Saturday 5 June 2021

The Beatles Live! (Liverpool 1961)

Following the positive reception to my recent post John Lennon: A Childhood in Photographs I thought I'd try something similar with all the photos I've collected which show the Beatles in performance at various venues in Liverpool and the Wirral.

It turns out that there are many more than I'd realised,  so many in fact that I've decided to break the post into three years - 1961, 1962 and 1963.

Of course the Beatles were also photographed in Liverpool in 1960. These images all originate from a single date, 10 May, when the group auditioned for Larry Parnes. I have already included these in an earlier post which you can view here.   

There are also a number of photographs from the Quarry Men and Japage 3 era.  No doubt there will be a post using these in the near future, but not yet, I'm still trying to create the definitive chronology of that 1956-59 period.

Here then are all the extant images of the Beatles taken in and around the clubs and ballrooms of Liverpool during 1961. 

Placing them in chronological order has been quite an undertaking. A number of these photographs have appeared in well known books and magazines, sometimes woefully mis-dated and with the venue incorrectly identified. Some have appeared grouped together, the implication being that they were taken on the same evening. In several instances careful study of the visual evidence has proven otherwise, and I'll explain my reasoning as we go along.

Of course, some of the images have proven impossible to pin down to a specific date. In these cases I've tried to narrow down the timeframe as much as I can and provide my best guestimate. 

My accompanying text has been enhanced by extracts from various publications which provide further background and context to the images.

As always positive feedback is welcomed as much as reasoned arguments pointing out where I've got it wrong. The ultimate aim is always to be as near 100% accurate as possible.


The Beatles were not the first group back from Hamburg but their return was no less explosive, locally, than the arrival of rock and roll itself in 1956. No one expected it, no one knew who they were or where they came from (promoters billed them as 'Direct From Hamburg' leading many in the audience to assume, naturally enough, that they were German)  they were just suddenly there, good beyond belief, and so exceptional  that everything started to change because of them, and quickly - Mark Lewisohn, Tune In

Litherland Town Hall: 5 or 26 January 1961 (photo by Jas Stirling)

The earliest known photo of any of the Beatles taken in the month after their return from Hamburg.

Between Thursday 5 January and Wednesday 1 March, the Beatles made 36 appearances for the promoter Brian Kelly at various venues in the north end of Liverpool including Litherland Town Hall, Aintree Institute, Lathom Hall (Seaforth) and Alexandra Hall (Crosby). 

At this time Paul had a full-time job working in the factory of Massey and Coggins, armature winders and transformer manufacturers, a 'steady job' he actually considered sticking with. Eventually John gave him an ultimatum, the job or the group. Paul 'went over the wall' one lunchtime, and never looked back. 

The Cavern Club: 9 February - March 1961

Not only the first photograph of the Beatles performing at the club with which they are most closely associated, but also the only one that shows Stuart Sutcliffe, unfortunately obscured by John's left arm.

Jim Mawer witnessed the Beatles first lunchtime session at the Cavern as a five-piece. He has a clear recollection of Stuart:  During their "act" Paul introduced Stu as.. 'Stu, our "bassman" is gonna do 'Elvis' singin' 'Love Me Tender',  wearin' his 'sunnies'!  Stu hands over his bass guitar… enthusiastic applause and cheers from the crowd! (actually, not that many, but a fair few).

Was Stuart a good singer?  

Jim Mawer: That's a difficult was a long time ago, the image is quite strong in my mind.. but, having said that, being a 15 year old at the time, anyone singing Elvis was pretty cool as we all loved Elvis , Buddy Holly etc. He (to us teenagers) sounded great! He also looked pretty cool in his "sunnies" glasses and black leather jacket, black nervous as he was...  

source: Jim Mawer, Buskin With The Beatles Facebook group, June 2021 

Stuart had arrived back in Liverpool, direct from Hamburg, around 15 January and took his place in the group three days later at the Aintree Institute.  

One night towards the end of January (20,21,28 or 30) Stu was beaten up by a gang of Teds at Lathom Hall in Seaforth: 

When I went back to pick them up they said, 'There's been a fight in the bogs.' John had broken a finger. Pete had a black eye. Paul had been dancing around and Stuart had been kicked in the head. It was Liverpool, one of those 'lucky we got away with it' situations. Apparently Stu had been trapped in the toilets by some Teds because their girls had been screaming, and John had probably done one of his big fucking winks - Neil Aspinall, Tune In. 

John fractured the ring finger on his right hand and its just visible taped on the photo above.

The Casbah Club: 12 February 1961 (photos by Mike McCartney)

John, Paul, Stu and Pete at the Casbah (above).

George grins at the Mike while Paul croons at the mic (below).

Paul's Rosetti Solid 7 guitar had just about survived Hamburg but had pretty much been given the last rites at this point. Paul played it strung with three wires cut from a piano and the guitar lead often tucked into his pocket instead of an amp. He'd only just completed the HP payments on it on 21 January 1961. 

The 'Spider Room' was created c. 1960 by knocking a basement wall through from the coal store to provide a larger performance space. Railings were used to separate the bands from the audience.

The Iron Door / Liverpool Jazz Society, 13 Temple Street, Liverpool 2: March 1961
(photo by Mike McCartney)

The Beatles appeared here on 6, 11, 13, 15, 17 March 1961. 

