out the oldest of The Beatles, Ringo and John, who were both born in 1940 – but conscription continued for those born earlier whose call-up had been delayed for any reason. Chapman was born in 1937, and so become eligible in 1955. However, one reason for delaying was that anyone who had embarked on a course of studies, or an apprenticeship, could defer their service until its completion. Chapman was on a five-year apprenticeship as a frame-maker, and therefore knew that his papers would arrive sometime in 1960. They duly did, and he signed up for a two year tour of duty, taking in Kenya and Kuwait.

sat-7.pngChapman divorced his wife sometime in 1963 or 1964, and lost touch with his daughter, whom he didn’t see until the early 1990s. He made up for lost time by buying his grandchildren their first bicycles, and teaching them to ride them in Sefton Park. He later re-married and had two more children. After leaving the army in 1962, he returned to Jackson’s, eventually opening his own picture-framing shop in Southport, on the coast, north of Liverpool. He also played for many years with a hard-drinking group appropriately called The Saturated Seven. This was a group started by booking agent and banjo player Ernie Mack (real name, McGrae) in the 1950s. They achieved a modicum of fame in 1971, appearing in the Albert Finney movie Gumshoe, which was shot in Liverpool. They were filmed playing in the Broadway Club in Norris Green, where they were based. It isn’t clear whether Chapman was in the group at this point, but most of the evidence I’ve found makes it quite likely. Another member of the group was called Joe Royle, whose footballer son of the same name later became a legend in the city, playing around 300 games for Everton F.C., returning in the 1990s as their manager.

Like his predecessor in the group, Tommy Moore, Norman Chapman was taken far too soon. He died of lung cancer in 1995 at the age of 57 or 58. His restored drumkit now hangs above the bar in the Jacaranda. Whether he would have gone on to be a fully-fledged Beatle will never be known. He was said to get on well with John, Paul and George, and even spent sometime at Gambier Terrace, when John and Stuart lived as art students, and Allan Williams spoke highly of his drumming ability, but his family has said that he was much more introverted than his erstwhile bandmates. He never expressed regrets and said that he enjoyed his time in the army, and was devoted to his career.


© Copyright 2017 Philip Kirkland. No original part of this work may be reproduced in whole or in part in any manner without the permission of the copyright owner.

Tommy Moore … A Cursed Life

Thanks to Jim Berkenstadt, ‘The Rock and Roll Detective’, we now know a lot more from his book, ‘The Beatle Who Vanished’, about Jimmie Nicol, the drummer who was briefly a Beatle in 1964, replacing a hospitalized Ringo for part of that year’s tour. Among the facts Berkenstadt unearthed was that Nicol was the drummer for one of Larry Parnes’ acts, Vince Eager and the Quiet Three, during their tour of Scotland in 1960. As I mentioned in my last article, Parnes had sent another of his charges, Johnny Gentle, out on tour to Scotland at the same time, backed by the uncredited group, The Silver Beatles, whose current drummer was another short-lived member of the roster of musicians who laid down the beat for the soon-to-be-famous group at one time or another. Tommy Moore didn’t ‘vanish’, as Jimmie Nicol did, but his story is full of missed opportunity, bad luck, and not a little sadness.

John Lennon said that the time he met Paul McCartney at the Woolton Fete in 1957 was “when it started moving”, but in reality, 1960 was a pivotal year in The Beatles’ story. The second half of 1959 had been pretty barren, and they had gone through various name changes. As Johnny and The Moondogs, they had auditioned for Carroll Levis’ TV Star Search at the Liverpool Empire, and qualified for the final at the Manchester Hippodrome Theatre, but nothing much was happening in terms of getting regular gigs, and even less likely was the sought-after big breakthrough. The Larry Parnes audition at the Wyvern Club provided them with their first tour, albeit a brief one, but this was followed two months later by their invitation to play in Hamburg, sharpening up their act, and providing the momentum that resulted in hitting the big time just two years later.

As the audition date, 10th May, approached, the newly-named Silver Beatles were without a drummer, claiming that “the rhythm’s in the guitars”, but it was clear to Allan Williams, the group’s de facto manager, that they would need a drummer to be successful, and, seeking the opinion of Brian Casser, of Cass and The Cassanovas, he found Tommy Moore, who agreed to play.

