Friday, 10 April 2020

Summer of '59

Amazing new photograph discovered!

It's August 1959 and John Lennon has just spent the summer working as a labourer in Scarisbrick, earning  enough money to buy a new electric guitar, a blonde Hofner Club Forty. John immediately nicknamed it the Club Footy, as was his wont. 

The Quarry Men had effectively split up that January following a booking at the Village Hall in Woolton, John's home turf, and a disastrous drunken audition at the Finch Lane Busmen's social club in Page Moss, after which drummer Colin Hanton had a row with Paul McCartney on the bus home and left the group. 

The trio of John, Paul and George carried on, with no real direction, and nothing much in the way of bookings. 

They toyed with a new name for the group. The Quarry Men was no longer relevant. All of the original members save John had left, he no longer attended Quarry Bank school and the name had never had any relevance to Paul and George. 

After a brainstorming session in Forthlin Road in the presence of Derek Hodkin, John's new friend from art college who usefully owned tape recorder, and Mike McCartney the trio came up with a new name.  They were nearly The Ravens, but settled on Japage3 - J for John, Pa for Paul, Ge for George and (wait for it) 3 because (go on, have a guess) they were a trio. Genius!

Hodkin was also appointed their manager and set about arranging some bookings for them. He got them two, both at the La Scala Ballroom in Runcorn (on 2 March and 8 May) before losing interest and that was that.

George Harrison was keen to play his guitar at every available opportunity and so when the bookings for the Japage3 dried up he started what he later referred to as his 'freelancing period' playing with various groups wherever and whenever the opportunity presented itself.

One of the groups he regularly played with was the Les Stewart Quartet, and with the members mainly domiciled around the West Derby and Tuebrook area it meant a long bus journey from Speke for George with several changes en-route just so he could practise or perform with them.  

In an earlier blog I've covered how George and the Les Stewart Quartet came to be playing a club in Hayman's Green, West Derby, called Lowlands, and how this led to them being invited by Mona Best (Pete's Mum) to become the resident band at a new club called the Casbah which she was about to open further along the street in the basement of her family home.  

Days before the grand opening the Les Stewart Quartet broke up leaving only George and Ken Brown, a duo at best, not the group Mrs Best required for her opening night. George told her not to worry, he had a couple of mates he could bring in to join himself and Ken and suddenly with John and Paul back on board the Quarry Men* were reactivated, playing the opening night at the Casbah on Saturday 29 August 1959. In preparation for the promised new bookings John had bought his Club 40 the previous day.

And so to this fantastic newly discovered photograph which is to be sold through Tracks Ltd:

A previously unpublished photo of the Quarry Men showing Paul McCartney, John Lennon and George Harrison thrashing their guitars in a Liverpool house a year before they morphed into the Beatles.

The image was uncovered in a purchase by music memorabilia specialists Tracks Ltd but it is unclear who captured the moment on camera and when exactly - although it is thought to be dated towards the latter part of 1959.    

I received a copy of the photograph this afternoon (April 9th) with the instructions not to publish it for the time being. I was asked if I could identify where it had been taken.

To work it out I started looking at the evidence.

John, Paul and George. The Quarry Men or Japage3. No drummer appears evident so I would date it as post February-March 1959 (it's unclear precisely when Colin left but we know they played the 2 March gig in Runcorn as a trio).

John bought his Club 40 on Friday 28 August 1959. As he's thrashing this very guitar in the photo, it can't date from any earlier than the aforementioned date.    

But where was it taken? 

It's not in one of their own homes. Look at the wall behind Paul's head. None of their houses had walls that thick, nor have I seen wallpaper like that in any of the extant photos (I'm presuming it's wallpaper and that's not real stone).   

Could it be a pub?  The placement of those porcelain figure heads on the wall make it look more like a house than a pub, where you'd expect plenty more to be on the walls, and is that the corner of a fireplace to the right of George?

This looks to be the room of a big house.  

Looking at my handy reference books it's clear that during late August - September 1959 the group didn't play anywhere except the Casbah club. 

However, it's definitely NOT one of the cellar rooms in the Casbah, which are well known and appear on many photographs.

