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  1. Abbey Road (album)
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The Quarrymen

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


The Quarry Men (sometimes Quarrymen) ([1957]-[1960])were a little-known English skiffle group formed around Liverpool in March 1957 by John Lennon. They were named after Quarry Bank school, which they all attended. The band eventually evolved into The Beatles.


When John Lennon decided that he wanted to play music, he recruited his best friend, Pete Shotton, to his embryonic group. Lennon was to be the singer and guitarist. Shotton was relegated to washboard; a common skiffle instrument. After just one week as "The Black Jacks", they renamed themselves "The Quarry Men," after a line in their school song at Quarry Bank Grammar School and a week later they recruited a friend from that school, Bill Smith to play tea chest bass, despite Shotton's protestations as he had recently been involved in a fight with Smith.

Smith was of a similar calibre to Shotton, and soon began to be sidelined when first Rod Davis (banjo) and Eric Griffiths (guitar) joined the band, as these two could play instruments reasonably well. Smith was eventually replaced by Len Garry and The Quarry Men performed at parties and skiffle contests around Liverpool, with the addition of Colin Hanton on drums. When Hanton joined the band he owned a drum set bought with his earnings as an apprentice upholsterer and then had the name "The Quarry Men" painted on the drum head.

With the recruitment of Len Garry as a more permanent bassist, the Quarrymen entered the Carroll Levis Discoveries Show talent contest on 9 June 1957 but they failed to qualify for the preliminary audition.

Two weeks later (on 22 June) the Quarry Men played twice at an outdoor party in Rosebery Street to celebrate the 750th anniversary of the granting of Liverpool’s charter by King John.

On 6 July 1957 the band played at St. Peter's Church garden fête. In the afternoon they played on a temporary stage in a field behind the church. After the set, Ivan Vaughan, an occasional tea chest bass player with the band, introduced Paul McCartney to John Lennon while the band was setting up in the church hall for the second set. McCartney showed the band how to tune a guitar and sang Eddie Cochran's "Twenty Flight Rock" and Gene Vincent's "Be-Bop-A-Lula" to his own guitar accompaniment. The evening show started at 8 p.m. and cost two shillings admission. Audience member Bob Molyneux recorded part of the evening performance on a Grundig portable reel-to-reel tape recorder. Two weeks later, meeting McCartney while cycling through Woolton, Pete Shotton, on behalf of John and the group, invited McCartney to join them.

Nigel Whalley, the ex-tea chest bass player who was currently managing the band, got the Quarry Men a booking at Lee Park Golf Club in Liverpool. Alan Sytner, owner of the Cavern club, was a member of the golf club. The band subsequently appeared several times in what were billed as “Skiffle Sessions” and in August 1957, their name was first mentioned in the Cavern's advertisement in the Liverpool Echo, by which time Pete Shotton had left the band, due to his lack of any real musical talent. Rod Davis followed a short time later as school commitments prevented him from contributing as fully as he would have liked.

McCartney made his debut with the band at The New Clubmoor Hall on Back Broadway on Friday, 18 October when he returned from his summer holidays. The band had been booked by local promoter Charlie McBain and they wore matching outfits with long-sleeved cowboy shirts, black string ties and black trousers. John and Paul wore white sports-coats. Paul played lead guitar but botched a solo, embarrassing himself and the group. To save face with John, during a break he played him "I've Lost My Little Girl"—his recently-finished first song, which inspired John to also start writing. The other members of the band that night were Hanton on drums, Garry on tea-chest bass and Griffiths on guitar.

On Thursday, 7 November, McBain booked The Quarry Men to appear at Wilson Hall, Garston. They also played Stanley Abattoir Social Club on 16 November, New Clubmoor Hall on 23 November and Wilson Hall on 7 December.

The Quarry Men played The New Clubmoor Hall on 10 January 1958 and at The Cavern on 24 January. Because John was losing interest in skiffle and playing more rock ‘n’ roll, Rod Davis left the band in February 1958. Paul McCartney's friend and school mate, George Harrison first saw them on 6 February at playing at Wilson Hall for Charlie McBain and he joined the band two weeks later.

In March, Len Garry contracted tuberculosis (from which he later recovered) and was thus sidelined from the band. To fill the gap that his loss created, Eric Griffiths was invited to step down from his position of guitarist and take over the bass duties. He refused, and was sacked from the band.

Not long after this, John Charles Lowe, nicknamed ‘Duff’, joined the band, playing piano with them through the Summer of 1958. On 23 March the band performed at the opening night of Alan Caldwell’s cellar club, The Morgue in Broadgreen.

In the summer of 1958 the band (comprising Lennon, McCartney, Harrison, Hanton and Lowe) recorded a 78rpm acetate demo of two songs at Percy Phillips’s studio at 58 Kensington; the first was an original McCartney/Harrison tune called "In Spite of All the Danger"; the other was a cover of Buddy Holly's "That'll Be the Day".

