“I got to know the Quarrymen originally through their drummer, Colin Hanton. I started to knock around with them – going to practice sessions and gigs for a couple of years.
“I last saw John in 1962. I was sat at the front of a double-decker bus and as I got up to get off the bus John was sitting on the back seat, he was the only other person on the top deck. I asked him how it was going, he said ‘I’m knackered, I just got back from Hamburg’.
“My mum organised the Rosebery Street party, I asked the Quarrymen would they come and play there. I remember it was a nice warm sunny day. I took a number of photos of the group playing that day.”
[Charles Roberts, photographer]
The Quarrymen playing on Rosebery Street, Liverpool on the 22nd June, 1957. They were performing as part of a street party to celebrate the 550th anniversary of Liverpool receiving it’s charter from King John (which happened on 28th August, 1207 (my birthday! 28th Aug, not 1207!) and gave Liverpool - or ‘Liuerpul’ official ‘town’ status).
It was 8:30. I could hear people talking about the likelihood of a storm later on that evening. I can remember hoping that it would clear up before my cycle ride back to Wavertree. Up to now it had been an eventful day but very tiring and as a group, although committed to playing, we all wished that we could pack up and go home. All of us apart from John Lennon. I think that meeting Paul had whetted his appetite and by the time we went on stage for our session at 8:45 he looked refreshed and seemed to have a new sparkle, as though he had had an injection of renewed optimism and enthusiasm as he played and sang through our usual repertoire that evening.
I went outside for some air and a smoke; John and Pete decided to come with me. We stood outside pulling on our cigarettes, enjoying the breeze that had risen with the oncoming storm.
“Do you know, John,” remarked Pete as we stood outside, “I’ve never heard you sound as good as you did just then. I know you’re going to say that I’m not very musical but I could hear the difference. I can see that something’s happened to you. Even the skiffle numbers which I know you’re not that keen on sounded good. You seem to have put more effort into them.”
“Pete’s right, John. I couldn’t help noticing it as well,” I said.
John was silent for a few minutes, just enjoying his smoke.
“I guess someone took the trouble to share what he knew with me and it’s just given me a little encouragement for the future, that’s all.”
“Oh I see, you’re getting a little sentimental in your old age, aren’t you,” joked Pete, who had never seen his life-long friend in that light before.
“Don’t be thick, Pete,” replied John, who seemed almost back to his normal abrupt self. “Come on, I need a drink.”
Len Garry, John, Paul and Me: Before The Beatles. (1997)
“The procession started outside the church, on Church Row. The lorry was pointed downhill and we were on the back of the lorry. I can still feel the lurch as the driver let the handbrake off on the way down, because you’re standing on the back of a lorry and it’s quite precarious!
“When we were going down King’s Drive, some of the other guys were playing - I don’t know why I wasn’t playing. We didn’t notice him [Rod’s Dad, James Davis] take the photograph. There’s one photograph where John is singing with his eyes closed. I’m standing, leaning against the back of the cab, and it must have been a hot, sticky day because my glasses have slipped down my nose. I’m pushing my glasses back up my nose and the banjo’s at my feet, in the case. Then we noticed it was my dad so there’s a second photograph where we’ve all turned around to look at him, but John unfortunately is obscured by Len. That particular photograph had been undiscovered from 1957 until 2009.
“Paul McCartney arrived on his bicycle and saw us playing. I met Paul in 2005, bumped into him on the seafront in Brighton. He said, “Oh, you must have been there on the day I first met John at St. Peter’s?”
“I said, “Yeah, in the famous photograph, I’m standing behind John’s right shoulder.” So he remembers it, I don’t remember him!
“Apparently at some stage during the day - and there are various contradictory versions of what happened - John and Paul were introduced by Ivan Vaughn (there doesn’t seem to be any doubt about that bit). No one invited Paul to join that night. Lennon is on record in an interview saying, “I immediately saw how fantastic he was and I asked him to join there and then!” Well, no, that didn’t happen. Pete and John were walking home because they both lived very close to each other, and John said to Pete (this is from Pete’s own mouth), “What did you think to Ivan’s friend then? Should we have him in the group?” and Pete said, “Yeah, I think he’s good. We should have him in the group.” So if Pete hadn’t said that, if Pete had said, “No, I think he’s an idiot,” then he wouldn’t have been in!