That said, the Casbah WAS opened in the basement of a big house, and so I suggested that perhaps the photo was taken in one of the upstairs rooms rather than the club.

My source decided to send the picture to Roag Best, brother of Pete and custodian of both the Casbah Club and the Magical Beatles Museum in Liverpool.

After seeing the photo Roag's response was prompt and not really suitable for printing in a family blog. Put it this way, he was thrilled and had never seen the photo before.

My hunch(back) was right. It is indeed a photo taken in one of the upstairs rooms of 8 Hayman's Green, and get this next comment from Roag: 'I've still got the African heads from the wall behind them in a box somewhere' 

Here's another interesting detail in the photo. 

Roag then rang Pete Best to tell him he was sending him a photo.

Pete, suitably shocked and stunned, rang back and told him 'Grandad's golf clubs are on the picture, leaning up against the wall!'

Can you see the three golf drivers in the space between John and George? 

The 'Grandad' Pete is referring to is Major Thomas Shaw, Mona's Dad. His medals are now on show in the Magical Beatles Museum having previously been borrowed by John Lennon to wear on the cover of the 'Sgt. Pepper' album. 

It's only been on the internet for about 24 hours and already somebody has had a go a colourising the photograph+ so it doesn't hurt they eyes of any young people who refuse to look at Black and White things from the 'Olden Days' (quote: one of my kids)

Other points to note:

1. In the photo John has his Club 40 (purchased August 1959) but George still has his Hofner President.  George swapped the President for a Club 40 of his own.  Previous books have stated that George had his Club 40 first. This photo would suggest otherwise.

2. The Japage3 name was dropped but why they went back to calling themselves the Quarry Men is a mystery waiting to be solved. I suspect they couldn't come up with anything they liked at the last minute. 

3. Initially George looks too tall in comparison to John and Paul. In fact he's the only one standing up straight. John is crouched forward and Paul is leaning back. This seems to have been John's stance when playing the guitar. It reminds me of the photos of him at the Wyvern (Blue Angel) audition in May 1960. When the Beatles went to Hamburg he saw Tony Sheridan and adopted the 'Lennon stance' we all know now, legs wide apart, guitar worn high on the chest. 

4. Mona's parents, Major Thomas Shaw and his wife Mary sailed from India to England in 1948 and moved in to 8 Hayman's Green. Major Shaw died in 1958 the year before this photo was taken, his wife in 1962 around the time Pete left the Beatles.  

5. Respecting the wishes of several individuals I have held back on publishing this piece. However, the photo and an accompanying piece have now appeared on the BBC news website (and elsewhere):

Note the journalist has sent the photo to Mark Lewisohn for his comments. 

Mark says: "History shines in every dimly-lit detail. There are few Quarry Men photos and a discovery such as this is extremely rare. Precise information of where and when it was taken would be welcomed by collectors and historians alike."

Way ahead of you Mark on this one. Job done!  :)

Happy Easter everybody and keep yourself and your loved ones safe and well during these extraordinary times.

+Thanks to Mark Cobley-Jones for improving the colourised version of the photo for this blog

Sunday, 22 March 2020

Mother Mary 1947

Stanley Park
Walton Lane
L4 2SL 

On Mothering Sunday two years ago Paul McCartney shared a previously unseen photograph of himself and brother Michael with their mother Mary in Stanley Park, circa 1947.  

At that time I did wonder whether this meant that Paul had a collection of family photographs that Mike didn't, or perhaps that Mike had but had chosen not to share publicly in any of his books.

Two years on, it's Mother's Day again, and Paul has dipped into his family archive again and posted another unseen photo on his Instagram account.

This one shows Mary and her two boys in a rowing boat on the lake at Stanley Park, approaching one of the bridges.

You may recall that in the other photos taken this day Paul looks to have a right 'gob on'. Here both the McCartney brothers look to be enjoying themselves as all three smile for Jim's camera.

A charming photograph.     

My family on the bridge at Stanley Park.

Here's a link to the previous photo:

Friday, 20 March 2020

Yes, I'm gonna be a star...