These dates marked the Beatles' first appearances at what had previously been, and what would eventually re-emerge as the famous and well loved Iron Door Club ('much better than the Cavern' according to my Dad)  

Johnny Guitar Byrne from Rory Storm and the Hurricanes kept a diary.  Here are extracts from his entries for March 1961. Note he sometimes refers to the Liverpool Jazz Society (LJS) as the Iron Door:

6. Practiced. Played Liverpool Jazz Society.

7. Eileen came down, stayed in. I wish I could marry her. Went to dole.

8. Hambleton, Iron Door.

9. Litherland (?). Gene Vincent, good but empty. Had to borrow off old man to get in.

10. Lunchtime LJS. Van took us to Neston. Ringo and I played with other band, there was a fight.

11. Saw Joan get married. She looked nice. Went to Orrell, then to Iron Door all nighter, packed 800 there. Went to Zodiac to play with Big Three.

12. Went to see 'Flaming Star', then to Cassanova club.

13. Liverpool Jazz Society lunchtime. Empty, but we played.

14. Played golf at Harrison Drive.

15. LJS lunchtime. Jive Hive. Played great.

The Cavern: 21 March 1961

The visiting guest group for the Blue Genes’ Guest Night was the Beatles: their first evening appearance at the Cavern.

Ray McFall: “Bob Wooler had told me about the Beatles, and I had become aware of the Beatles earlier when Pete Best’s mother, Mo, phoned me to say, ‘My son is in a wonderful group, they do very well, so why don’t you book them?’ My response was, ‘I’ll let you know.’ When it came to beat music, Bob was the expert and I relied on him to select the groups. He told me that the Beatles had come from Hamburg, and he was at Litherland Town Hall and saw their return, and he said, ‘You’ve got to have them.’ Brian Kelly, who ran Litherland Town Hall, booked them for all his shows, which were all on a Wednesday. I couldn’t have them on Wednesday, I wasn’t open on Thursday or there would be modern jazz, and the weekend was traditional jazz, and so I decided to book them on a Tuesday.

This was the Blue Genes guest night, and they wanted good, well-organised, clean beat groups, ones that weren’t too loud and wild, and they would suggest groups to me.”

Ray Ennis: “Ray McFall had booked the Beatles for our Guest Night without telling us and we were very annoyed about it. They played so badly then. The Beatle fans had annoyed our fans by getting there early and sitting in the front rows. They watched us and it was like, ‘What’s all that?’ they wanted the Beatles.”

Ralph Ellis: “Their singing was very rough and their guitars were out of tune. We rehearsed a lot to get our sound right and we weren’t too happy to see the Beatles going down so well with something they’d only rehearsed five minutes before.”

Joey Bower from the Four Jays: “This was the first time I had seen the Beatles and they were in black leather and dripping with sweat. They were doing songs that I’d never heard before and I wondered where they had got them from. They did an absolutely fabulous version of ‘Besame Mucho’, one of the best things I’ve ever heard on stage.”

Bob Wooler: “I’d been talking to Paul McCartney about American records in my collection and he’d borrowed Chan Romero’s ‘Hippy Hippy Shake’. To my surprise, he featured the number on their first evening appearance.”

Ray McFall: “Afterwards, three of the Blue Genes tackled me in Mathew Street and they were most upset. As far as they were concerned the Beatles didn’t have the musical talent and they weren’t clean, fresh and well-organised. I said that if the place is full, there are a lot more people watching the Blue Genes.”

Source - Spencer Leigh, The Cavern Club Rise of the Beatles and Merseybeat

From 1 April until 1 July the Beatles performed at the Top Ten Club in Hamburg. Over 13 weeks they spent a total of 503 hours on stage over 92 nights.  Their musical versatility, their singing voices, their stage presence, their stamina  all strengthened to such an extent that when they returned home they were not only head and shoulders above every other group in Liverpool, they were probably the most experienced rock group in the world. They just had no way of knowing that yet.  

Litherland Town Hall, Hatton Hill Road, Liverpool 21: 17 or 24 July (photographer unknown)

Back from Hamburg and in need of haircuts

A few years back these three photographs were submitted for the annual Liverpool Beatles' memorabilia auction, and I was asked to identify the venue. Through a process of elimination and a careful study of the evidence within the images I established they were from St. John's Hall. Unbeknown to me, Mark Lewisohn was also asked for his opinion and thankfully, he came to the same conclusion.  

The St John's Hall bookings were organised by Mrs Mo Best, Pete's Mum, who worked hard to get the group bookings during this period.

In between these dates the Beatles played three consecutive Monday nights at Litherland Town Hall, and having continued with my research I now believe this is where the photographs were taken.

I realise I'm contradicting my own previous conclusions (and Mr Lewisohn's) but here's why:

1. I've been inside Brockman (St. John's ) Hall.  It was refurbished in 2000 and the stage was demolished, but the suspended wooden floor is still there and structurally the building was unaltered. In comparison to the Beatle's photos above, the ceiling is much lower (see above). 

2. Here's a couple of stills I made from a video showing the stage at Litherland Town Hall. Compare the height of the stage from the floor, the front panels which look to contain radiators (see close up 1961 photo of the girls with their legs dangling off the stage) and the door at stage right.  All look to be a good match.

3. Now compare this image with the group shot with fans photo above. Note the proscenium (frame) to the left of the stage (not visible on the two 'in- performance' photos but seen clearly between George and Pete in the offstage photo). See also the exit door on the left with its distinctive square pane/ rectangular pane configuration.

I hereby rest my case.  While it's disappointing that my previous 'best guess' turned out to be incorrect, I can console myself in the knowledge that we now have photos of the Beatles playing Litherland Town Hall, an important venue in their story.

The Cavern Club: 14-25 July 1961 (photos by Mike McCartney)

The Beatles returned to Liverpool on 3 July and enjoyed a two-week break.

Meanwhile things were happening behind the scenes. 

On 6 June* 1961 I entered NEMS, asked to see the manager and Brian came down. I showed him my copies of the very first issue of Mersey Beat and asked if he would take any copies. He did. He then phoned in the afternoon, amazed that they had sold out so quickly. The next batch also sold out, so Brian ordered 144 copies of issue No.2. 