Thomas Henry Moore was born in Liverpool on the 12th September 1931, and worked at the Garston Bottle Works as a fork-lift driver. Drumming was a hobby, and having grown up a decade earlier than his new bandmates, his interest was more in jazz than Rock and Roll. He had played in a modern jazz band, and was a big fan of Jack Parnell, a drummer who led a band, and had also recorded with George Martin at Parlophone. By all accounts, he was an accomplished drummer and an asset to the Silver Beatles.

tumblr_o0phli9t8v1qzwoplo1_1280The audition go off to an inauspicious start, as Moore, who was completing a shift at the Bottle Works, hadn’t turned up. The rest of the group tried to delay their turn as long as possible, but eventually Johnny Hutchinson of the Cassavonas had to step in to do the drumming duties, despite his dislike for the band, who he called a ‘bunch of posers’. Moore did eventually arrive (in the photo, at the audition), the first time the others had met him, without the uniform the others had chosen, and played the last numbers on Hutchinson’s drumkit.

Legend has it that the reason the Silver Beatles didn’t get the job of backing Parnes’ biggest star, Billy Fury, was because of the incompetence of Stuart Sutcliffe, who turned his back to hide the fact that he was faking it, but his old art college friend, Bill Harry, refutes this saying that although Stuart was a beginner, he had practiced enough to provide a steady bassline, and that he’d never seen his friend play with his back to the audience, According to Harry, the famous photo taken by Cheniston Roland captured the band while they were tuning up, and the same photo had been used down the years to cultivate the legend. It appears that Parnes’ true gripe was with the chaotic drummer situation, although there is no suggestion that Moore wasn’t good enough. What Parnes saw in the band, as George Martin did two years later, was the quality of the voices of John and Paul.

Tommy Moore needed some encouragement to undertake the Scotland tour, being under pressure from his dominant girlfriend to hold on to his steady job, but eventually agreed. The first misfortune he suffered came when the were on the road from Inverness to their next booking in Fraserburgh. The band travelled from town to town in an old Austin 16 van, overloaded with bodies and equipment, and driven by one Gerry Scott. On this leg of the tour, Scott wanted a rest from driving, and Johnny Gentle took the wheel. At a crossroads on the A98, near Banff, Gentle crashed the van into a Ford Popular car carrying an elderly husband and wife had been on a shopping trip to Aberdeen. The couple, and the Silver Beatles were unhurt, with the exception of Moore. The crash impact had sent a flying guitar directly into his face and he was taken by ambulance to the local cottage hospital, having suffered two lost teeth and severe facial cuts.

The Austin van was damaged, but still serviceable, and continued to Fraserburgh. The band considered doing the gig without a drummer, but the organizers insisted they use one, as that is what they’d paid for. In the absence of another option, the local promoter, along with Lennon, Moore was dragged from his hospital bed, still under the influence of sedatives and made to perform in a drugged haze. It was at this time he began to have doubts about life on the road, together with his poor relation with Lennon, whom he considered borderline psychopathic.

The beginning of the end came on 11th June, when the group had a booking at the Grosvenor Ballroom in Wallasey. They got together at Allan Williams’ Jacaranda Club, minus Moore, to travel to the gig in Williams’ Jaguar. When they arrived, Moore hadn’t shown up, so they went back to his house in Fern Grove, Toxteth. He wasn’t home, but his girlfriend opened an upstairs window and informed them that he had taken a job at the Bottle Works on the night shift to earn more money, and told them in no uncertain terms that they could “just p*** off!” They continued to the factory, but Moore refused to put his job, and presumably, his relationship, in jeopardy.

The Grosvenor had a reputation of attracting a rough crowd, and to pacify them, Lennon appealed to the crowd for someone who knew how to play the drums. The youth who took up the challenge was a big gang leader known as Ronnie. He wasn’t a drummer, but insisted that he be contracted regularly, intimidating even the hardened Lennon – so much so that he called Williams during the interval to rescue the band before things got out of hand.

Moore played with the band one more time, two days later, at the Jacaranda. Bad luck affected his successor, Norman Chapman, too. Chapman was a brilliant 23 year-old drummer, and would have probably have gone to Hamburg with them two months later and, who knows, even continued behind the drums into their years of fame. He played three times with the group, before receiving the call-up as one of the last people required to do National Service, something he had deferred some years early in order to complete his frame-making apprenticeship.