35 Hardman Street
L1 9AS

Now the Flute pub this was formerly the premises of Blakes Ford Dealership. By early August 1962 the Beatles were making enough money that Paul McCartney was able to buy his first car here, a brand new Ford Consul Classic in Goodwood Green.  He later admitted that despite his new found wealth he bought the car on hire purchase, ‘the never-never, and was always very worried about making the payments’. 

It was the scene of a fantastic anecdote that both Paul and George liked to tell, perhaps George even more so.   

Just as Paul was leaving Blakes who should be standing on the pavement outside but Jack Edwards, his former headmaster at the Institute who’d denounced any pupil who didn’t qualify for Oxbridge as a failure.  And yet here was that Oxbridge failure driving a brand new car out of the showroom right before his eyes!

J.R Edwards, the dreaded 'Baz'* 

In the Beatles' Anthology George recalled: Paul looked at him like, ‘Ha ha, yes, it is me and I do have my own Ford Classic.’ It was f- you. We made it in spite of the teachers.   

The Beatles on the Strand in front of Canning Dock, September 1962 with Paul's Ford Consul Classic

The Ford Consul Classic was launched in May 1961 and built by Ford UK from 1961 to 1963. It was available in two or four door saloon form, in Standard or De Luxe versions, and with floor or column gearshift. 

Allerton Golf Course, 25 March 1963: Hiding behind Paul's Ford Consul in home-movie footage. 

Boys and their cars: George with his Ford Anglia (left) passing the Consul.

Paul on Mather Avenue heading for home, 25 March 1963


* The 'Baz' - short for The Bastard, during their time at Liverpool Institute he personally administered Corporal punishment to both Paul and George. As a consequence he was not fondly remembered.

Tuesday, 25 February 2020

George Harrison’s life celebrated with Liverpool woodland memorial

“George was an avid gardener who found solace and joy in being in the outdoors. I don’t think there is any better way to commemorate him in Liverpool than with a garden which can become a place of tranquillity and reflection for everyone. I am really looking forward to watching it change and grow over the coming years.” (Olivia Harrison, George's wife).

"It has been one of my ambitions as mayor to find an appropriate way for us as a city to celebrate one of our most-loved sons, so I am overjoyed that at last we can announce the George Harrison Woodland Walk. The site is beautiful, and the plans for the area in the coming months are really exciting. It feels right that at last we have a permanent memorial to celebrate George’s life, loves and influence.” (Joe Anderson, Mayor of Liverpool)

There was exciting news for Beatles fans in Liverpool today. To mark what would have been George Harrison’s 77th birthday, Liverpool City Council and the Harrison Estate have announced a new memorial woodland in his honour will open in Liverpool.

The George Harrison Woodland Walk, will be located on Woolton Road, South Liverpool close to where George was born and grew up. The 12-acre site is a mixture of mature woodland and meadow opposite Allerton Towers and is seen to the right of the road on the above photograph. 

(photo: Chris Murray)

Speaking on BBC Radio Merseyside this morning the Mayor Joe Anderson said:

It's exciting and to be announcing it today on his birthday is really something special. We’ve been engaged with the (Harrison) family for probably about 8 or 9 years now, talking to them about how we mark George himself and what he stood for, and what he stands for as part of one of the most famous bands to ever hit the planet...and the reality is this.

This land came to my attention a number of years ago. For those who don’t know the area its next to the Simpson Playing Fields and facing Camp Hill and i noticed lots of rubbish being dumped on it as the gates had come down so I made enquiries as to who owned it and found out that it was up for auction so we put in a bid for it, and we won it (in 2018)  and since then it’s been the intention to turn it into a nature reserve, because it connects to Clark Gardens on the opposite side which is next to the cemeteries so it’s a beautiful, beautiful site. 

It's going to make a fantastic nature trail but we're also going to do it in George’s memory.

At the moment it is a private piece of land in terms of it’s not open to the public, but some of the rails have come down so people can walk through it. 

The plan is to work with different agencies and with our schools with of course the Harrison family. Olivia was here yesterday, she’s been here a couple of times, and Dhani her son has also been here and the plan is to use it as a children’s facility so we can have some classes here for young people so they can learn about nature, so they can be involved and especially some of the inner-city schools to come and spend the day here and i think that would be something that would bring a huge smile to George Harrison’s face, it certainly does to Olivia and Dhani and we’re going to look at bringing some of his stuff here as well, some of the stuff that he had in his own gardens to personalise it.

