Wednesday 12 June 2024

Remembering Tony Bramwell

4 June 2024

Tony Bramwell, the Beatles' friend and associate has died, age 78.

Tony Bramwell

I went to bed last night as the news started to come through, and I was hoping that it wasn't true, but on waking this morning posts have started appearing on Facebook and elsewhere stating that Tony Bramwell has passed.

Tony grew up in Hunts Cross, an area of Liverpool between Halewood, Speke and Woolton, practically the same spot as where I live now. He went to the same school as my Dad (Hillfoot Hey) so when we finally met we already had that local connection.

26 Hillfoot Avenue, Hunts Cross: Tony's former home where George Harrison delivered meat  

In his teens he met George Harrison who was working as a butcher’s delivery boy in Hunts Cross. They had a mutual love of music and started hanging out together. Tony once showed me a scar which he said he’d had since George Harrison accidentally caught him with a ‘tomahawk’ during a game of Cowboys and Indians up on the appropriately named Camp Hill in Woolton.

They lost touch for a bit while George was off being a Quarry Man and eventually a Beatle.  They reconnected in 1961 when they met on a bus.  Tony was going to a concert at Litherland Town Hall. When George told him he was actually playing there that night, Tony asked to carry George's guitar into the venue (as a roadie) so he could get in for free. A friendship was forged.

Paul and George with 'Measles' backstage , summer 1963. 

Filming 'The Mersey Sound' documentary in Admiral Grove, Liverpool on 30 August 1963. Tony is standing directly above George in the suit and tie.

The final UK tour, December 1965. Tony watches from the wings, arms folded.

Tony’s initials were the abbreviation for Tuberculosis, so naturally John Lennon nicknamed him ‘Measles’. An alternative, less charitable origin story of the nickname is that John thought he was all over George ‘like a rash’, but regardless, Tony entered the Beatles inner circle, and never really left, leaving his apprenticeship at the brand-new Ford Factory in Halewood to work as an office boy at NEMS for Brian Epstein (who Tony absolutely loved to the end) and later for The Beatles at Apple. Post 1970 he became a successful promoter in the music and film industry.

Tony, Neil Aspinall, John Lennon and Swedish director Peter Goldmann on the Kings Road, 1967 during filming for the Penny Lane promo.

Tony and Mal Evans make a cameo appearance as butlers in the Penny Lane video filmed in Knole Park, Sevenoaks, Kent in late January-early February 1967.
Tony and Ringo in EMI, June 1967 while Paul tries something out on the piano.

One of the last photos of Brian Epstein taken during the All You Need Is Love session in June 1967. Also pictured are Peter Brown and Tony, while Alastair Taylor chats with Eric Clapton and companion in the background.
Tony makes another appearance in a Beatles video, this time carrying a sandwich board during the All  You Need Is Love finale. (Our World, 25 June 1967)

30 June 1968. Paul conducts the Black Dyke Mills Band recording 'Thingumybob' in Saltaire, near Bradford. Tony looks on.

The same month Paul and Tony (both seen here wearing Elvis style shades) flew to Los Angeles on Apple business.

In 2000 Tony came out of retirement to promote the music of the late Eva Cassidy. He took it to the producer of Terry Wogan’s huge morning show on Radio 2, who listened because of Tony’s lineage. The result instantly resonated with British listeners, generating snowballing sales. Just before Christmas 2000, after Top of the Pops 2 played a blurry video of Cassidy singing Over the Rainbow, the album soared to the top of the UK chart.  Tony's appearance promoting Cassidy on Richard and Judy (then still filmed in the Albert Dock studio) is on Youtube.  Of course, in more recent years, many of you will have seen Tony appear as a talking head in various Beatles' documentaries.

In 2005, Tony published his memoir, ‘Magical Mystery Tours, My Life With The Beatles’ which made the UK top ten best sellers list.

Like the man himself the book was charming, nostalgic, full of dry wit and often painfully (and for the most part, amusingly) forthright in its opinions of some of the people who managed to penetrate the Beatles’ inner sanctum, and on occasion of the Beatles themselves.  In preparation for writing this blog I thought I’d open the book at random and see if any sentences jumped out.

‘Alan Klein was fat and grubby.’

A few paragraphs on, he concedes ‘and there is no doubt he was amusing and good company’.

No punches are thrown when it comes to Yoko Ono, ‘an artist of mass destruction’.  Barely a page goes by where her name is not accompanied by a scathing comment. It’s clear Tony placed the blame for the Beatles’ breakup squarely on her shoulders:

‘From the moment Yoko was inflicted on the Beatles, the atmosphere became grim…she was such a core of negativity that she sucked the air out of the room whenever she entered’.

He was quite the man about town in the late 1960s and met everybody who was anybody. Everyone knew him as ‘The Beatles’ Tony’ and he admits in the book that many of those who sought his company did so in the hope that the next time they met he’d have one of the Beatles with him. The list of celebrities he met was endless.  The book details his encounters with the Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Michael Caine, Sean Connery, a young Bruce Springsteen, Demis Roussos, Vangelis, Joan Collins, her sister Jackie, and even their little brother, Phil.  His original manuscript included a lot about his time in the seventies, but it was cut by the publishers who only wanted the Beatles’ bits.

For the casual fan, it’s a great read, and it is, but it should be approached with caution. Long time fans with more knowledge of the Beatles’ history recognise that some of his anecdotes don’t stack up. 