Tommy Moore thingy

Moore was tracked down to a dingy, rented Liverpool flat in 1970 by a Portuguese magazine (above). He was living there with his wife – not the dominating girlfriend of ten years previously – and their two daughters. He was still working at the Bottle Works and struggling for money, dreaming of starting again in the music business at the age of 38. It wasn’t to be. He died of a brain hemorrhage on 29 September 1981, a few weeks after his 50th birthday. Only eleven people came to his funeral. Cavern DJ, Bob Wooler, was there and spoke highly of Tommy.


© Copyright 2017 Philip Kirkland. No original part of this work may be reproduced in whole or in part in any manner without the permission of the copyright owner.

John’s First Songwriting (Non-) Credit … There’s Something Askew Here!

None of the Beatles achieved the distinction of a writing credit on a generally released record until the Parlophone release of ‘Love Me Do’ in 1962, but all of them came close – with the exception of Ringo. The first time was the self-recorded ‘In Spite Of All The Danger’, made in the Kensington home studio of Percy Phillips by the Quarrymen in 1958. The song was credited to McCartney-Harrison, although Paul claims that George only got the credit because of his guitar solo. Only one copy was cut, which was passed among the members of the band, finishing with John ‘Duff’ Lowe, who kept it for the next 23 years, before selling it to McCartney.

The Akustik recordings made in Hamburg in 1960 with various members of Rory Storm and The Hurricanes didn’t include any original songs, and they were only bought by the musicians involved. The sessions backing Tony Sheridan the following year produced the Lennon-Harrison original, ‘Cry For A Shadow’, but it was released by Polydor in 1964, once The Beatles had already started releasing self-penned compositions on Parlophone.

A lesser-known fact is that John Lennon contributed to a song that first appeared on Adam Faith’s eponymous 1961 album, but without receiving a songwriting credit.

cd4f47b0012713bfcb0ac2066a1fecbdThe story starts when the Beatles, or rather, The Silver Beetles, toured as a group for the first time, backing Johnny Gentle on his 1960 tour of Scotland. The impresario, Larry Parnes, became aware of the growing music scene in Liverpool, and decided to hold an audition at the Wyvern Club – now the Blue Angel – to find a backing band for his biggest act, Billy Fury, but also for two more of his charges, Duffy Power and Johnny Gentle. The Silver Beetles – John, Paul, George, Stuart Sutcliffe, and drummer, Tommy Moore, didn’t get the big prize, but were offered the Scotland tour with Gentle. The fee was £120, including their fare from Liverpool to the first port of call, but the posters for the concerts only billed them as ‘Johnny Gentle and His Group’. It was at this time in the first flush of perceived ‘success’ that three of the group decided to adopt stage names, Paul as Paul Ramon, George as Carl Harrison (after his hero, Carl Perkins), and Stu as Stuart de Staël, after French abstract painter, Nicolas de Staël. They played seven dates from 20th to 28th May at the Town Hall, Alloa, the Northern Meeting Ballroom, Church Street, Inverness, the Dalrymple Hall, Fraserburgh, St Thomas’ Hall, Keith, the Town Hall, Forres, the Regal Ballroom, Leopold Street, Nairn, and the Rescue Hall, Peterhead.

gentle3The set-list for the tour was  Buddy Holly’s ‘It Doesn’t Matter Anymore’ and ‘Raining in My Heart’, Elvis Presley’s ‘I Need Your Love Tonight’, Ricky Nelson’s ‘Poor Little Fool’, Clarence Frogman Henry’s ‘I Don’t Know Why I Love You But I Do’, Eddie Cochran’s ‘Come On Everybody’ and Jim Reeves’ ‘He’ll Have To Go’.

Johnny Gentle, born John Askew on 8 December 1936, started working life as a carpenter, and made his own guitar in 1957. The following year he entered a talent contest at Butlin’s Holiday Camp, but lost to the later-successful comedian, Jimmy Tarbuck who, coincidently, was John Lennon’s classmate at Dovedale Primary School. He eventually signed a contract with Philips record label in 1959, but had very little chart success. Gentle admitted that, even at that stage before sharpening up their act in Hamburg, the Beatles were a good band, even modestly claiming they were better than him! He frequently asked Larry Parnes to come up to Scotland to see them in action with a view to signing them. Parnes later rued the missed opportunity of becoming the ‘Fifth Beatle’, but at that stage was only interested in managing individuals rather than groups.

The drummer, Tommy Moore, nine years older than even the oldest member of the Silver Beetles, Stuart Sutcliffe, lost his front teeth when the tour van, driven by Gentle, was involved in an accident, but continued playing for the rest of the tour. He only played once more when they returned to Liverpool, and apparently having a bad relationship with Lennon, went back to his factory job. He died of a brain hemorrhage in 1981 at the age of 50. He was replaced by Pete Best in August, when they started their first residency in Hamburg.