It’s going to take about 12 months to have it completed but the work starts almost immediately. As I said we’re delighted to have acquired it.

In Liverpool nearly everybody knows about the Beatles, we've seen their statues and the tourists etc but not everyone will have known that George was such an avid gardener. The council admit that when they were looking at how to commemorate him it was important to find the appropriate niche, something that the Harrison family would be happy for the council to say 'actually yes, this is who he was'

Yeah, absolutely and we want to mark all of the Beatles in this city. Of course we’ve got the John Lennon Airport and this is something that we believe that George himself would have given the thumbs up to and the family, because as you rightly said not only was he an environmentalist but he was also somebody who got stuck in, loved gardening, loved horticulture, all the things that we want to make happen here and it’s an education for young people too so we think it ticks all the boxes. 

We’re really excited about it. It’s going to bring some open space, more space to this area, there’s lots of green space in South Liverpool but this is one that’s going to be actively used by young people from across the city.     

When it officially opens in 2021, it will be landscaped in order to be accessible, combining garden and woodland with a number of artistic installations inspired by the life and lyrics of George Harrison.

The Harrison family have been involved for a very long time and they want to encourage local artists to design new artworks which will take pride of place in the garden.  

As such, they are currently looking for expressions of interest from artists, musicians, collectives, technologists and groups interested in creating a sculpture or installation as part of a new woodland celebrating the life of George Harrison.

They are looking to commission a number of pieces initially with a view to adding more works in the coming years.

Culture Liverpool explains: 

We are open to work of any art form, as long as it delivers against the following criteria:

  • Is inspired by the work or life of George Harrison
  • Is suitable to be installed outdoor, within a woodland environment.
  • Has minimal maintenance costs or requirements
  • Works alongside and supports the natural environment it will be positioned within, some areas of which are an official nature reserve


15 April Expression of interest need to be submitted – these should total no more than 300 words with a maximum of 3 supporting images to be provided outlining the proposed commission.

1 May – Up to 10 artists to be requested to develop initial concepts into a formal, costed proposal. A small fee will be made available to support this development.

5 June – Deadline for stage 2 submissions.
  • Judging to take place
  • By end of June – all phase 1 commissions to be confirmed

July – Feb 2021 – Creation
Feb / March 2021– Installation
March / April 2021 – Launch

If you would like to discuss the project in more detail or would like a briefing pack which includes more detailed information, please contact Culture Liverpool via email here.

Monday, 10 February 2020

The Lyceum

Lyceum Building,
1a Bold Street,
L1 4NW

The Lyceum Building

At the foot of Bold Street on the left is the Lyceum. It was designed by Thomas Harrison in the Greek-Revival style and built 1800-2 for use as a gentleman’s club, and intended to house both the Liverpool Library and a news room. Among its founders were men such as William Roscoe, keen abolitionists with a desire to avoid the places frequented by merchants involved in the slave trade.   

In the early 1960s S. Reece and Sons had a cafe in the Lyceum and according to the Beatles’ promoter Sam Leach the group would while away the time in here as an alternative to the Kardomah, leaving behind the scraps of lyrics and doodles they’d scribbled on the knapkins.

In 1979 plans were drawn up for the demolition of this fine building to make way for a multi-departmental retail store on the adjacent site of the old Central station.  It was saved in the July of that same year following the intervention of Environment Secretary Michael Heseltine who decided it would be purchased with public funds so that it could be rapidly restored. Unfortunately following various failed enterprises, including a Post Office, a bar and a restaurant, the Lyceum is presently not in use though its future seems secured.  


Wednesday, 5 February 2020

Apologies for my abscess

Good evening and a very happy 2020!

First of all I'm sorry there have not been any new posts since June.

I've been very busy writing plenty of (mostly unfinished) new blogs and rewriting some of the older blogs to bring them up to date.

I've also been organising the 1000s of photographs in my collection which I hope to be sharing here in the future.