“I remember going to Aunt Mimi’s and there was somebody else there. I said to John, “Who’s that? Who’s this?” and he said, “Oh this is Paul. He’s come to listen to us practice,” so obviously by that time, he’d been invited to join the group.”
[Rod Davis, Banjo player in The Quarraymen, via The Liverpool Echo, 2017]
Photos - James Davis, taken on 6th July, 1957, the day John met Paul. (John with his eyes closed in the centre of the first photo)
“But you’ve got to remember, John and I knew each other when we were teenagers. We listened to the same records. We grew up to those records. We wore the same clothes. We admired the same kind of people. We had the same tastes. That informed the whole business. John and I were like twins. To find someone like that is pretty impossible. And hey, we were also damn good. We just got it on. We were hot. You can’t replace someone like John, and I don’t think he could’ve replaced someone like me.” Paul
“Paul was the first love of my life, Yoko was the second.” - John
“They needed each other like mad.” - George Martin
“Yeah yeah, it’s all very well, Paul,” muttered John. “Just because your Dad played in some old time music hall in the thirties doesn’t mean we should go on stage wearing white coats. People will think we’re a bunch of fairies.”
“Wait a minute, John, I’m burning the toast.” Paul, clattering about in the kitchen, seemed oblivious to John’s emphatic statement. He then came out of the kitchen with a pile of buttered toast on a large plate for the ravenous horde waiting.
“What did you say? I couldn’t hear you properly; oh, the white coats, is that what you’re on about? What’s your problem with that? Look John, it’s about time we started smartening up our image because we can’t go on looking like a gang of ruffians just dragged off the streets,” retorted Paul. “We must look professional – we’re on the stage, in the public eye, and appearances are important. If we start looking the part then perhaps you may even be able to get your chords right.”
Paul said this last point in a jovial manner, not wishing to rouse John’s temper, as he knew even after short acquaintance with John that he could soon ‘fly off the handle’ if provoked. John seemed unperturbed by the insinuation that Paul was making about his professionalism (or lack of it).
There was a silence for a couple of minutes as we all munched on our buttered toast.
“Yeah okay – but white coats? I can’t see myself in one of those. Anyway, where would we get them from?”
“Never mind that – Nigel will sort that out. Look, it will be you and me up front from now on as main guitarists and vocalists so it’ll look good, the both of us wearing the same gear. It will be white coats, white shirts and black bow ties – the rest of the group can wear white shirts and black bow ties.”
John still seemed undecided and looked to me for support. “What do you think, Len?” he asked.
“I think the answer lies in the soil,” I said, trying to bring a bit of humour into what seemed to me a contest building up between two strong personalities, each having been used to getting their own way. Continuing in a none-too-serious vein, “But then again I think that you two don’t need us anymore, we’re has-beens.”
“Come on, Len, be serious for a minute. What do you think?” repeated John, who was by this time desperate for support.
“I honestly think it’s worth a try and it will probably improve our image,” I said half-heartedly.
Suddenly John resorted to his lighter mode. “Ooh, eh! We will look smart. Why don’t we hire a limousine and dress up as undertakers instead?” he quipped.
“Don’t be thick, John, we’d all have to wear black for that,” Eric Griffiths suddenly interjected.
“Okay, we’ll all be in white then – it’s agreed,” said Paul. John then started up with a song that had recently been popularised: “A white sport coat and a pink carnation, I’m getting dressed up for a dance.” With that John did a little dance around the room. The Quarrymen Committee had arrived at another major decision without too much rancour.
Len Garry, John, Paul and Me: Before The Beatles. (1997) [Note: Listen to Marty Robbins’ ‘A White Sport Coat’ here.]