While staying at their hotel in Inverness during the tour, Gentle started to write a song called ‘I’ve Just Fallen For Someone’.  Stuck for a ‘middle eight’, John Lennon came up four lines, and the accompanying melody, which Gentle decided to use in the finished version. They were:

We know that we’ll get by
Just wait and see
Just like the songs tell us
The best things in life are free.

Despite Lennon’s help in tying the song together, Gentle didn’t include the future legend’s name on the sheet music he produced, simply writing “Words and Music by John Askew”, thereby denying Lennon a songwriting credit, and himself the opportunity to later say he had co-written a song with the great John Lennon.

fallen

As previously mentioned, the first recorded version of the song was as an album track by Adam Faith, one of Britain’s most prominent popstars of the period. Gentle then recorded the song on Parlophone in 1962 under the name of Darren Young, but it wasn’t a hit. Gentle joined the London group, The Viscounts, in 1964, one of whose members was Gordon Mills, who later found fame as the manager of Tom Jones and Englebert Humperdinck. The group disbanded in 1965, and Gentle left the music business, working again as a carpenter, and occasionally attending Beatles’ conventions. He co-wrote  a book about the Scotland tour ‘Johnny Gentle & The Beatles: First Ever Tour’, published in 1998.

The Johnny Gentle (Darren Young) version of ‘I’ve Just Fallen For Someone’, including John Lennon’s uncredited contribution, is reproduced below.


© Copyright 2017 Philip Kirkland. No original part of this work may be reproduced in whole or in part in any manner without the permission of the copyright owner.

Ivan Vaughan … The Catalyst Of The Beatles Story

While he didn’t have any involvement in the music business, other than his brief spell on the tea-chest bass in The Quarrymen, Ivan Vaughan has an important place in the story of The Beatles, forever remembered as the mutual friend that introduced Paul McCartney to John Lennon before the evening function of the Woolton Parish Garden Fete on 6th July 1957, the catalyst for everything that subsequently happened, if you will.

Ivan was born on the same day as McCartney, 18 June 1942, but knew Lennon first. His family lived at 84 Vale Road, the same street as Nigel Walley and Pete Shotton, their garden backing onto that of Mendips, the home of Lennon in Menlove Avenue, and Ivan became part of Lennon’s childhood gang. The broadcaster, Peter Sissons, who went to Dovedale Junior School at the same time as Lennon, has said that despite the reputation of the young John being the biggest influence on his young friends, he’d often thought that Ivan had a big influence on Lennon – “a totally off-the-wall outlook.”

ivanIn September 1953, Ivan and Paul started to attend the Liverpool Institute and became friends. When Lennon started his skiffle group, The Quarrymen, in 1956, the original tea-chest bass player, Bill Smith, proved unreliable with his timekeeping, and was replaced by Nigel Walley. Walley was then quickly replaced, albeit briefly, by Ivan, until the group settled on the longer-lasting Len Garry. Ivan was aware of the prodigious musical talent of his schoolfriend and knew that he would be an asset to the fledgling group. He also knew that he would probably have problems convincing the tough-guy Lennon that Paul should join the group. Firstly because, although Paul was less than two years younger than John, Ivan knew that the drinking, smoking, swearing John would feel that having the baby-faced, 15 year-old guitarist in his group would be a threat to his macho image, and secondly that his vastly more advanced musical talent, and his fearless self-confidence would be a threat to John’s authority as the leader of the group. Fortunately for his subsequent musical career, and for the world, when Ivan introduced the two in the evening of 6th July 1957 in the Church Hall at Woolton, John was impressed enough to put the interests of the group ahead of his personal feelings.

In 1960, Ivan started to study Classics at University College, London, and embarked on a career as a teacher. In 1966 he married Jan, a language teacher, and they had a son and a daughter together. He remained in contact with John and Paul as they rose to fame. Paul asked Jan Vaughan, who was fluent in French, to help with a French name, and a rhyming line for a song he was working on in 1965, and she came up with ‘Michelle’, ‘Ma belle’ and the additional translation of an earlier line in the song, ‘sont des mots qui vont très bien ensemble’.  There also exists a photo of Paul and Ivan attending the 1968 F.A. Cup Final at Wembley Stadium together (below), obviously to support the Liverpool-based team, Everton F.C. – Paul’s father was born in the Everton district of the city. (They were beaten 1-0 by West Bromwich Albion!)

ivey

When The Beatles started their grand Apple project, Ivan was briefly on the payroll, with the aim to create a school that embraced the hippy ideals of the time. Perhaps wisely, he decided to stick with his more conventional teaching career.

