'Four Young Men From Liverpool, England'


The year is 1961 and Beat has now taken over Tuesday nights, some lunch times and Wednesdays at the club. Jazz and all its genres is slowly fading in The Cavern, and on Thursday 8th February 1961 it is practically 'put to sleep' when The Beatles make their Cavern debut in a lunchtime session. They were paid the princely sum of £5 for this performance which was the start of what was soon to be called Mersey Beat and a sound that was to take over the world. The Beatles, who at this time also included Johnís school friend Stuart Sutcliffe on bass, had just returned from Hamburg, Germany, where they had technically come on leaps and bounds in their playing. All, that is, except for Stuart whose performance on the bass was very limited, his fingers more attuned to fine art than picking out riffs on his newly-acquired Hofner President bass guitar. However, he looked the part and to John Lennon this mattered just as much as the music - the rest of them could cover for him. He was a 'Beatle' and they were all going places - all for one and one for all.


The Beatles rock The Cavern 1962
The somewhat 'workhouse - like' German clubs demanded that bands play up to eight hours a night, every night, which in anyone's terms is an awful lot of playing. Their time in Hamburg was, without a doubt, beneficial to the band's overall appeal. They looked better (leather clad), sounded better and essentially discovered how to pull in a crowd. Their debut was an instant success with the locals and accordingly they were booked again and again. The band was immediately given three to four lunchtime slots per week, as well as most weekends.

Promotional postcard picture

Very quickly The Beatles began to develop a strong rapport with the audiences who just couldn't get enough of them. In fact, in a matter of weeks, The Cavern had to introduce pre-purchased tickets in an attempt to keep the Mathew Street queues at bay. This backfired somewhat on McFall in that the exclusiveness of tickets quite simply increased interest and, thus, the number of those hanging around outside the club. The Beatles had acquired their first prize - Liverpool.


'The Mersey Sound Takes a Grip'

While The Beatles continued to 'wow' crowds in The Cavern, and then the rest of the country, more and more new bands began to grace the Cavern stage. Cilla Black, real name Priscilla White, was a former office typist who would wander down The Cavern at lunch times to watch the bands perform. She was such a regular sight at the club that she was offered a job as the club's cloakroom attendant. At times, after the afternoon sessions, she would jokingly sing along to the bands rehearsing on the stage. She was actually very good and was, from then on, always egged on by the bands to get up on the stage and sing at an actual session. Thus one of the UKís most famous female singing stars started a showbusiness career which is still going strong today. The music scene in Liverpool was a thriving one - in 1960 there were over 400 bands performing in the city, many of whom would go on to achieve worldwide fame while others would fade away into obscurity.

Beatles 1962
The Beatles in 'the best of cellars' 1962

A Beatle's-eye view of The Cavern

Of the most successful of these bands, The Swinging Blue Jeans, The Big Three and The Searchers were all enjoying success at the club, but it was Gerry and The Pacemakers who were the most notable opposition to The Beatles' stranglehold on the club. The band made many appearances with The Beatles at The Cavern and, at one point, Gerry Marsden himself actually joined The Beatles, for one night only, as a stand-in for John Lennon! This 'helping out' in each other's bands wasn't too uncommon at The Cavern and, in fact, this great camaraderie amongst the groups at the club was said to be the essence of the whole Mersey beat scene.