When Brian invited me into his office to talk, he had been fascinated by Mersey Beat because he never knew such a music scene existed on his own doorstep. Items in the first issue included John’s story of the formation of the Beatles and the entire back page was an advert for the Cavern, which was around the corner from his shop. -  Bill Harry, interview by Tsuf Plotkin for the McCartney Times website, 13 July 2018. 

Bill Harry's Mersey Beat, Vol.1 No. 1, July 6-20, 1961    

I think through the passing of time Bill has conflated his memories, resulting in the slightly jumbled order of events. There is a note in Brian Epstein's 1961 diary for a 20 June meeting at NEMS with Harry who was hoping NEMS would partially finance the paper.  Brian declined but offered to take a dozen copies of the first issue.  For this reason, I think Bill's 6 June* recollection shouId be attributed to 6 July, the date the first issue was published (see illustration above).

Bill Harry's Mersey Beat, Vol.1 No. 2, July 20 - August 3, 1961

The full cover of Mersey Beat issue 2 featured a photo of the Beatles in Hamburg in their black leather and the headline ‘Beatles Sign Recording Contract,’ with the full story of their recording session. This was published on 20 July 1961. Paul McCartney, in his autobiography, states that this is how Brian discovered them

Bill Harry, interview by Tsuf Plotkin for the McCartney Times website, 13 July 2018. 

What is clear is Brian's later claim that he was unaware of the Beatles until he started receiving requests for their recording of 'My Bonnie', is simply untrue. 

On the evening of Friday 14 July the Beatles gave their first performance at the Cavern since 24 March. This was their “Welcome Home” appearance, really as conquering heroes, and it was followed by a Wednesday night residency at the club. They were now in full leather, the trousers acquired in Germany where Paul had also, finally, bought a bass guitar. The support acts on this first night were the White Eagle Jazz Band and Ian and the Zodiacs.

Between 14 and 31 July they appeared at the Cavern ten times, on some days playing both the lunchtime and evening sessions. Paul's brother Michael took the three shots above during the month, perhaps on their first day back at the club.

Ian Edwards: “The Beatles didn’t make an impression until I saw them that night. The long hours had knitted them together. I loved to hear Paul singing ‘Besame Mucho’. That was very different and it suited his voice. You can’t really imagine a beat group doing ‘Besame Mucho’, but they did it very well.”

David Backhouse: “I always think that the Beatles or anybody else sounded best at the Cavern because of the reverberation and the compactness of it. The Beatles were tremendous and had the je ne sais quoi which set them apart from the other bands.”

Source - Spencer Leigh, The Cavern Club Rise of the Beatles and Merseybeat

The Cavern Club: 19 July 1961 (photo by Harry Major)

(c) Cavern Club (a postcard from the authors collection)

According to David Roberts (of the Pressmen) the above photo was taken by his old friend and roadie Harry on the night they shared the bill with the Beatles. The film wasn't developed until years later. The copyright was sold to the Cavern Club with the proceeds going to Harry's widow.

Author Spencer Leigh writes that Wednesday 19 July 1961 was effectively the start of the Beatles' Wednesday guest nights.  The Pressmen and the Remo Four were the first 'guests'.

David has also sent me a copy of the Pressmen in action that same night. L-R: Bob Pears, Nick Arnott, Dave Roberts, Richy Prescott, Phil Kenzie. 

Around the third week of July, George upgraded his guitar for the first time since buying his Futurama in late 1959 with his Blackler's wages. He bought the Gretsch Duo Jet second hand from a merchant seaman called Ivan Hayward, paying £70 towards the £90 Hayward wanted for the instrument after writing an IOU for the remaining £20 which he promised to pay later (and of course never did).   

Hayward saw his former instrument in action a week or so later on 27 July when he watched the Beatles at St. John's Hall, Tuebrook, headlining another dance promoted by Mrs Best.  On this night the Beatles shared the bill with the Big Three, and backed a young girl who occasionally sang with them, Priscilla White - or Cilla Black as she became known.

Ivan remembered 'the place was full of kids. The Beatles sang 'Young Blood'. I wasn't very impressed with them but they weren't the only group making a racket at the time - the Big Three also played that night' - Mark LewisohnTune In 

Mathew Street: Summer - Autumn, 1961 (photographer unknown)

The all-leather Beatles posing against their van in Mathew Street in the Summer -Autumn of 1961. Parked behind the Beatles' van is the Jazzmobile ('Jazzmobeel'), a van owned by the Cavern doorman Paddy Delaney, which he'd use to ferry Cavern staff members home after all night sessions. 

The Beatles took part in an all-night session on 5 August 1961 and these photos might date from then. 

The Cavern Club: Late July - September 1961 (photos by Bob Dean)

The Beatles made numerous appearances at the Cavern through the late summer and autumn of 1961 and narrowing the date down further is probably impossible. George is now playing his Duo Jet so the photos can't date from earlier than late July, and John and Paul still have their 'rocker' hairstyles so it can't be any later than 29 September, their final appearance before their trip to Paris.

The Cavern Club: August 1961 (photos by Geoff Williams)

Taken around the same time, this batch of portrait photos, taken by Geoff Williams, was commissioned by Maureen O'Shea and Jennifer Dawes for their fledgling Beatles fan club.  Maureen later recalled 'We said to the Beatles "Look smart, wear clean shirts and be on time, we were quite bossy with them. Of course, they turned up in their black leather and black t-shirts.'   

The Cavern Club: 5 August 1961 (Bob Dean)

This photo appeared on the front page of Mersey Beat, Vol.1 No. 4, August 17-31, 1961 captioned 'The Beatles again! Seen here during the recent all-night session at the Cavern.' 

