John Lennon meets Paul McCartney Saturday 6 July 1957
Here are two accounts of that meeting:
6 July 1957 was a pivotal day for the history of modern music: it was the day that John Lennon met Paul McCartney for the first time.
In the afternoon the Quarrymen skiffle group played at the garden fete of St Peter’s Church, Woolton, Liverpool. The performance took place on a stage in a field behind the church. In the band were Lennon (vocals, guitar), Eric Griffiths (guitar), Colin Hanton (drums), Rod Davies (banjo), Pete Shotton (washboard) and Len Garry (tea chest bass).
The group arrived on the back of a lorry. As well as music, there were craft and cake stalls, games of hoop-la, police dog demonstrations and the traditional crowning of the Rose Queen. The fete was a highlight of the year for the residents of the sleepy Liverpool district.
The entertainment began at two p.m. with the opening procession, which entailed one or two wonderfully festooned lorries crawling at a snail’s pace through the village on their ceremonious way to the Church field. The first lorry carried the Rose Queen, seated on her throne, surrounded by her retinue, all dressed in pink and white satin, sporting long ribbons and hand-made roses in their hair. These girls had been chosen from the Sunday school groups, on the basis of age and good behaviour.
The following lorry carried various entertainers, including the Quarry Men. The boys were up there on the back of the moving lorry trying to stay upright and play their instruments at the same time. John gave up battling with balance and sat with his legs hanging over the edge, playing his guitar and singing. He continued all through the slow, slow journey as the lorry puttered its way along. Jackie and I leaped alongside the lorry, with our mother laughing and waving at John, making him laugh. He seemed to be the only one who was really trying to play and we were really trying to put him off!
That evening the group were due to play again, minus Colin Hanton, this time at the Grand Dance in the church hall on the other side of the road. They were due on stage at 8pm, and admission to the show, in which the Quarrymen alternated on stage with the George Edwards Band, was two shillings.
While setting up their equipment to play, the Quarrymen’s sometime tea-chest bass player, Ivan Vaughan, introduced the band to one of his classmates from Liverpool Institute, the 15-year-old Paul McCartney.
This historic occasion was the first time McCartney met John Lennon, one year his senior. McCartney wore a white jacket with silver flecks, and a pair of black drainpipe trousers.
The pair chatted for a few minutes, and McCartney showed Lennon how to tune a guitar – the instruments owned by Lennon and Griffiths were in G banjo tuning. McCartney then sang Eddie Cochran’s ‘Twenty Flight Rock’ and Gene Vincent’s ‘Be-Bop-A-Lula’, along with a medley of songs by Little Richard.
Paul McCartney, 1995
“I remember coming into the fete and seeing all the sideshows. And also hearing all this great music wafting in from this little Tannoy system. It was John and the band. I remember I was amazed and thought, ‘Oh great’, because I was obviously into the music. I remember John singing a song called ‘Come Go With Me’. He’d heard it on the radio. He didn’t really know the verses, but he knew the chorus. The rest he just made up himself.
I just thought, ‘Well, he looks good, he’s singing well and he seems like a great lead singer to me.’ Of course, he had his glasses off, so he really looked suave. I remember John was good. He was really the only outstanding member, all the rest kind of slipped away.”
Lennon was equally impressed with McCartney, who showed natural talent for singing songs that the Quarrymen worked hard to accomplish. McCartney also recalled performing on the church hall piano.
I also knocked around on the backstage piano and that would have been ‘A Whole Lot Of Shakin’’ by Jerry Lee. That’s when I remember John leaning over, contributing a deft right hand in the upper octaves and surprising me with his beery breath. It’s not that I was shocked, it’s just that I remember this particular detail.
The Quarrymen’s set, remarkably, was recorded by an audience member, Bob Molyneux, on his portable Grundig reel-to-reel tape recorder. In 1994 Molyneux, then a retired policeman, rediscovered the tape, which contained scratchy recordings of the band performing Lonnie Donegan’s ‘Puttin’ On The Style’ and Elvis Presley’s ‘Baby, Let’s Play House’.
The tape was sold on 15 September 1994 at Sotheby’s for £78,500. At the time it was the most expensive recording ever sold at auction. The winning bidder was EMI Records, who considered it for release as part of the Anthology project but chose not to as the sound quality was substandard.
After the Quarrymen’s show the group, along with Ivan Vaughan and McCartney, went to a Woolton pub where they lied about their ages to get served.
Later on, Lennon and Pete Shotton discussed the young McCartney, and whether to invite him to join their group. For Lennon it was a dilemma – should he admit a talented member who may pose a challenge to his own superiority within the group, or should he persist without McCartney, retaining his leadership yet likely consigning the group to failure?
They decided McCartney would be an asset, and roughly two weeks later Shotton encountered McCartney cycling through Woolton. Paul mulled over the invitation to join, and eventually agreed to join the Quarrymen’s ranks.
ACCOUNT 2 This account was published in 2017 at the 60th Anniversary of the meeting
July 6, 1957 was the day Paul McCartney and John Lennon had their first encounter during a church fete at St. Peter’s Church in Liverpool.
