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.”
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.
This week, in addition to the re-creation of the lorry ride, the church, along with the Cavern Club, will also present dances, tours, sing-alongs and concerts, highlighted by a recreation of the fete on the playing field for Bishop Martin CE Primary School, the site of the original hall where Lennon and McCartney met. The program continues through July 9 and full list of events can be found at The Beatles at. Peter’s website.