This handbill for Kenny Ball and his Jazzmen with the Beatles fetched over £1,000 at the Beatles Auction in Liverpool in August 1996.

Kenny Ball: “I remember the Beatles doing the interval for us at the Cavern and I had never seen guys in all-leather suits before. It can’t have been much fun for them as it was very damp down there. The fellers liked us and the girls liked them and I thought there must be something wrong with us.”

Geoff Davies: “This was an all-nighter with Kenny Ball and various jazz bands, but the Beatles and the Remo Four were also on the bill. At about one o’clock in the morning, the Mike Cotton jazz band finished and we heard a rock band tune up. It sounded horrible, loud guitars and heavy drums, and so we left quickly. We got a pass-out and went to the Pier Head for a pie and a cup of tea. We thought we would wait until this bloody lot had finished. When we went back, we found that they had gone and Kenny Ball was about to go on, and he was great.”

Source - Spencer Leigh, The Cavern Club Rise of the Beatles and Merseybeat

Terry McCusker: “I left school in the summer of 1961 and I got a job in the same block as the Cavern. I worked for the Liverpool Trade Protection Society which sounded ominous. A friend of mine, Brian Harney, had been going to the Cavern and he told me that I had to see this band, who were the business. I was put off going to the Cavern because the girls in the office would come in from the lunchtime sessions and they had this terrible smell which permeated their coats. It was a smell of disinfectant, newly turned grave and a soupçon of sewage, a strange mix. If anybody walked past you in the street, you would know that they had been to the Cavern. Still, Brian persuaded me and I went to my first lunchtime session.

We got to the Cavern and there were very deep steps; the pitch on the steps would not be allowed now. I stumbled on the stairs as it was dark. There was a red glow at the bottom and we turned left, and there were two or three more stairs and there was a table with this little red light. The noise was immense and I thought my chest was going to cave in with the bass drum sound. The band was playing ‘Memphis Tennessee’, a song I’d never heard before, and the band was the Beatles. I fought my way up through the arches and saw the band and all my senses were assailed by this fabulous band. John Lennon had his back against an upright piano and in-between numbers he was picking his nose. I thought, ‘Wow, this guy is being paid for picking his nose and the girls are screaming at him!’ Actually, the girls were screaming for Pete Best who was at the back and he didn’t seem perturbed at all, a very assured person, and he was knocking seven bells out of his white pearl Premier drum-kit. Paul McCartney was exactly as he is now and they had a fabulous sound.

I consider the period from July 1961 and December 1961 to be the golden age for the Cavern. Things changed when Brian Epstein took over the Beatles. There was no alcohol, certainly no drugs, and yet you would come out flushed and hot and exhilarated.”

Aintree Institute, Longmoor Lane: 4 or 12 August 1961 (Photos by Dick Matthews)

According to Tony Bramwell these two photos were take at the Aintree Institute. Note that other sources say it's the Liverpool Jazz Society (the Iron Door). This photo appeared on page 6 of  Mersey Beat, Vol.1 No. 4, August 17- 31, 1961 credited to photographer Harry Bear.  

The photograph below was used in the programme (above) for Jim Gretty's charity concert in Maghull on 15 October, hosted by Ken Dodd. Note the name of the building contractors!

Aintree Institute: 19 August 1961 (Photos by Dick Matthews)


The photo above appeared on page four of Mersey Beat, Vol.1 No. 5, August 31 - September 14, 1961 with the caption: During the second week of August Bob Wooler noticed some girls dancing in rhythm at Aintree Institute. Bob asked them on stage and found they had the basis of a very good act. The two girls, Marie Williams and Joan Pratt were asked to appear at Litherland Town Hall on Monday 14th and were joined by Maureen O'Donnell. Bob gave them the title 'The Shimmy-shimmy Queens' and Joan's sister made some dresses for them. They appeared the following Saturday (19 August) at Aintree Institute and on the Sunday (20 August) at Hambleton Hall. 

The Cavern Club: c. 28 August 1961 (but likely to be 5 August 1961 - see discussion) (photographer Bob Dean)

This photo appeared in Mersey Beat, Vol.1 No. 4, August 17-31, 1961 captioned 'Ringo, George Harrison and Lou with friend.' 

Rory Storm and the Hurricanes were in residency at Butlins holiday camp in Pwelheli until the end of August. Saturday at Butlins was the day the campers changed over and the Hurricanes' day off. We know Ringo had driven back Liverpool on the morning of 8 July for his 21st birthday party, twenty four hours after his actual birthday. Clearly the Hurricanes took the opportunity to return home on several occasions, and the photo above was taken on one such return.

Under the photograph is an article, Mersey Roundabout, written by Bill Harry's girlfriend Virginia. It starts The photograph above shows Ringo and Lou of the 'Hurricanes' who visited Liverpool over August bank holiday. The Hurricanes will be back in a months time...

The article seems to imply that the photo was taken during Lou and Ringo's bank holiday visit but there's a problem with this.

In 1961 the bank holiday (in England and Wales) fell on Monday 28 August and the Beatles played the lunchtime session at the Cavern (clearly the location of this photo). 

Above extract from Mersey Beat (authors' own collection)

However, as noted, the issue of Mersey Beat this photo appears in hit the newsstands on 17 August, eleven days before the bank holiday.  How could a report and photograph of an event be printed in a magazine before the event had even occurred? Of course, it can't.

Lewisohn mentions this photograph in Tune In in connection with the Beatles all-nighter on 5 August 1961 which was a Saturday, the Hurricanes' day off. Bob Dean's photos of that event appear above.  As Dean is also credited in Mersey Beat for this photo I'm happy to go along with the 5 August dating, even thought I still can't reconcile this with the accompanying information in Virginia's article.