In addition, having listened to some of your comments I've decided that the look of the blog needs a bit of a "Freshen Up" after 10 years.

While this is happening some of the older posts may look a bit weird as I go through fixing them up (there are over 100 to fix so bear with me).

I hope you enjoy the fresh new look and find it easier on the eye.

Keep watching!


For now, enjoy this February 1963 photo of the Beatles on Ranelagh Street opposite Central Station taken by Michael Ward, and a 1963/2019 composite by Keith Jones. 

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Nigel Walley remembers the Quarry Men 1963

Christopher Nigel Walley, known to his friends as Nigel, Nige or "Wallogs" lived in Vale Road, Woolton, behind John Lennon's home on Menlove Avenue.  Pete Shotton and Ivan Vaughan also lived in Vale Road and together they formed John Lennon's first gang.

Nigel and Shotton went to Mosspits School (where John had attended briefly) while Lennon and Vaughan attended Dovedale. 

John formed the Quarry Men in 1956 and it was only natural that he would want his friends in the group, regardless of their musical ability. Nigel was one of four tea-chest bass players the group had, the others being Bill Smith and Ivan Vaughan before Len Garry secured the position permanently.

Realising that Nigel was not particularly musical but still wishing to include him John decided Nigel could be the Quarry Men's manager. Walley duly set about trying to get the group some bookings, John promising him an even share of whatever fee he could get them.  He took the role seriously paying a local printer in Woolton 7s 6d to produce business cards which he placed in shop windows, and handed them out to anyone who would book them so they'd remember who they were for next time. Reportedly he also had flyers made which he sent to local ballrooms and social clubs advertising that the Quarry Men were available for hire.

He had some success, securing the Quarry Men two intermission appearances at the Gaumont Cinema on Mather Avenue in Allerton as well as engagements at Wilson Hall in Garston and the New Clubmoor Hall in Broadway, Norris Green.

Walley left school at the age of 15 taking up a professional golf apprenticeship at Lee Park Golf Course, not far from Gateacre, and it was here that he met Dr. Joseph Sytner whose son Alan had recently opened a new club in Mathew Street called the Cavern. Enquiring whether he might possibly have a fatherly word and get the group a booking there Dr Sytner suggested that the Quarry Men first perform at the golf club one evening so they could be assessed. Having passed the audition the group made their debut at the Cavern club in the early months of 1957.

Although he attended the Woolton Church fete on 6 July 1957 Nige was not present when Ivan introduced his schoolfriend Paul McCartney to John Lennon. Walley suffered from asthma and following an attack that afternoon had gone home to recuperate.    

Walley continued to manage the Quarry Men after Paul McCartney joined but the two clashed, Walley later saying 'the funny thing was that whenever Paul was around he'd used to say 'don't pay anyone who's not playing'...He didn't really rate managers'.

Nigel contracted tuberculosis and as a result he gave up managing the group. In addition his family moved from Vale Road to New Brighton on the Wirral which made things impractical. Paul's objection to Nigel receiving payment for managing them probably played a part too.

He left Liverpool in 1961 when he qualified as a professional golfer and found a job in a hotel complex in Semmering Austria.

John Lennon kept in touch, even after becoming a 'famous Beatle'. 'I would go round to his flat or house and we'd talk....He never forgot any of the old gang'.

Nigel is pictured above with John, Pete Shotton and various wives in December 1963.

By 1963 Nigel was settled in Borough Green near Sevenoaks in Kent and amused by his friend's success. His younger brother regularly sent him a copy of Mersey Beat so he could keep up to date with what was happening back home.

In May that year Mersey Beat published an article about the Quarry Men. Nigel was inspired to write to the paper's editor Bill Harry, submitting his own memories of that time for publication.   

The three page letter reproduced here has just come up for auction by Tracks UK, one of the country's leading memorablila specialists. 

Some points of interest:  Nigel confirms that John formed the group in 1956, not 1957 as some publications would have you believe; John Griffiths was actually Eric Griffiths; he seems to have forgotten Rod (banjo) Davis's surname, and accepts that the group were named after the school where three of the members attended.  Two pages on he emphasises that the group are called the Quarry Men - two words, not one.  

