Sunday 26 December 2021

The Gentle Giant : Mal Evans

Mal Evans by Guest Blogger Jackie Spencer

Hi there, I'm Jackie. I've been a tour guide in the City of Liverpool since 1995, and in the tourism business since I was only sixteen...all those years ago! My private tours are the real deal for Beatles Fans travelling Across the Universe to see my fabulous City. I hold the coveted Blue Badge, the top qualification in tour guiding as recognised by travel companies Worldwide and am one of Liverpool's few officially certified Beatle Guides.
After working on the Magical Mystery Tour bus for several years, I realised that some fans wanted more than just a coach tour and so set up the absolute first organised private taxi tours of The Beatles Liverpool in 1998 (a good 10 years before any of the others claiming to be the first). This won me the title of Merseyside Small Tourism Business of the Year in 2001. I have been awarded the Trip Advisor Certificate of excellence every year since 2011, which has now earned me a place in the Trip Advisor Hall of Fame.  More recently I was awarded the Bespoke Tour Operator of the Year, and Tour Guide of the Year categories at the Luxury Travel Awards.
I have been recognised as a Beatles expert (to me I'm just a fan) and was chosen to work with Cirque Du Soleil when they researched the ‘Love’ show. I've also worked with many VIP’s and celebrities, advised film & television companies including MTV & VH1 and have appeared in several Beatles documentaries. Most recently has been the upcoming Stars North production, "Pre:Fab', the life of Colin Hanton. I also collaborated with the wonderful Lush Spa as they created a Beatles themed treatment.
I can be heard regularly on Sirius Radio Beatles Channel talking about Liverpool Beatle Locations and was delighted when the producers of Carpool Karaoke featured my tweet on the most successful Paul McCartney edition. I'd love to think Paul OK'd that!
With the tourist industry currently at a standstill because of the pandemic I was happy to take up the offer to do a guest blog on ‘There Are Places I Remember’ (“about whatever I wanted”).
One of the main things I took from the whole ‘Get Back’ series was the fact that Mal Evans was always there for the Beatles. He’s one of the heroes of the film, especially in the final episode where he does his best to keep the Police detained until the Beatles finish their rooftop concert.  Officially their road manager and minder but so much more, one of the loyal and trusted friends from Liverpool who the Beatles took with them on their amazing journey and remained with them until the very end. I wanted to find out more about Mal and his early life and the important places in his story.

31 Lorne Street, Fairfield, L7

Malcolm Frederick Evans was born on 27 May 1935 at 31 Lorne Street in the district of Fairfield of Liverpool, not far from Newsham Park.  This was in fact his Grandparents home where his Mum had grown up.  His Mum was Joan Hazel Evans. His Grandfather was Alexander and according to the 1911 census he was a coachbuilder - a man from the motor trade. His wife was called Annie. 

It gets confusing because their daughter Joan Hazel Evans met and married Frederick William Evans, so she never changed her surname, and despite Evans being a very Welsh name we have to go back about five generations to find anyone in either family actually born in Wales.

When Mal was just a couple of years old his family were given social housing, a corporation house at 75 Waldgrave Road, Wavertree and this was where he was to live right up until his marriage.

75 Waldgrave Road, L15  

Mal lived here with his Mum and Dad, Fred and Joan and three younger sisters from around 1938 until 1957. 

Waldgrave Road is the home that Mal’s own children Gary and Julie remember visiting to see their grandparents.

He attended Northway Primary School, which is still there today, facing Mal's house, and later The Holt High School for boys on Queens Drive near Childwall Fiveways, known today as Childwall Sports and Science Academy.

Mal's father Fred worked in the fruit warehouses. Ironic that Mal was to work in one too.... the Cavern Club!

Mal met local Liverpool girl Lily White at New Brighton funfair, just a ferry across the Mersey.

They were married on 28 September 1957 in the magnificent St Agnes and St Pancras Church on Ullet Road, close to Sefton Park.

For the first couple of years of married life Mal and Lily Evans lived here at 12 Kenmare Road, a street of terraced houses off Smithdown Road, Wavertree near Sefton General Hospital.  

28 Hillside Road, L18

Mal had a decent steady job as a telephone engineer for the General Post Office and they moved to 28 Hillside Road, in the Mossley Hill district of Liverpool. A couple of years later their first child, Gary, was born in October 1961.

Mal, Lil and Gary Evans.

To put this area into perspective it’s a really nice part of Liverpool.  At the bottom end of the street, if you were to take a right turn that would bring you to the famous Penny Lane.  A left turn would take you to Allerton, the area where Paul McCartney was living. 

At the top end of the street is Menlove Avenue, where John Lennon was living with Aunt Mimi.

The Met Quarter (former GPO Headquarters)

What is now Liverpool’s Met Quarter used to be the headquarters of the General Post Office (G.P.O.) where Mal worked. Just across the road was Mathew Street and Mal used to pop down to the Cavern Club.  