Incidentally, this the earliest photo of Ringo with any of the Beatles, a full year before he replaced Pete Best.

Orrel Park Ballroom: 9 September 1961 (photo by Dick Mathews)

The Beatles didn't play the Orrel Park ballroom as a group, but Ringo did while he was a member of Rory's Hurricanes. 

Above extract from Mersey Beat (authors' own collection)

Johnny Guitar's diary for this date: Orrell. First date from Butlins. Played OK, big crowd.

John Lennon turned 21 on 9 October 1961. In advance of the big day, he received £100 from his Aunt Elizabeth ('Mater') in Edinburgh. He decided to travel to Spain on holiday and invited Paul, who freely admitted he was delighted to share in this windfall. 

Less impressed were George and Pete.  With 50% of the group suddenly missing they had to cancel a number of bookings and lost out financially as a consequence. 

Last night I heard that John and Paul have gone to Paris to play together – in other words, the band has broken up! It sounds mad to me, I don’t believe it… - Stuart Sutcliffe, 1961 The Beatles Anthology

John and Paul left Liverpool from Lime Street station on 30 September. The plan was to hitch-hike to Spain but in the end they got no further than Paris, where they met up with Jürgen Vollmer, their friend from Hamburg who had moved to France to study photography.

Vollmer wore his hair brushed forward, in a style Astrid Kirchherr had encouraged Stuart Sutcliffe to adopt.

Jürgen had a flattened-down hairstyle with a fringe in the front, which we rather took to. We went over to his place and there and then he cut – hacked would be a better word – our hair into the same style.John Lennon, 1963

He had his hair Mod-style. We said, ‘Would you do our hair like yours?’ We’re on holiday – what the hell! We’re buying capes and pantaloons, throwing caution to the wind. He said, ‘No, boys, no. I like you as Rocker; you look great.’ But we begged him enough so he said ‘all right’. He didn’t do it quite the same as his.

His was actually more coming over to one side. A kind of long-haired Hitler thing, and we’d wanted that, so it was really a bit of an accident. We sat down in his hotel and he just got it – the ‘Beatle’ cut! Paul McCartney,  The Beatles Anthology 

John and Paul were back in Liverpool by 14 October, in time to fulfil the Beatles' booking the following day in Maghull. Their new look did not go unnoticed....

We went to collect John, and his hair was down. But it was when we went to collect Paul that we realised something was going on, because not only was Paul’s hair down as well, but he skipped out of his house – in that way that he does – pointing at his hair and generally unable to be subtle about it. His hair was different and we had to notice it  - Neil Aspinall, Tune In

When we got back to Liverpool it was all, ‘Eh, your hair’s gone funny.’ – ‘No, this is the new style.’  We nearly tried to change it back but it wouldn’t go, it kept flapping forward. And that just caught on. We weren’t really into the coiffure. It was like Mo’s out of the Three Stooges. It fell forward in a fringe. But it was great for us because we never had to style it or anything – wash it, towel it, turn upside down and give it a shake, and that was it. Everyone thought we had started it, so it became ‘the Beatle hairdo’. - Paul McCartney,  The Beatles Anthology 

George was still pissed off with John and Paul, but a few days later he also brushed his hair forward. 

Litherland Town HaIl: 19 October 1961

This was The Beatles’ 18th show at Litherland Town Hall, which had been the scene of their triumphant homecoming performance on 27 December 1960, following their first trip to Hamburg.  Note the advert highlighted the welcome return of John and Paul following their Paris holiday.

The event was promoted by Brian Kelly, who ran Beekay Promotions events in the Liverpool area. Also on the bill were Gerry and the Pacemakers and Karl Terry and the Cruisers.

Earlier that day, after the Cavern lunchtime session, the Pacemakers had met up with the Beatles at the Mandolin Club, a new venue in Warwick Street, Toxteth which offered all-day drinking when the pubs had closed.  Over a few beers it was decided that the Beatles and Pacemakers would form a supergroup and perform that night together on stage as The Beatmakers. George played lead guitar, Paul was on rhythm guitar, Pete Best and Freddy Marsden both played Best’s drum kit, Les Maguire was on saxophone, Les Chadwick played bass guitar, John Lennon played piano, and Gerry Marsden was on lead guitar and vocals. Karl Terry also joined in on vocals.

They Beatles appeared at Litherland Town Hall on 20 separate occasions between December 1960 and their final appearance on 9 November 1961.

Unknown venue (Litherland Town Hall?): October 1961- March 1962 (photographer unknown)

The Beatles were making more noise than ever now because (circa August) Paul had got himself a new bass speaker. It came courtesy of the Big Three, who made the loudest sound of any Liverpool group – not just because Johnny Hutch hit the drums hardest (he even attached a piece of wood to his bass drum pedal, to thwack the skin with maximum force) but also because their lead guitarist Adrian Barber had made a pair of huge loudspeakers for the guitars and voices. When Barber let it be known he could make more of these, for something like 25 guineas apiece, Paul ordered one for his Hofner Violin, paying Barber £5 every so often as far as summer 1962. Powered by his Selmer Truvoice amp, this was a vast piece of kit for the Beatles, an immense fifteen-inch loudspeaker inside a wooden cabinet standing five feet tall and painted black – and so, inevitably, it became known as ‘the coffin’.Mark LewisohnTune In

Originally, I placed this photograph in the Summer of 1961, shortly after George acquired his 'new' Duo Jet. However, I'm now convinced that Paul and John, and probably George, all have their hair in the Jurgen style (what would later be known as a 'mop top'). 

Following John and Paul's return the Beatles performed at the aforementioned Sunday afternoon Variety concert for charity at the Albany Cinema in Maghull, at Hambleton Hall in Huyton and the Village Hall in Knotty Ash, the latter famous as the home of comedian Ken Dodd who'd also appeared on the same charity bill with the Beatles in Maghull. 

The Albany stage was reportedly huge, and the front row audience was dominated by local authority figures, not the Beatles sort of audience at all, and they bombed, Ken Dood reportedly telling them later that they were 'terrible'.  It's highly unlikely to be Hambleton Hall either, a grotty, single level municipal building where I suspect the 'stage' was either at floor level or perhaps a foot off the ground at most.   

So where was this photo taken? With no photographs of the stage in Knotty Ash to compare I can't rule it out as a possibility. It's not from any of the other venues the Beatles played during the same period: the David Lewis Theatre, the Cavern, the Casbah, the Aintree Institute, Merseyside Civil Service Club, or New Brighton Tower Ballroom. 

It could be Litherland Town Hall again (19 October or 9 November 1961) if we accept that the stage had more than one backdrop curtain. If so, that would be quite the thing. This is the date that Brian Epstein first encountered them during their lunchtime session at the Cavern Club.

If we extend the date of the photo into early 1962, we can add the Kingsway Club, Southport, the Oasis club in Manchester, the Technical College in Birkenhead, St. John's Hall in Bootle, the Birkenhead Y.M.C.A. and the 'impossible to find a photograph of' St Paul's Presbyterian Church in Tranmere. The only other venue, Southport's Floral Hall had gold lame curtains and tiered seats. 

The only other possible clue is the tinsel (if that's what it is) on the back wall, which might suggest a Christmas engagement.  

The jury is out. If you can solve this minor mystery, please get in touch.

Aintree Institute: circa October 1961 (photographer unknown)

These photos are usually dated as from the late Summer, not long after those that we know were taken by Dick Matthews on 19 August. However, closer examination dates John's hair as post- Paris (compare his sideburns and hair parting to the August photos) and Paul and George also look have the new style. In comparison to the earlier photos Paul is wearing his leather trousers for this gig.

The Beatles played the Aintree Institute on 31 occasions between 7 January 1961 and 27 January 1962, occasionally on consecutive nights. These photos date from 28 October, 11 November 1961 or that final performance in January 1962.

The Cavern Club: November 1961 (photos by Dick Matthews)

The following two aren't necessarily from the same date as the above two. They have been dated as November 1961 by Mark Lewisohn.

Paul is 'dead', on his coffin amp.

On November 9th, 1961, Brian Epstein went to the Cavern Club to see the Beatles, ostensibly to ask about where to obtain the record they had made in Hamburg with Tony Sheridan. Accompanying Brian was Alistair Taylor, his personal assistant.

“We had imported the record by Tony Sheridan and the Beat Brothers (really the Beatles) and it sold like crazy. One day Brian came in and said, “Do you remember that record we sold by the Beatles?” I said ‘Yes, of course’, and he said, ‘Well, they are playing at the Cavern, today, at lunchtime, let’s go to lunch and call in at the Cavern’. - Alastair Taylor, London Beatles Fanclub magazine, 1995

The myth is that until Raymond Jones entered the Whitechapel store and asked for a copy of the ‘My Bonnie’ single Brian had never heard of the Beatles.

In reality Brian had seen them several times in Mersey Beat, on posters around Liverpool and in person hanging around the listening booths in his shop. Although he might not have fully joined up all the dots his curiosity was obviously piqued.

Brian Epstein learnt that The Beatles were playing close to his shop in Whitechapel. He was intrigued to see what they were like, and he phoned Bill Harry at Mersey Beat and asked him to smooth his entrance into the Cavern. Bill arranged this with Ray McFall and with Paddy Delaney on the door. – Bob Wooler, The Cavern, Spencer Leigh.

So, we went to the Cavern. Ghastly place. We went in suits, and there were these four ghastly youths up on stage, wearing black leather jeans, black jackets, smoking and drinking, and so loud. Brian and I sat at the back, we only heard about four or five numbers, and they were just so charismatic and so exciting. What really struck us was the final number, which Paul announced they had written. It was ‘Hello Little Girl’. It was a damned good number. We didn’t like pop music, we just sold records for a living. I was a jazz and classics fan. - Alastair Taylor, London Beatles Fanclub magazine, 1995

Epstein and Taylor entered the band’s dressing room – “as big as a broom cupboard” – after the show. The Beatles recognised Epstein, with George Harrison opening the conversation by asking: “And what brings Mr Epstein here?”

I was immediately struck by their music, their beat, and their sense of humour on stage – and, even afterwards, when I met them, I was struck again by their personal charm. And it was there that, really, it all started. – Brian Epstein, A Cellar Full of Noise

We went to lunch, and Brian asked me what I thought of them, and I said, ‘They were bloody awful, but absolutely incredible!’ We talked a bit more, and Brian said, ‘I’m thinking of managing them!’. I said, ‘My God, you’re kidding’ – I thought it was great. He said ‘If I do manage them, would you come with me. Who do you work for, me or NEMS?’ I said, ‘I work for you’ So he said, ‘If you come with me, I’ll give you 2.5% of the Beatles earnings. I replied, ‘I couldn’t accept that Brian’ I had no money to put up and I knew it would be very expensive. I said all I wanted was a better salary, that’s all.”- Alastair Taylor, London Beatles Fanclub magazine, 1995

Tower Ballroom, New Brighton:
10 November 1961 (photos by Dick Mathews)

A spectacularly busy evening for the Beatles. Main attraction was undoubtedly the Tower Ballroom engagement, the first of many occasions they played at this huge hall, capable of holding a 5000 audience. Over 3000 were packed in to witness this, the first "Operation Big Beat" in Liverpool, run on a grand American-style scale by ambitious promoter Sam Leach. 