As their 'manager' it was Nige's duty to get the group bookings. Aside from Church Halls in South Liverpool (including St. Peter's in Woolton) they played Wilson Hall in Garston (probably the club Nige refers to as being in Speke) as the often repeated story of the group abandoning the tea-chest bass is usually told in conjunction with the tale of them having to run for the bus from Garston back to Woolton village. That said he does actually name Wilson Hall as being in Garston on page 2. so perhaps the club in Speke is one I've yet to identify. It was possibly the British Legion Club in Conleach Road where another skiffle group, George Harrison and the Rebels would make their debut.    

When Paul joined in the Summer of 1957 his house in Forthlin Road quickly became a favourite place to rehearse. Mimi is not thought to have been keen on John and his 'little friends' making a noise in her house so it's possible that when Nigel refers to John's house he's actually thinking of Julia Lennon's home in Springwood.   

Of the songs he recalls the Quarry Men performing on that fateful night in July 1957 there's a couple not usually mentioned amongst the skiffle numbers they'd heard from Lonnie Donegan and the Vipers Skiffle Group.

I can't find any song entitled Sweet Sixteen. It could be When You Were Sweet Sixteen (as performed by the Mills Bros. or the Chordettes) but it could just as well be Chuck Berry's Sweet Little Sixteen. If so, Nige's memory is faulty because the latter record was not released until January 1958.  Nige may well have seen the Quarry Men perform that song later on.

Edit: It's been pointed out to me that the song is Lonnie Donegan's 'Putting On The Style', the first line of which is 'Sweet sixteen, goes to church, just to see the boys'. How could I have missed that? I even had a tape of the Quarry Men performing that song at the fete!! (Thanks Ed) 

Jesse James is Chris Barber's 'The Ballad of Jesse James' released on Lonnie Donegan's Skiffle Session EP in 1956. Down By The Riverside was recorded by Chris Barber's band in 1954.

Note also Nigel's aforementioned comments about regular engagements in Wilson Hall and the St. Barnabas Hall in Allerton (now known as Dovedale Towers on the corner of Dovedale Road and Penny Lane).

Nigel admits that managing the group as well as serving an apprenticeship was interfering with his health so he decided to concentrate on the golf career. 

It's unclear exactly when he actually quit. Mark Lewisohn dates Nigel's TB diagnosis as Spring 1958. Nigel's letter indicates that it was 1959.

George Harrison joined in early 1958 and Colin Hanton was still with the Quarry Men until early 1959. To this day there are still disagreements about when Len Garry left. The 'Jerry Lee Lewis pianist' John got hold of was actually Paul's friend from Liverpool Institute, John 'Duff' Lowe and he played with them on and off until the end of summer 1958.

Accompanying the letter was a copy of the photograph showing Nigel with John Lennon on Lime Street, Liverpool in May 1958.

For some reason, Harry chose not to use the letter or photograph.

Still going strong, Nige has recently returned to the Quarry Men fold, occasionally appearing on stage with them in his old musical role of tea-chest bass player.

The auction description is as follows:

The letter is dated 20th May 1963 and it was sent to Bill Harry the editor of the Mersey Beat newspaper proposing an article about the formation and the early days of John Lennon’s group the Quarry Men. The letter has been signed by Nigel Walley in blue ink. The article was never published in Mersey Beat. Comes with an original vintage snapshot photograph of John Lennon and Nigel Whalley which was taken on Lime Street, Liverpool on 5th May 1958.

All items are housed in the original mailing envelope which is postmarked May 1963 Sevenoaks, Kent. Nigel has hand addressed the envelope to his younger brother Clive Walley, Bob Wooler has written Clive’s name and telephone number at the top of the envelope, the reverse of the envelope has been signed by Quarry Men member Rod Davis. The envelope measures 26.5cm x 11.5cm (10.4 inches x 4.5 inches). The condition is very good minus. The photograph measures 14cm x 9cm (5.5 inches x 3.5 inches). The condition is very good minus. Each page of the letter measures 17.25cm x 20.25cm (6.8 inches x 8 inches). The condition is very good.

The author with Nigel Walley in 2017

Tracks Link to the auction: