It was Liverpool, 1956, and a would-be art student, before beginning art classes, decided to get some school chums together and start a band.
John Lennon couldnt read musicand never did learnbut it didnt matter. They would call themselves The Quarrymen.
The most famous group in the history of popular music began on this
rather shaky basis, going on from there to an even more haphazard assemblage.
During one of their gigs in a church hall, a left-handed guitar player wandered in t o see what was going on. Within a week, John asked the lefty, Paul McCartney, to join them.
Then Paul brought over a fellow from his school. He was only 15 years old, but at least he could play, so George Harrison was asked to join the group. They renamed themselves Johnny and the Moondogs.
An art student from Johns school became their newest member when he sold a painting for $60, and after some urging from the others, used his cash to buy a guitarthough he didnt yet know how to play it.
Now called the Silver Beatles, they did a disastrous tour in Scotland, and then hired Pete Best. His big advantage was that his mother had a coffee bar, and gave them jobs, which meant eating money. He was immediately proclaimed their drummer, until he eventually left, and Ringo Starr took on the job.
They were always roughly dressed, and worked in even rougher night spots, including strip bars, in Scotland and later Hamburg where they drank incessantly.
Their biggest break at the time came on their return to Liverpool, when
a street-smart promoter named Brian Epstein dropped in to hear the music, and became their manager. He cleaned them up, dressed them in what became their signature style, and had their frowsy hair cut and trimmed into the Beatles look.
Things began to improve a bit; they went on the road with a little more success. Rock and roll had reached Englands shores and, transmuted, affected their sound. They made a record, and almost simultaneously, Peter Stringfellow entered their life.
He was a club promoter in Sheffield, barely their age, who was hiring inexpensive halls and presenting little knownand cheapmusical groups. They were delighted when he signed a contract with Epstein for them to appear in a church basement, St.Aidans.
Four months elapsed before the gig; meanwhile, amazingly, their record was starting to climb to the top of the charts. Stringfellow, no slacker, proved then and and later (as owner of a string of sleek clubs in London, New York, Dublin and more) that he could make the most of an opportunity. He saw to it that the word got out, and as he says, The whole of Great Britain was coming to hear them, I had to move them to a ballroom.
Today a millionaire plus, (though he has been bankrupt, and back again) no one who ever visited his New York club could forget his showmanship. Each night there was a trumpet fanfare and a burst of smoke when the dance floor section opened, revealing to the diners the transparent flooring embedded with neon streamers and a glowing Stringfellow butterfly. Out stepped Peter, the King of Clubs, as he became known, to speak intimately to the group as if they were all his lifelong friends.
From that early break of catching and showcasing a little-known group, Peter never looked back.
Neither did the Beatles. Finally it was on to America and world renown, as the four friends started down that long, winding road