I doubt for example that Mary McCartney, Tony’s mother, and Julia Lennon all knew each other through sharing the same bus into town, although it IS possible that they DID all get the same bus, as they all lived roughly along the same bus route.  Tony claimed he was at the Woolton Village fete where John first met Paul, and again it’s possible that he was. My Dad lived in Woolton at that time, and he once told me that the annual fete was a big event for the village, drawing a big crowd, because back then ‘there wasn’t much else to do.’ My Dad and his family attended. It's not improbable that the Bramwells were there too, including Tony who would have been around 11 at the time. But was he there when the fateful introductions were made? I would have to say no. 

That aside, for the most part I’m prepared to go easy on him on his recollections of the early Liverpool days. As for the anecdotes in the period between 1963-1970, take them with a pinch of salt.  He WAS there from the beginning until the end of this period, absolutely, and although I wouldn’t go so far as to paint him as a Walter Mitty character, I think over the years some of his stories place him in a far more central role than he perhaps was. Did he do this to elevate his own importance? Perhaps, but knowing him a little I'd just as soon as say it was more likely just out of sheer devilment.

Aware that he had been planning a revised version of his book for some time, I asked him during one of our catch ups in Liverpool what he would be including that wasn’t in the first edition. Tellingly he replied: "More shit!".

It's a shame really. As you can see from the photos I've selected to accompany this blog, Tony was there at significant points in the Beatles story, and had enough interesting stories to tell of his own.

Former Hillfoot Hey boys: Tony Bramwell with David Birch

When I started my blog and Facebook group in 2009, Tony was one of the first people to reach out to me and join my group, alongside John Lennon's cousin David Birch. I couldn’t believe I had actual Beatles family members and friends in my group.  Not only that, but they would also willingly answer any questions I had in connection with my blogs and research, perhaps because I was only ever asking about their Liverpool memories (e.g. where was "Tabletop" Bridge?) and not banal 'What was John Lennon's favourite colour' type questions.

I had already read Tony's book before he got in contact, so I was wary of pinning him down on specific Beatles' events, but I always found he responded to questions about people and places in Liverpool a lot more earnestly, and to his credit they always checked out. 

That both Tony and David would message me whenever they came across something they knew I'd find of interest, or on the occasion when THEY needed help, gave me assurance that they didn't consider me just another hysterical fan who only wanted  to tap them for their Beatles knowledge.  Amusingly, Tony once messaged me in a bit of a panic because he was booked to give a talk about the Beatles promotional films - 'my little films' as he called them - and realised he didn't have copies.  I quickly put them all on a USB stick and sent them recorded delivery to his home in Totnes, saving his bacon. A few weeks later a little envelope arrived enclosing a couple of NEMS promotional cards.  He’d send me pictures of where he (and I still) lived with amusingly dry captions.  And I know he did this to lots of people, he was a sociable guy and enjoyed communicating with Beatles fans, if only for the amusement of winding up the more hysterical ones.

After years of messaging on Facebook, I first met Tony (and David Birch coincidentally) in person in July 2017 in Woolton, again rather appropriately at the 60th anniversary of the Church fete.  What I always remember about that day was that they both approached me, calling me by name. It was like meeting old friends.

Sadly, we lost David not long ago and now Tony has gone too.

I last saw him in August at the Beatles convention where he was one of the guest speakers.  He looked frailer than in recent years, but his memory was sharp, and he was still as outspoken as ever on certain subjects to the amusement of the audience.

A few months earlier, he'd been booked to appear at an event at Roag Best's Liverpool Beatles Museum but had taken ill on the train on the journey up and hadn't made it. We suspected a heart attack but when I asked him if he was ok, he said it was all a fuss about nothing, he'd had ‘a senior moment’ and simply tripped over his suitcase getting on the train and injured himself.  I’m wondering now if he was deliberately playing it down.

August 2023, me, Tony, Jean Catharell and Mark Lewisohn, Liverpool

He was always active on Facebook so when he disappeared around Christmastime it was immediately noticed. A lot of people thought a lot of him, me included. When our private messages went unanswered, we started to get worried about him and eventually got word that he had been in hospital but was now getting the care he needed.

Sadly, Tony’s passing is another reminder of how the Beatles’ story is gradually shifting from lived history to recorded history.

The Beatles broke up 50 years ago, so anyone connected to the story who we have the privilege of meeting won't be around for ever.  The news is full of stories this week about the 80th anniversary of D-Day and the ever-decreasing number of veterans who are still will us. That set me thinking about who we actually have left in the Beatles' story at this point:

Paul, Ringo, Pete.

Len Garry, Rod Davis, Colin Hanton, Bill Smith, Nigel Walley, Charlie Roberts. Geoff Rhind. Doug Chadwick.

Klaus, Jurgen and Horst.

Mike McCartney, Harry and Irene Harrison, Julia Baird and Jackie Dykins. Michael Cadwaller, Freda Kelly, Bill Harry, Peter Brown, Iris Caldwell, Thelma McGough, Helen Anderson.

We must cherish them.


I'll raise a glass to you Tony and think of you every time I drive past your old house on Hillfoot Avenue, or watch one of your 'little films'. I'll remember you as a bit of an old rascal, amusingly indiscreet about your amorous liaisons*, and deliciously forthright in your opinions of a certain Ms Ono, whether she deserved it or not, and how you were never dismissive of my questions, however trivial you might have thought them.

My sincere condolences to his family. Sleep well mate. 🍻❤️


* Among them Christine 'Profumo' Keeler, the writer Virginia Ironside and Rosemary Frankland, the 1961 Miss World who had a bit part as a showgirl in ‘A Hard Day’s Night’.  You didn’t meet girls like this in Hunts Cross.


Mark Ashworth, 4 June 2024.

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