MAL EVANS: I walked down this little street called Mathew Street that I'd never noticed before and came to this place, the Cavern Club. I'd never been inside a club, but I heard this music coming out - real rock it sounded, a bit like Elvis. So, I paid my shilling and went in....

Standing 6ft 3 and a half [1] and heavily built he attracted the attention of Ray McFall, the owner of the Cavern.  Ray offered Mal a job as a part time bouncer (doorman). Mal was delighted because it meant that he got to see all his beloved rock and roll music performed and get paid for it.

Mathew Street, 1960s  

Mal by now was 27, married with a child, but he struck up an unlikely friendship with 19-year-old fellow gentle soul George Harrison. Mal was nicknamed the 'gentle giant' because of his affable nature.

GEORGE: Mal used to come into the Cavern. He worked as a telephone engineer around the corner and would come into the club in his lunch hour. He'd sit there among all the other people and request Elvis's songs. After a while we caught on that here was this guy who always wanted Elvis's songs, so we'd say, 'Well, now we'd like to do a request for Mal.' After a while he got a job there as a bouncer in the evenings.

In January 1963 Neil Aspinall, the Beatles’ regular driver fell ill with flu. George suggested that Mal could drive them to London.

GEORGE: One time Neil was sick, and we needed someone to drive us to London, so we asked Mal. He was a nice bloke, and by this time we'd been chatting with him a lot. He had to take a couple of days off work to do it. Then as we were expanding with all the gigs, we realised we had to get someone else to drive the van and leave Neil to look after us and our suits and all of that. It was a unanimous thought. So, Mal left his job and came to work for us.

NEIL ASPINALL: My weight went down to about eight stone on one tour, and I told Brian I needed somebody to help. That's when we got Mal Evans. We all knew Mal the bouncer, he was the 'gentle giant' - a good friend. 

Mal started driving the van and looking after all the equipment and the stage-clothes, while I tended to look after The Beatles and the press and other people in our lives. And I had to teach Mal how to set up Ringo's drums! (Ringo has said that at first, I wouldn't set up his drums. But I did.)

MAL EVANS: I'd never seen a drum-kit close up before. I didn't understand any of it. Neil helped me the first couple of days, but the first time I was on my own was terrible. It was a huge stage, and my mind went blank. I didn't know where to put anything. I asked a drummer from another group to help me. I didn't realise each drummer likes his cymbals at a special height. He did them his own way, but they were useless to Ringo.

RINGO: Neil and Mal were all we ever had. Throughout our fame, we just had two guys looking after us. Mal joined us full-time in 1963. He was our bodyguard, but he was great at it because he would never hurt anyone. He was just big enough to say, 'Excuse me, let the boys through.' He was pretty strong. He could lift the bass amp on his own, which was a miracle. He should have been in the circus.

GEORGE: It was hard, organising all the equipment, although there wasn't much - just a drum-kit and three amplifiers. But there was still quite a lot to get in and out. Packing up, Neil would have to get the equipment, carry some out, open the van, put it in the van and then lock the van so it wouldn't get stolen; and then go back in, get the next bit and come back out, open the van, put it in, lock it again. That's why we needed an extra hand after a while; Neil had had to do everything.

Our early van became the centre of attention every time it pulled up. It was brush-painted in red and grey, and from head to foot was covered in graffiti - girls' names, and things like 'I love you John'. It looked interesting, but the moment anybody saw it they would feel free to write all over it. It also presented the problem that if anything was going to get nicked, it was obvious where it was kept. Neil always had to worry about that.

On several occasions, Mal's association with the Beatles made him newspaper worthy. 

Liverpool Echo and Evening Express, Monday, 24 February 1964

GEORGE: He loved his job, he was brilliant. He was such good fun, but he was also very helpful: he could do everything. He had a bag that he developed over the years, because it would always be: 'Mal, have you got an Elastoplast? Mal, have you got a screwdriver? Mal, have you got a bottle of this? Have you got that?' And he always had everything. If he didn't have it, he'd get it very quickly. He was one of those people who loved what he was doing and didn't have any problem about service. Everybody serves somebody in one way or another, but some people don't like the idea. Mal had no problem with it. He was very humble, but not without dignity; it was not belittling for him to do what we wanted, so he was perfect for us because that was what we needed.

MAL: It was great meeting all the people I'd seen on TV: I was really star-struck. I quickly realised of course that people were being nice, trying to get to know me, just to use me to get to The Beatles. I soon got to spot them a mile off.

LIL EVANS: I went to the Cavern and saw the walls wet with condensation, but not very often because I was at home with the baby. But I remember George Harrison coming around to our house a couple of times to keep me company when The Beatles weren’t playing because he knew I was left out. That was nice of him. [2]    

Paul and Mal in Paris, January 1964 photographed by Ringo

When Beatlemania started to take hold, Mal was very much in the eye of the storm, but Lily was still here in Liverpool with their son Gary, living in Hillside Road.  