In 1977, Ivan was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and in 1984, the actor, author, television presenter, humourist, and doctor, Jonathan Miller, made a BBC documentary called ‘Ivan’ about his fight against Parkinson’s disease, and his book Ivan: Living With Parkinson’s Disease, was published in 1986.

Ivan Vaughan died of pneumonia on 16 August 1993, at the age of 51, prompting Paul McCartney to write a poem in his memory, called ‘Ivan’, which was published in his 2002 collection of poems and lyrics, ‘Blackbird Singing’.

Two doors open
On the eighteenth of June
Two babies born 
On the same day
In Liverpool
One was Ivan
The other—me
We met in adolescence
And did the deeds
They dared us do
Jive with Ive
The ace on the bass
He introduced to me
At Woolton fete
A pal or two
And so we did
A classic scholar he
A rocking roller me
As firm as friends could be
Cranlock naval
Cranlock pie
A tear is rolling
Down my eye
On the sixteenth of August
Nineteen ninety-three
One door closed 
Bye bye Ivy

 

The words “Cranlock navel, Cranlock pie” started a debate as to their meaning, but it was later explained by Jan Vaughan that they were part of a secret language the two used together as schoolfriends. Paul has never decoded them, but Jan noted that when Ivan and Paul got together and spoke the words, they would collapse into fits of laughter.

In this week when we remember the momentous events of sixty years ago, we also remember with thanks, and a little sadness, the man who brought together the greatest songwriting partnership of the twentieth century, and without whom the phenomenon that was The Beatles might never have happened.


© Copyright 2017 Philip Kirkland. No original part of this work may be reproduced in whole or in part in any manner without the permission of the copyright owner.

The Banjo Player’s Father, And The Good Doctor

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Tomorrow, 6th July, marks the 60th anniversary of the Woolton Parish Church Garden Fete, where John Lennon was introduced to Paul McCartney, and Beatles’ history began. The world will be writing about it, so in this article I have tried to find another couple of angles to satisfy the thirst of the most demanding Beatles’ completists.

My first note concerns the wonderfully sharp photo reproduced above.

The day’s entertainment started with a procession of floats, actually flatbed trucks, through the village, headed by the newly-crowned Rose Queen. Following behind were other participants on their own trucks, including, in last place, the Quarrymen – or “The Quarry Men Skiffle Group” as they were billed that day. The most probable route, according to various accounts was that the procession left St. Peter’s Church and turned right down Church Road. It then went down Allerton Road, joining Kings Drive, a major thoroughfare. A little later it turned left, back into the village, in Hunts Cross Avenue before returning to the church, most likely via Hollytree Road, Acrefield Road and Mason Street. The Quarrymen’s truck was supplied by the now-defunct local haulage contractor, G. A. Chadwick, and driven by a son of the family firm, Doug Chadwick, who will join the procession again for the recreation of the event this year.

The Quarrymen’s banjo player, Rod Davis, lived at 129 Kings Drive, and when the procession passed by, his father, James, came out of the house with his Leica camera, and photographed the entire fleet. At the moment the photo was taken, the group was actually playing, although they found this difficult with the movement of the truck, and later gave up. John is sitting down with his back to the cab, singing with his eyes closed. Sitting next to him is Colin Hanton on the drums, and standing next to him is Rod, not playing and with his banjo case at his feet. Len Garry has his back to the camera and is strumming away on his tea-chest bass, and further back, slumped casually on chairs are Eric Griffiths and Pete Shotton on guitar and washboard, respectively. James Davis died in 1979, and the photos were passed to Rod, who made this modern print from the original negative.

RB_17

My second note concerns Dr. Thelwall Jones, who was billed in the poster (above) as being the person who officially opened the fete at 3PM, when the procession returned. It appears the doctor was Albert Hugh Thelwall Jones (8th October 1908 – 18th September 1990), known simply as Thelwall Jones, a distinguished Liverpool physician.

