The Quarrymen

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The Quarry Men (sometimes Quarrymen) were a little-known skiffle group formed around Liverpool, England in March 1957 by John Lennon. They are most famous as the band that eventually evolved into the hugely popular rock band The Beatles.



Original band members included Lennon, Eric Griffiths (guitar), Colin Hanton (drums), Rod Davis (banjo), Pete Shotton (washboard) and Len Garry (tea chest bass). Other members included Ken Brown (electric guitar), John Duff Lowe (piano), George Harrison (guitar), Paul McCartney (guitar and vocals), Bill Smith (tea chest bass), Ivan Vaughan (tea chest bass) and Nigel Whalley (tea chest bass) .

John Lennon started playing skiffle with school friend Pete Shotton (on washboard) and Bill Smith (tea chest bass). 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 Bill Smith to play tea chest bass. When Colin Hanton joined the band he had a drum set bought with his earnings as an apprentice upholsterer and he had the name "The Quarry Men" painted on the drum head. Bill Smith was replaced by Len Garry and The Quarry Men performed at parties and skiffle contests around Liverpool. On 9 June 1957 they entered the Carroll Levis Discoveries Show talent contest 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 550th 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 introduced Paul McCartney to John Lennon whilst the band was setting up in the church hall for the second set. McCartney showed the band how to tune a guitar and sang Twenty Flight Rock and Be-Bop-A-Lula to his own guitar accompaniment. The evening show started at 8 pm and cost two shillings admission. One of the audience 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 tea chest bass player who would later manage 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.

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. The other members of the band that night were Hanton on drums, Garry on tea-chest bass and Griffiths on guitar. Paul played lead guitar but was so inept that he never did it again; he was playing his guitar upside-down and backwards because he did not know how to re-string a guitar left-handed.

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 16, 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. About the same time John Charles Lowe, nicknamed ‘Duff’ would play piano at some gigs. George Harrison first saw them on 6 February at playing at Wilson Hall for Charlie McBain and he joined the band two weeks later. This meant that The Quarry Men had too many guitarists and Eric Griffiths left the band.

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 an acetated demo of two songs at Percy Phillips’s studio at 58 Kensington; the first was an original Harrison/McCartney tune called In Spite of All the Danger; the other was a cover of Buddy Holly's That'll Be The Day. It was produced on a 78 rpm, but Philips later wiped the original tape and Lowe kept a copy of the songs on a preserved 78 rpm copy of the tapes.

A number of songs that were later recorded for Beatles records were written at this time, including I'll Follow The Sun, Michelle, When I'm Sixty-Four, and One After 909.

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) the band drifted apart and the original Quarry Men ended.

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 Ken Brown and Mrs Best and The Quarrymen walked out of The Casbah ending their residency.

The band’s 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 agreeing to be 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 fate of the tape is now unknown.

In January 1997 the Cavern invited all the bands who had played there 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 all gave an impromptu performance on stage with Gary Gibson as John Lennon and Lawrence Gilmour as 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 recreated 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 singing: 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. With the death of Eric Griffiths it seems likely that the bands last concert will be that in Trondheim in 2004.

External links


  • 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
  • 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)de:The Quarry Men

hu:The Quarrymen no:The Quarrymen pl:The Quarrymen sv:The Quarrymen


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