Between 7.30 pm and 1.00 am five top groups played alternate shifts on stage. The Beatles' first spot was at 8.00 pm, after which they dashed back, via the Mersey tunnel, to appear at Knotty Ash Village Hall. The evening was rounded off in fine style back at the Tower with a second spot at 11.30 pm, and a frantic car race with Rory Storm and the Hurricanes back under the River Mersey to Liverpool city centre, which very nearly resulted in a bloody and premature end to the lives of the latter group' s members - Mark Lewishon, Chronicle

Tower Ballroom, New Brighton. 5000 there. Sam made £400. Met Niki, like her a lot. Had a race with Beatles, nearly turned over - Johnny Guitar's diary entry for 10 November 1961 

The above photo appeared on page 4 of Mersey Beat, Nov. 30 - Dec 14, 1961, with the caption:  George, Paul, Pete and John appearing at the highly successful 'Operation Big Beat' at the Tower Ballroom. Fans of this popular group will be pleased to hear that copies of their recent record will be available at NEMS.

Paul with the promoter, Sam Leach (above).
Rory Storm and the Hurricanes (with Ringo) rock the TB that same night. Johnny Guitar does a 'Jimi Hendrix' five years too early!

An excerpt from page 4 of Mersey Beat, Vol.1 No. 11, November 30 - December 14, 1961.

The advertisement below appeared in the previous issue.

The makes the logical suggestion that these two photos were taken backstage on the same night as Operation Big Beat. The Beatles and Hurricanes lark about backstage. George sits on Dave Jamieson's shoulders; Johnny Guitar looks to be on the back of a partially hidden John while messing the hair of Rory Storm, who sits astride Sam Leach whose curly mop bows in the foreground to the left of Lu Walters and Pete Best. Billy Hatton of the Four Jays (later the Fourmost) is in the white shirt and tie, top right.     

L-R: Dave Lovelady and Billy Hatton of the Four Jays, unknown, and Cliff Roberts with George above. The Four Jays would appear on the Tower Ballroom with the Beatles several times during 1962.

I've included these two 'strays' here, primarily because Johnny Guitar is wearing the same distinctive cardigan as he does in the backstage photos above and Ringo looks to be wearing the same shirt as he does on stage though he's not wearing his stage suit. 

The black lady dancing in the centre of the photo seems to have the attention of many in the audience, including Ringo, top right. Also of interest is the blonde girl with the spotted collar standing next to Ringo. She appears standing on the left in the next two photographs taken upstairs in Joes Cafe, Duke Street. Johnny Guitar still has that cardigan on.

After their mad race through the Mersey tunnel Beatles and Hurricanes reconvened for something to eat - Joe's Cafe specialised in curry and jelly (not together) - but the big attraction was he was open later than anywhere else and the bread and butter was free if you claimed to be a musician.

Rory's sister, Iris Caldwell, the teenage sweetheart of George Harrison, and later girlfriend of Paul McCartney smiles for the camera on the extreme right.

Tower Ballroom, New Brighton: 24 November 1961 (photos by Dick Mathews)

A well known photograph showing Hurricane Ringo and Beatle George backstage at 'Operation Big Beat II'.  In Tune In this is dated as 24 November 1961 'warming up for one of Sam Leach's epic rock promotions'.  On that basis I'm also applying this date to the following photo.

Ringo and Rory on stage at the Tower Ballroom.

The Beatles' 11.00 pm spot was considerably enlivened by the surprise appearance in the ballroom of two of the top black singers of the day, Britain's Emile Ford and America's UK domiciled Davy Jones. Jones joined the Beatles on stage for two numbers while Ford performed with Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. - Mark Lewisohn, Chronicle

Pete and Paul backstage with Emile Ford. This photo appeared on the front cover of Mersey Beat, Vol.1, No. 12 (December 14 - January 4, 1962).

Johnny Guitar's diary entry notes that Ford sang 'Fever' and 'Hound Dog' with the Hurricanes. The Hurricanes had previously shared the bill with him at the Music Hall, Shrewsbury on Friday 20 October.

The Beatles backing singer Davy Jones.

Once again there was plenty of socialising after the gig. Here's Paul clearly aware of the camera, with William 'Faron' Ruffley, leader of Faron's Flamingos.

Formerly a member of Johnny Tempest and the Tornadoes he became singer and frontman of the group when when Tempest left.

In January 1961 Faron left the band to join Gerry & The Pacemakers on their eight-week trip to Hamburg to appear at the Top Ten Club and he was replaced by vocalist Earl Preston, the band becoming Earl Preston & The T.T's. Due to a dispute in Hamburg, Faron's partnership with Gerry ended and he returned to Liverpool and became compere at Blair Hall for promoter Wally Hill. He then formed Faron's Flamingos, with himself on vocals, Paddy Chambers on lead, Nicky Crouch on guitar/vocals, Mushy Cooper on bass and Trevor Morais on drums. 

Mushy left to join The Renegades and Faron's Flamingos began to build a big following locally, with Faron taking on bass and vocals. After a gig at Holyoake Hall, compere Bob Wooler, who had suggested the name 'Faron's Flamingos' in the first place, was chatting to Faron and Nicky in the bus shelter at Penny Lane and coined the phrase 'the panda-footed prince of prance' to describe Faron - Billy Harry, Sixties Snapshots

The lady on the left in the stripey dress also appears in the photo of Paul and Davy Jones on stage at the Tower Ballroom. (See above) According to Sam Leach this is Pat Davies, a close friend of Cilla Black.