In April 1966 she gave birth to their second child, a little girl named Julie Suzanne. When Mal broke the news of the birth to the Beatles they said "Well what are you doing here then? Get yourself up to Liverpool and see them."

Julie's birth made the Liverpool Echo and Evening Express on Tuesday, 19 April 1966. No doubt the Evans family were thrilled having their full address printed!

Mal with Julie c. 1969

When Julie was about 1 years old the family left Liverpool for good and moved to a place called Sunbury on Thames.

Two images of the ever-present Mal from the new "Get Back" film, January 1969.

Mal’s whirlwind years with the Beatles are well known, as is the tragedy of his death at the hands of the LAPD on 5 January 1976. 

Mal had separated from Lily in 1973 and moved to Los Angeles where he hung out with Ringo and John Lennon who was living there with May Pang after his own separation from Yoko Ono. It is said that he felt increasingly adrift, his life no longer having the stability it had when he was always on call for the Beatles.  Lil asked him for a divorce shortly before Christmas 1975 and he fell into a depression.

PAUL: Mal Evans got shot by the LA Police Department in 1976. It was so crazy, so crazy. Mal was a big loveable bear of a roadie; he would go over the top occasionally, but we all knew him and never had any problems. The LAPD weren't so fortunate. They were just told that he was upstairs with a shotgun and so they ran up, kicked the door in and shot him. His girlfriend had told them, 'He's a bit moody and he's got some downers.' Had I been there I would have been able to say, 'Mal, don't be silly.' In fact, any of his friends could have talked him out of it without any sweat, because he was not a nutter. But his girlfriend - she was an LA girl - didn't know him that well. She should not have rung the cops, but that's the way it goes... a thump on the door, 'Where is he? Where's the assailant Bang, bang, bang. They don't ask questions, they shoot first. 

GEORGE: I often regret that he got killed. Right to this day I keep thinking, 'Mal, where are you?' If only he was out there now. 

Ringo, who had spent a lot of time in America with Mal after the Beatles' break-up wrote to Mal's parents to offer his sympathies: "Words really cannot express what my thoughts are for you and your family. All I can do is offer my deepest condolences. All my memories of Mal will be good ones.

Mal's final days were covered in an article in the Liverpool Echo (14 January 1976) headed ‘Former Beatles man ‘who never grew up’.  It printed extracts from letters Mal had written to his family at Christmas 1975.   To his dad he wrote "the way I talk about you you should be ten feet tall, Malkie"... and he added "what I wouldn’t give for a pint with you on Christmas day and a slice of Mum’s turkey."  To his mum Joan he wrote an intensely personal and touching letter "We’ll always be close for I love you like I love no other" before going on to describe all the great things that were happening in his life like having one of his songs covered by The Carpenters, a book, a lecture deal, but of course none of this was to be because we lost Mal the following month. 

In February 1976 after Mal’s tragic death his family arranged a memorial service here at All Hallows Church, next to Quarry Bank school where Mal’s friend John Lennon had attended.

In October 1992 Lily auctioned off the handwritten lyrics of She’s Leaving Home from Mal’s extensive collection. They raised £41,000 and the money was donated to the kidney fund at Alder Hey Children’s hospital.

This exact same copy of the lyrics appears in Paul McCartney's recent 'Lyrics' book which perhaps suggests that the anonymous buyer who paid £41,000 was none other than Paul himself.  Over the years Paul has made several public donations to Alder Hey where his Mum once trained to be a nurse.

A Blue Plaque now marks Mal's former home at 28 Hillside Road.

I just want to say I’ve enjoyed learning more about Mal Evans. I’ve been to places I’ve never been before on a Beatles’ tour and now I have a real respect for the gentle giant who became the Beatles Road Manager.  Rest in peace mate.  


Jackie Spencer

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Thank you.  


[1] - Approximately. Reports of Mal's height vary with some sources saying he was 6 feet 6 inches tall. 

[2Lil Evans, wife of Mal Evans, on The Beatles’ growing fame in 1963 and their move to London, in an April 2005 article written by Ray Connolly, The Ray Connolly Beatles Archive

Mal’s diaries are soon to be published by the author Kenneth Womack.

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  1. Thank you Jackie for such an insightful journey about Mal. Watching Get Back and now knowing more about Mal makes it all the more wonderful so many little things he did during the sessions seems so relevant to me now thank you

  2. This was a wonderful article. Great job, Jackie. I knew so little about Mal until recently.

  3. Terrific, Jackie.... so personal and respectful, as always!! Happy New Year to you!!

  4. Great blog Jackie. He seemed a lovely man