“At the Woolton village fete I met him. I was a fat schoolboy and, as he leaned an arm on my shoulder, I realised he was drunk. We were twelve then, but in spite of his sideboards, we went on to become teenage pals.” - Paul McCartney
“How did you learn all those chords?” asked John, who was anxious for more knowledge. “Did you have a book?”
“Nah, I’ve got a friend called Ian James at the Institute. He’s far better than me and he taught me a lot. I could teach you if you like.”
“Well, could you show me a few? Trouble is that with your guitar strung the other way it’s difficult for me to follow. It would be good if you could draw a few diagrams showing the frets and finger positions.”
Paul looked at John and could see the hunger to learn in his eyes. He sat them down with a piece of paper and a pencil and drew out some bar chord diagrams for John to follow, making sure that it was for a right handed guitar player. Suddenly it was 7:30.
“Sorry chaps but I’ve got to go. Nice meeting you all, perhaps I’ll see you again sometime. Coming Ivy?”
With that he picked up his guitar and the two friends departed on their bicycles. It all happened so suddenly. John was left there trying to follow the diagrams on the scraps of paper that Paul had left strewn across the chair.
John spent the rest of the evening trying to put into practice the diagrams of chords that Paul had left him, having had to wear his glasses for this exercise at least. He was tucked away from all the surrounding noise in a corner of the hall, away from the ever increasing congregation that had come to hear the George Edwards band. Eventually Eric Griffiths joined him as he too was keen to learn proper chords.
“John, you know we’ll have to play the usual banjo chords for tonight’s show.”
“I know that, Eric,” he snapped as he looked over his spectacles. “I’ve learned more this evening than in all those guitar lessons we went to in Hunt’s Cross. Do you remember what they were like when we first started?”
Len Garry, John, Paul and Me: Before The Beatles. (1997)
It was time to pack up our things and go home. John, Pete, and I walked back to Vale Road, Pete helping me carry the tea chest which I was to leave at Ivan’s that night. Fortunately the storm had abated.
“Well, what did you think?” asked John, directing the question at both of us.
“Think of what? Oh, you mean how the day went,” Pete said, knowing all the while that John was referring to Paul McCartney. Pete answered the real question: “I think Paul seems okay, he’s pretty knowledgeable about chords, words, and the like but I got the impression that he was a bit of a show off. You know, playing the guitar around his back like that.”
“Well, I didn’t think he was pushy,” John replied. “He was just showing me what he could do, that was all. If that’s being pushy then I’m glad that he was.”
Len Garry, John, Paul and Me: Before The Beatles. (1997)
The very name ‘Mimi’ to Paul suggested a Noel Coward world of fur stoles and long cigarette-holders (though her real name was Mary, like his late mother’s, and she too had once been a nurse). Mimi, for her part, regarded everyone John brought home as a potential bad influence, to be set alongside her special bête noire, Pete Shotton. Paul fell into this category simply because he’d once lived in the social no-go area of Speke. ‘When I caught sight of him, when John brought him home for the first time, I thought “Oh-ho, look what the cat’s dragged in,”’ Mimi later recalled. ‘He seemed so much younger than John–and John was always picking up waifs and strays. I thought “Here we go again, John Lennon… another Shotton.”’
Even Paul’s immaculate manners could not thaw her. ‘Oh, yes, he was well-mannered–too well-mannered. He was what we call in Liverpool “talking posh” and I thought he was taking the mickey out of me. I thought “He’s a snake-charmer all right,” John’s little friend, Mr Charming. I wasn’t falling for it. After he’d gone, I said to John, “What are you doing with him? He’s younger than you… and he’s from Speke!”’
After that, when Paul appeared, she would always tell John sarcastically that his ‘little friend’ was here. ‘I used to tease John by saying “chalk and cheese”, meaning how different they were,’ she remembered, ‘and John would start hurling himself around the room like a wild dervish shouting “Chalkandcheese! Chalkandcheese!” with this stupid grin on his face.’