The Cavern Club: 8 December 1961 (lunchtime) (photos possibly by Dick Matthews)

A busy day for the Beatles. Davy Jones was booked to headline promoter Sam Leach’s seven-act marathon at the Tower Ballroom in the evening while Ray McFall booked him for the lunchtime session at the Cavern. The Beatles backed him at both venues as well as performing their own sets and were photographed extensively throughout.

Bob Wooler: “We didn’t have a strong drug scene by any means. Originally, it was just purple hearts, amphetamines, speed or whatever you want to call it. When the Beatles went down south, they sometimes brought back cannabis and gradually the drug scene developed in Liverpool. There was a rare instance of cocaine when Davy Jones, a black rock’n’roll singer who’d been with the Beatles in Hamburg, appeared at the Cavern. He was a Little Richard/Derry Wilkie type, very outgoing and bouncy. His big record was an oldie, ‘Amapola’, and its lyric about the ‘pretty little poppy’ must have appealed to him.”

Karl Terry: “I saw Davy Jones at the Cavern and he was a real showman. I thought he worked with the cramped conditions better than I did.”

Bob Wooler: “Alan Ross, who was a local compère, brought Davy down to the Cavern, and that was when I had cocaine for the first and only time in my life. I told Davy Jones about my sinuses, and he said, ‘This’ll clear it.’ Alan Ross gave me a smile of approval, I tried it… and nearly hit the roof. There was laughter galore, and I rushed out into Mathew Street, trying to breathe the effects out. I remember Pat Delaney saying, ‘What’s wrong, Robert?’ and I said, ‘Nothing, I’m just a bit giddy.’ The Beatles welcomed Davy Jones with open arms, so I’m sure the drug-taking didn’t stop with me. That is the common factor with the Beatles – whatever was going, they wanted to be part of it.”

Bob Wooler's memories, which have never been verified by anybody else appear in Spencer Leigh's book, The Best of Fellas.

Tower Ballroom, New Brighton: 8 December 1961 (evening)

This photo looks to have been taken during an equipment changeover from the Hurricanes to the Beatles.  John and George are already on stage, Paul is bottom right under the poster and Pete Best is standing above him, chatting to Ringo.

This is one of only two extant photos of the Beatles with both of their drummers in the same frame.

The Beatles back an unknown singer, possibly a member of the audience.

 Davy Jones and the Beatles.

Although it's outside the geographical area of this blog it's worth noting that on 9 December 1961, Sam Leach took the Beatles to Aldershot for their first show down south. The local newspaper failed to carry Sam's advertisement for the show, and as a result only 18 people turned up. You can see all the photos from this gig  here

Following their 9 November introductions, Epstein watched The Beatles at the Cavern Club a number of times over the next few weeks. On 10 December he suggested becoming the band’s manager. They signed a five-year management contract on 24 January 1962.

Tower Ballroom, New Brighton: 15 December 1961

The second photo of the Beatles with both Pete and Ringo in the same image.  The only reason I don't think it was taken on the same day as the first image is because the poster visible behind Paul appears to have disappeared - it should be behind Ringo on the above photo because he's practically sitting in the same spot.

Ringo left the Hurricanes on 30 December1961 and travelled to Hamburg to join Tony Sheridan's band at the Top Ten club. He stayed until around the third week of February 1962 before travelling back to Liverpool to re-join Rory.

Johnny Guitar's diary entry, 30 December 1961:  Ringo going to Hamburg. Went to Lime Street, saw Ringo, (Top Ten club owner Peter) Eckhorn, and Tony Sheridan off.

Meanwhile on 17 December 1961 the Beatles were photographed by Albert Marrion at his studio in Wallasey Village. 17 Photos from the session still exist,and will feature in a future blog.

The Beatles enjoying a pint in the Grapes pub, Mathew Street, after a lunchtime session in the Cavern. Paul poses wearing John's glasses and as we've seen, it wasn't the only occasion. (photographer unknown)

I've seen this dated circa spring 1961 (by Mark Lewisohn in Tune In and others) but given the quality of the photo it's difficult to be precise.  Do John, Paul and George have 'Beatle haircuts' ? Is Pete wearing his 1960 leather bomber jacket, or the longer leather coat he would buy in April 1962?

Coming next (probably)  The Beatles Live! (Liverpool 1962)

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The Beatles Live! (Mark Lewisohn)
The Beatles Chronicle (Mark Lewisohn)
Tune In (Mark Lewisohn)
The Cavern Club Rise of the Beatles and Merseybeat (Spencer Leigh)
The diaries of Johnny 'Guitar' Byrne of Rory Storm and the Hurricanes
Mersey Beat (various issues)(Bill Harry)
Thanks to Grant Adrian Heaton for the upgraded Casbah poster. 

(C) Mark Ashworth, 5 June 2021


  1. Brilliant as usual, Mark. I have all the books cited, plus visit the key websites, yet many of these photos really seem new to me. Although I am sure you have it, Pawlowski's 1989 book 'How They Became the Beatles' was useful for collecting many of the key photos together (although understanding of that period has definitely moved on). A good example are the Marrion pictures, and glad you are going to feature these soon.

  2. In that last picture, George doesn't have a Beatle cut, but John and Paul definitely do (Paul's fringe appears to have been cut quite recently). I'd put it at mid-October, shortly after their return from Paris (and before George copied their hairstyle).

  3. Great.Could spend hours on here.

  4. Great. So easy to get so absorbed in this website that when finally coming out of it, it's a shock to be reminded we're in 2021 - - which is enough to plunge us right back in the website again. Some book publisher should anthologise these blogs if they could just get past enough copyright issues on enough photos. Wouldn't need clearance on all the photos, because the text is the main thing and the astonishing level of research in every blog entry.