Lowe left the band in the autumn of 1958 and the band continued to play regularly including the wedding reception of Harrison's brother Harry in Speke, on 20 December. After just two more performances (on 1 January at a Speke Bus Depot social club party at Wilson Hall organized by Harrison’s father, and on 24 January at a party at Woolton Village Club) Colin Hanton quit the band after a drunken argument. He was not replaced, and the band slowly disintegrated.

Lennon and McCartney continued to write songs together and Harrison joined The Les Stewart Quartet with Les Stewart and Ken Brown. When Mrs Mona Best opened the Casbah coffee club on 29 August 1959, Ken Brown arranged for the quartet to be its resident band. When Brown missed rehearsals to help decorate The Casbah, Les Stewart refused to play with the band. Brown and Harrison recruited Lennon and McCartney at short notice to help them fill the residency, and the new band used the old name ‘The Quarrymen’. On 10 October there was an argument between the band and Mrs Best, and The Quarrymen walked out of The Casbah, ending their residency.

The band next appeared as Johnny And The Moondogs at The Carroll Levis Auditions at The Empire Theatre, Liverpool. By May 1960, Lennon, McCartney and Harrison had been joined by Stuart Sutcliffe, and drummer Pete Best. They tried several other names, including the Silver Beetles, before shortening that to The Beatles for their performances in Hamburg in August 1960.


Recent history

Len Garry, John Duff Lowe and Rod Davis reformed as a band for a short time in the 1990s and an album Open For Engagements was released in 1994.

In 1994, Bob Molyneux, then a retired policeman, rediscovered the recordings that he had made of the Quarry Men concert in 1957. The scratchy recordings included covers of Lonnie Donegan's "Puttin' On The Style" and Elvis Presley's "Baby, Let's Play House". On 15 September 1994 Molyneux put his tape up for auction at Sotheby's. The tape sold to EMI for £78,500, making it the most expensive recording ever sold at auction, but the recording quality was too poor to issue and the tape remains in the EMI archives.

In January 1997 the Cavern Mecca invited all the bands who had played at the Cavern in the 1950s to the unveiling of the “Cavern Wall of Fame” in Mathew Street to celebrate the club's 40th birthday. All five of the surviving original Quarrymen and John Duff Lowe attended, and that evening they gave an impromptu performance on stage with Gary Gibson standing in for John Lennon, and Lawrence Gilmour for Paul McCartney.

That evening they were asked to help recreate the occasion of the Lennon - McCartney meeting at Woolton fête. Initially reluctant, the band were persuaded to help the Church Hall Restoration Fund, and the concert took place at the fête on 6 July 1997, exactly forty years after the original gig. The band toured the village in the fête procession, playing on the back of a lorry with their original 1957 driver. At the evening concert in the Church Hall the band played "Putting On The Style" which Bob Molyneux had recorded 40 years earlier. They also played the number that had persuaded Lennon to invite McCartney to join the band: "Twenty Flight Rock". The set ended with Pete Shotton's first public solo performance: as a tribute to his friend John Lennon he sang "Imagine".

On the back of this success The Original Quarrymen (Shotton, Griffiths, Davis, Garry and Hanton) recorded an album Get Back - Together, which was released in September 1997 and launched at the Beatlefans Convention at the Playhouse, Derby on Sunday, 9 November 1997.

The band subsequently toured Europe, Canada, Cuba, the USA and Japan. Their album Songs We Remember was released in Japan in 2003 and released in the UK in January 2005, by which time Pete Shotton had long since quit. With the death of Eric Griffiths in early 2005, the band was forced to reassess itself, and eventually settled for recruiting John Duff Lowe to the pianist's seat and continuing the act in that form.

External links

  • Original Quarrymen
  • Catherine E. Doyle: "From Blackjacks to Beatles: How the Fab Four Evolved"
  • The Quarry Men's First Recordings
  • Ken Brown
  • VH1 Biography of The Quarrymen
  • Quarry Men line-ups


  • Ed Chen and Saki, The Beatles Anthology (1995). Retrieved August 31 2005.
  • Donald Clarke, The Penguin Encyclopedia Of Popular Music, (London: Penguin, 1989)
  • Hunter Davies, The Quarrymen, (London: Omnibus Press, 2001)
  • Andy Davis, 'Inside The Beatles Anthology', Record Collector, November 1995
  • Peter Doggett, 'The Bits I Left Uptown,"', Record Collector, December 1995
  • Bill Harry, The Ultimate Beatles Encyclopedia, (London: Virgin Publications, 1992)
  • John Lennon, In His Own Write, (London: Jonathan Cape, 1964)
  • Mark Lewisohn, The Beatles Live!, (London: Pavilion Books, 1986)
  • Pete Shotton and Nicholas Shaffner, John Lennon—In My Life, (New York: Stein and Day, 1983)
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