Back To Where The Beat Began

Paved with gold - Mathew Street was the birthplace of the Beatles but so many other rock n roll legends also walked these cobbles to the Cavern
Bob Edwards is the author of the book Liverpool in the 1950s and created www.LiverpoolPicturebook.com website which currently has in excess of 2.3 million viewers worldwide. In this column Bob aims to bring you some of the wonderful history of our great city along with some photographs that illustrate our past, we hope you enjoy it!
Bob Edwards is the author of the book Liverpool in the 1950s and created www.LiverpoolPicturebook.com website which currently has in excess of 2.3 million viewers worldwide. In this column Bob aims to bring you some of the wonderful history of our great city along with some photographs that illustrate our past, we hope you enjoy it!
EVERYONE knows The Cavern as the birthplace of The Beatles but what do we know about the history of the club itself. The original Cavern Club opened on Wednesday 16 January 1957. Alan Sytner opened The Cavern Club, having been inspired by the jazz district in Paris, where there were a number of clubs in cellars, including one called Le Caveau. Sytner owned two other nightclubs in Liverpool, the West Coast Jazz Club and 21 Jazz Club. The Cavern was to continue Sytner’s preference for jazz and in his eyes, the dank warehouse basement which was used in the Second World War as an air raid shelter, was the perfect setting. The first act to perform at the opening of the club was the Merseysippi Jazz Band. John Lennon, the teenage leader of a skiffle group called The Quarrymen, met Sytner when the band played at Childwall golf club. Sytner booked the Quarrymen to perform at the Cavern Club for an evening performance billed as ‘a skiffle session’. Sytner would not allow rock ‘n roll at the club, so they opened with a skiffle song; however, it wasn’t long before John Lennon called for the others to start playing an Elvis Presley song, “Don’t Be Cruel”. Rod Davis, the groups then banjo player warned Lennon that the audience would “eat you alive.” Lennon ignored this and started playing the song himself, forcing the others to join in. Halfway through, Sytner pushed his way through the audience and handed Lennon a note which read, “Cut out the bloody rock ‘n roll”. Sytner sold The Cavern Club to Ray McFall in 1959 and moved to London.  Blues bands and Beat groups began to appear at the club on a regular basis in the early 1960s. The first Beat night was held on 25 May 1960 and featured a performance by Rory Storm and the Hurricanes (which included Ringo Starr as drummer). By early 1961, Bob Wooler had become the full-time compère and organiser of the lunchtime sessions.
Rock n roll temple - The Cavern back in the day
Rock n roll temple – The Cavern back in the day
Brian Epstein, The Beatles manager who secured the groups’ first recording contract, saw the group perform at the club on 9 November 1961. The 27 year old NEMS record-store owner became instantly infatuated by what he saw on stage and shortly after signed them up. Paul McCartney’s first appearance at The Cavern was with The Quarrymen on 24 January 1958. George Harrison first played at The Cavern during a lunchtime session on 9 February 1961. In the decade that followed, a wide variety of popular acts appeared at the club, including The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds, The Kinks, Elton John, Queen, The Who and John Lee Hooker. Cilla Black worked as the hat-check girl there. The club closed in March 1973, and was filled in during construction work on the Merseyrail underground rail loop. Jan Akkerman with Dutch group Focus were the last to play The Cavern, a few days before the club was shut down in May 1973. The site was left dormant until it was bought in the early 1980s for redevelopment.
Early doors - music fans wait for admission
Early doors – music fans wait for admission
When the Cavern Club closed it was re-opened opposite in new premises at 7-15 Mathew Street. The iconic vertical Cavern sign was relocated opposite above the door of 7 Mathew Street. The sign remained there until 1992 when it was blown down and destroyed during a storm. In 1976 the club at 7- 15 Mathew Street changed its name to The Revolution and later became Eric’s. The club hosted acts such as Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Echo and the Bunny men, Teardrop Explodes and Wah Heat. Liverpool football player Tommy Smith, along with a business partner, signed the new lease on the Cavern site and a replica club was built on the original site in 1984, the same time the Cavern Walks shopping centre opened. The new club was built the opposite way around and deeper underground than the original because the buildings above occupy 75 per cent of the original site. It was rebuilt using 15,000 bricks saved from the demolition. So the new Cavern is not entirely in the same location but retains some of the original bricks. In the 1990s, Cavern City Tours became the new owners of the Cavern Club their experience in Liverpool’s visitor industry combined with their expert knowledge of the Beatles and passion for live music was the driving force behind creating the Cavern Club’s success.