The Day John met Paul
Fifty years ago on 6 July 1957 John Lennon & The Quarrymen were playing at St Peter’s Rose Queen Celebrations and Garden Fete in their home village of Woolton - Geoff Rhind’s famous photo of that day is shown below:
They were on stage singing their version of the Del Vikings “Come go with me” when who should arrive but one of their old friends Ivan Vaughan who had brought along a schoolmate from Liverpool Institute High School to watch his friends perform. That schoolmate was of course Paul McCartney and that was the moment The Beatles began. Later that day Paul met John face to face and demonstrated his prowess on the guitar. John realised that he had to persuade the talented Paul to join the Quarrymen and a few weeks later he became part of the group.
In 1997 in Woolton there was a celebration of the 40th Anniversary of their meeting and of course there is no way that the 50th Anniversary could go by unnoticed.
FRIDAY 6 JULY:
On the morning of Friday 6th July Colin fitted in several radio interviews before lunch then joined Rod for Norwegian radio at BBC Merseyside where we met our friend Terje Solbakken who had won a prize as Norway’s biggest Beatle fan, and there he was now presenting a radio programme visiting Beatles haunts in Liverpool and interviewing people who were involved over the years.
Rod and Colin then went over to the Beatles Story Museum where they were filmed for Granada tv and for BBC tv Manchester after which they were interviewed in the replica Cavern by the Beatles Story Marketing Manager, Jamie and answered questions from members of the audience.
Then Colin hot footed it home to collect his drums and went off to Woolton for a sound check, whilst Rod dropped in at the Billy Butler show at the Radio Merseyside studios. He enjoyed the usual repartee and insult swapping with Billy and then sped off in the direction of Woolton.
At St Peter’s Church Hall in Woolton, the scene of the fateful meeting between John and Paul, the hall had already been immaculately set out with beautifully decorated tables ready for the concert and buffet to start at 7.30. The other artists appearing that evening, the “Please y’ Self” Skiffle Group and singer Liam Bailey were already there, sorting out the sound system.
Len was able to make the Church service in St Peter’s, led by the Bishop of Liverpool, but Rod and Colin unfortunately had to stay behind to help to sort out the PA system.
Colin Hall, the curator of ”Mendips”, read out some messages of goodwill from Her Majesty the Queen, Sir Paul McCartney, and Mrs Yoko Ono Lennon and then introduced Liam Bailey with his accompanist and the show got under way. Liam sang some great stuff, including of course some Beatles classics, to the great delight of the many fans in the audience. After the buffet was served, Whispering Bob Harris of Whistle Test fame, who had produced the excellent radio programme about the first meeting of John and Paul which had aired on 26 June this year, introduced the Quarrymen. We were one short as John Duff Lowe, who was travelling up from Bristol, had suffered a breakdown on the M6 and had to be towed to Liverpool. However, in Duff’s absence, Len, Colin and Rod, supported by guest electric bass player Frank Cairns and guest Tea chest bassist Jane Enenko, together with various invited members of the audience who sat in on washboard, provided the audience with a selection of significant numbers from the Quarrymen’s history. They even wore check shirts in a tribute to their 1957 stage uniform.
After the Quarrymen’s set had ended (they played the interval set just as in 1957) ”Please y’Self” skiffle group continued to entertain the audience whilst the Quarrymen sped off to play a short set at the Cavern to take out the night! Fortunately Duff had managed to reach Liverpool at last and was able to make it to the Cavern in time.
Sat 7 July:
Saturday afternoon saw the lads at Bishop Martin School in Woolton, behind St Peter’s Church. This was the site of the St Peter’s Rose Queen of 1957 and the PTA of the school, led by Angela Gillespie, were responsible for taking on the mammoth task of organising all the Woolton Celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the Day John met Paul. BBC tv Manchester were filming for their forthcoming documentary on the Quarrymen, and they took time out with Geoff Rhind, the photographer who took the famous photo of John Lennon and the Quarrymen in 1957, trying to identify the exact spot on which the stage had been all those years before. Thanks to Angela Gillespie, who had realised the significance of a tiny detail in Geoff’s photo which had somehow gone unnoticed for 50 years - namely a small cross on the roof of St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church which was visible in the background - it was possible for the first time to pinpoint the place with certainty - a tremendous achievement!
Then it was back to St Peter’s Church Hall for a soundcheck before the evening concert. Mike Byrne of the “Jukebox Eddies” was there sorting out the wires. It was all just about ready to go by 7.30 as the first members of the audience came through the doors. First on stage was Ged Scott, a great piano player who entertained us with a wide range of songs from Beatles to mood music. He was followed by the first instalment of the Jukebox Eddies led by Mike Byrne, four guys absolutely buzzing with zip and energy, who specialise in fifties rock ‘n’ roll, just the right music to set the stage for the Quarrymen. After the buffet supper the Quarrymen came on stage, now complete with pianist John Duff Lowe, and sang and chatted their way through the next hour or so, playing such numbers as “Rock Island Line, “Baby, let’s play house”, “Putting on the style”, “Come go with me”, “Twenty Flight Rock”, all of which feature heavily in the history of the 6th July 1957. Finally the Jukebox Eddies reappeared, now resplendent in all their Teddy Boy finery to take out the evening witha blistering set of Rock ‘n’ Roll which had the audience jiving their socks off.
Sunday 8 July:
Sunday dawned rather damp and stormy, maybe even more so than 6 July 1957. The Bishop Martin School PTA had been working for hours getting their school field ready for the big event and we were all hoping that the rain would keep off, however the weather decided to be unkind and the earlier acts who appeared on stage were accompanied by showers which nevertheless did not dampen the spirits of the audience. First band on stage were the Merseycats, followed by Merseycats 2, then “Soul Free”, all of whom gave of their very best despite the rain. Last act before the Quarrymen were the dancers from the MD Productions dance team who had won the Capital of Culture Streetwaves music competition.
As the time came for the Quarrymen to take the stage the heavens cleared and the sun came out from behind the few remaining clouds and the atmosphere started to feel more like a classic English village celebration as macs were put away and umbrellas folded. Compere Mike Byrne introduced the Quarrymen to an enthusiastic audience which included a fair sprinkling of people who had been there fifty years previously, together with visitors from literally all over the world. The Quarrymen once again played the significant numbers from their history, together with other skiffle and rock ‘n’ roll numbers from their 1950’s repertoire. They were occasionally joined by various members of the audience who sat in on washboard and electric bass.
It was an emotional moment for everyone when the last notes of the Quarrymen’s final number died away, looking back fifty years and thinking how the casual meeting of John Lennon and Paul McCartney which took place in Woolton in 1957 had changed popular music - and maybe even the world - for ever.
After the Quarrymen the stage was taken over by Pete Wylie, who was followed by the Merseybeatles, whose interpretations of the Beatles classics reminded the audience of how the talents of John and Paul had blended with George and Ringo to produce some of the greatest music of all time.
Thanks go to all those involved in making the 50th Anniversary celebrations such a success, especially the members of the Bishop Martin PTA and their friends, to the Vicar, Curate and Churchwarden of St Peter’s, to Bob Harris and Colin Hall, to Mike Byrne and to all those musicians and dancers who took part. What a fantastic weekend it was and we are all looking forward to the sixtieth anniversary!