He came from a family of doctors. His father, Albert, a general practitioner, was born in Wallasey, on the other side of the River Mersey, and was awarded two medals in the First World War, the Distinguished Service Order and the Military Cross. Dr. Thelwall Jones, the son, was born in Ormskirk, north of Liverpool, and become well-known for his work in industrial medicine, particularly the effects of chemicals on workers in chemical plants. It appears that his expertise in this field was such that he was refused permission to join the Armed Forces in WWII, and was appointed honorary industrial adviser to the Ministry of Supply and, in 1943, medical officer to Tube Alloys – which was a cover name for the firm working on nuclear fission. His principal concern was the safety of the staff who were working with uranium.

In 1946 Thelwall Jones changed career to work in internal medicine. He was appointed to the David Lewis Northern Hospital, a branch of the United Liverpool Hospitals, and served as a physician there from 1946 until his retirement in 1973. Also, during the 1940s, he was one of the many doctors beginning to notice the connection between smoking and lung cancer, but was one of the few to back up his claims with statistical evidence.

Whether he was a resident of Woolton at this time is not recorded, but given the middle-class status of the suburb, and the fact that he was chosen for the fete-opening duties, it is quite likely that he was.


© Copyright 2017 Philip Kirkland. No original part of this work may be reproduced in whole or in part in any manner without the permission of the copyright owner.

Strawberry Field(s) Forever … And Ever

Any Beatles’ fan that visits Liverpool has to take a trip down Beaconsfield Road in Woolton to stop at the red gates which mark the entrance to Strawberry Field. Of course, it’s part of the ‘pilgrimage’, but really it just a case of standing outside the gate to add another photo to the collection, before moving on. Wouldn’t it be great if one could actually pass through the gates to be inside the grounds, as John Lennon did, sometimes furtively, but many other times officially, to attend the garden parties that were held there during his childhood, along with his Aunt Mimi.

fields

Well, this is about to become a reality. The Salvation Army is planning to open Strawberry Field to the public by building a visitor centre on the site to showcase its own history, provide information about the former children’s home that stood there and, of course, tell the story of John, The Beatles, and the iconic song. There will also be a training centre for helping people with learning disabilities to achieve more in their life and work, thereby continuing the altruistic tradition of the site.

Given the difference between the singular name ‘Field’, and the plural version used in the famous song, it is interesting to note that until around the turn of the 20th century, the name was indeed in plural. The first reference to ‘Field’ was on the 1905 revision of the Ordnance Survey map of the area. The building which housed the children’s home was originally a private gothic-style mansion (below), property of one George Warren, a shipping magnate who traded between Liverpool and Boston, USA, in the mid to late 19th century.

Strawberry-Fields

The building was later sold to the Salvation Army, and opened as a children’s home in 1938. In 1973, the building was demolished due to the high cost of repairing it, and replaced by another, although continuing as as an orphanage. This new building had a different entrance, but the original gates, and the ‘Strawberry Field’ name on the gateposts, were maintained for the benefit of the growing number of Beatles’ fans that were visiting the site following the release of the eponymous record in 1967. The orphanage closed for good in 2005, and the gates were replaced by replicas in 2011. The originals are temporarily on display in the ‘Beatles Story’ museum on the Liverpool waterfront, but remain the property of the Salvation Army. It is planned to return them to the original site if the development plans come to fruition, but whether they will be at the entrance, or on display somewhere inside, is still unclear.

Among the patrons of the project is Lady Martin OBE, widow of Beatles’ producer, Sir George, who said:

“I am delighted to support The Salvation Army in their efforts to build a new training centre (below) for young people with mild to moderate learning disabilities at Strawberry Field. Their plans to provide these young people with vocational training to enable them to find meaningful work in Merseyside is at the heart of the modern Salvation Army’s work. My husband, George Martin, always considered Strawberry Fields Forever as one of his finest recordings of the band; the lyrics reflecting the happy times John Lennon and his friends had whilst playing in the grounds of the children’s home as a child. The plans to open Strawberry Field to the public for the first time; so people can see a unique exhibition about the home, how and why the song was written by John, and allow visitors to explore the grounds as John did as a child is very exciting. I hope you will join me in financially supporting this exciting project as The Salvation Army creates a ‘Beacon of Hope’ at Strawberry Field.”

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The Salvation Army has created a website to outline their plans, where you can indeed donate to this worthy cause, and at the same time help to provide another place where Beatles’ fans from around the world can follow in the footsteps of one of their heroes.


© Copyright 2017 Philip Kirkland. No original part of this work may be reproduced in whole or in part in any manner without the permission of the copyright owner.