It was a humble little meeting that turned out to be one of the most historic in rock history. So it’s fitting that the church this week is the site of five days of celebrations with a variety of events that will include a Beatles-themed service by the Rev. Kip Crooks, dances, parties, sing-alongs and a rose-planting ceremony in the church yard.
Those who were present on that fateful day all those years ago recall an ordinary encounter. Rod Davis, still today a member of The Quarrymen that was John Lennon’s band on that day in 1957 — and he will perform again this week — said in an interview with this writer in 2015 he didn’t recall McCartney. “I don’t remember seeing Paul at all that day. I remember seeing Ivan Vaughan, who was the lad who brought him, but I don’t remember seeing Paul.” He said when the band got back together in 1997, “there were five of us and we came up with about seven different scenarios as to what happened.” He said for a laugh he changed the story as a joke to “I probably went for a pee at the most significant moment in rock ‘n’ roll history.”
But he told the Cavern in a series of interviews to mark the 60th anniversary that it was likely the band was performing when McCartney arrived. “Apparently, we were on stage playing the Del-Vikings doo wop number ‘Come Go With Me,’ and Paul arrived on his bicycle and saw us playing,’ he said. “It was somebody we didn’t know, Paul, who met someone we did know. It wasn’t a big deal. You explain this to people, particularly Americans, and they expect there to be angels hiding behind clouds blowing trumpets. It’s all terribly, terribly a non event – except in hindsight.”
According to Mark Lewisohn’s book All These Years, Volume 1 – Tune In, the band went on stage at about 4:15 p.m. and played about 30 minutes. A report in the Liverpool Weekly News said the songs were “Cumberland Gap,” “Maggie May” and “Railroad Bill,” and later information has added “Rock Island Line,” “Lost John,” “Puttin’ On The Style” and “Bring A Little Water, Sylvie.”
Fellow Quarryman Len Garry remembers meeting Lennon in his early teens at the invitation of friend Ivan Vaughan. “I was 13 and he said, ‘Come down and meet my friends, I’ve told them all about you’. I said, I’ve got friends of my own, but he said ‘I’ve told them how you’re a great guy’. I called over one afternoon, cycling from my home in Lance Lane, via Durdlow Lane and on to Menlove Avenue. I rode in to Vale Road and saw these lads – Ivan Vaughan, Nigel Walley, Pete Shotton and John Lennon. And we became friends. We became buddies.”
Garry does recall a little of the historic meeting. “I was there when he (Paul) picked up a guitar. I remember him slinging it behind his back. I didn’t know he was a left-handed guitarist. And he gave a Little Richard improvisation. I thought it was terrific. I said to John, ‘Little Richard, it’s brilliant.’ Rock ‘n’ roll was coming in and skiffle was dying out pretty quickly. I said, ‘He can do Little Richard, you can’t do that’. John didn’t say anything! I knew he (McCartney) could play anyway, I knew him at the Institute and he’d brought his guitar with him to school.”
Quarrymen member Colin Hanton said he did see Paul, but on after the famed meeting took place. “The program had us down to play two sessions in the afternoon, but we missed the afternoon slot and only did one slot nearer to tea time. And then we moved to the church hall. I didn’t live far away and I’d probably gone home for something to eat and that was when Ivan (Vaughan) introduced Paul McCartney to John. “In the afternoon we’d put our stuff in the scout hut. I had my drum kit and was messing about with someone who was playing trumpet. I saw Ivan Vaughan come in with this lad and was talking to John briefly by the door of the scout hut. I think that’s the first time Paul did see him.”
Doug Chadwick, who was not a member of the Quarrymen but drove a lorry that featured John Lennon and his fellow Quarrymen playing on it during the fete, said he remembered Lennon playing during the ride. “I had the vehicle and went to the church and they got on the back! I do remember John Lennon playing his guitar, and the skiffle on the church fields,” he said. He’ll recreate that role as lorry driver this week during the anniversary celebration.
Chadwick’s family owns a piece of memorabilia from the day he says they won’t part with. “The original Quarrymen sign from the stage was left on the back of the vehicle and my father used it the wrong way about as a ‘vehicle on tow’ plate when a vehicle broke down,” he said. “My son has it now and it’s part of quite a big collection of Quarrymen and Beatle memorabilia he has at his home in Peoria south of Chicago.”
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Julia Baird, John Lennon’s half-sister who has written a book Imagine This about the late artist, was 10 years old at the time of the fete. “It was an outing, Woolton Church Fete day. We all went along to the Parry’s house, a cottage in Woolton,” she recalls. “And then all of us walked along to the village. We walked to Quarry Street, which is where the lorries were going to be set up. They were cleaned up coal lorries, which were all decorated with paper flowers, and the Rose Queen was there.”
She watched Lennon perform with his band. “I remember listening for them to start. John was wearing the ‘real genuine’ U.S. cowboy T-shirt my mum had bought. She bought four in the market and John practically lived in his.” Lennon is wearing the shirt in the picture Geoff Rhind took of Lennon and the band on stage that has been reproduced all over the world. Her Website offers a CD of a 1987 audio interview she did with Paul McCartney as well as her book.