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MATHEW STREET LIVERPOOL | by Terry Kearney
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MATHEW STREET LIVERPOOL

The Cavern Club is a rock and roll club in Liverpool, England. Opened on Wednesday 16 January 1957, the club had their first performance by The Beatles on 9 February 1961, and where Brian Epstein first saw The Beatles performing on 9 November 1961.

 

Alan Sytner opened the club having been inspired by the Jazz district in Paris, where there were a number of clubs in cellars. Sytner returned to Liverpool and wanted to open a club similar to Le Caveau in Paris. He eventually found a perfect cellar for his club — which had been used as an air raid shelter during the war — and opened it on 16 January 1957. The first act to open the club was the Merseysippi Jazz Band.

What started as a jazz club eventually became a hangout for skiffle groups. Whilst playing golf with Sytner's father, Dr. Joseph Sytner, Nigel Walley — who had left school at 15 to become an apprentice golf professional at the Lee Park Golf Club — asked Dr. Sytner if his son could book The Quarrymen at The Cavern, which was one of three jazz clubs he managed. Dr. Sytner suggested that the band should play at the golf club first, so as to assess their talent, which they did. Sytner phoned Walley a week later and offered the band an interlude spot playing skiffle between the performances of two jazz bands at The Cavern, on Wednesday, 7 August 1957.

Before the performance, the Quarrymen argued amongst themselves about the set list, as rock 'n roll songs were definitely not allowed at the club, but skiffle was tolerated. After beginning with a skiffle song, John Lennon called for the others to start playing "Don't Be Cruel". Davis warned Lennon that the audience would "eat you alive", but 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". The Quarrymen played at The Cavern again on 24 January 1958, which was Paul McCartney's first appearance there. (George Harrison first played there at a lunchtime session on 9 February 1961).

Sytner ended up selling the Cavern Club to Ray McFall in 1959, after moving 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.

The Beatles made their first lunchtime appearance at the club on Tuesday 9 February 1961. They had returned to Liverpool from Hamburg, Germany, where they had been playing at the Indra and the Kaiserkeller. Their stage show had been through a lot of changes and some in the audience thought they were watching a German band. From 1961 to 1963 The Beatles made 292 appearances at the club, with their last occurring on 3 August 1963, a month after the band recorded "She Loves You" and just six months before the Beatles' first trip to the U.S.[citation needed] At the time, Brian Epstein promised the club's owners that the Beatles would return someday, but it was a promise that was never fulfilled. By this time, "Beatlemania" was sprouting across England, and the small club could no longer satisfy audience demand for the group. During 1962, The Hollies took The Beatles' slot at the Cavern Club. The Beatles had graduated from the club and had been signed to EMI's Parlophone label by producer George Martin. The amount of musical activity in Liverpool and Manchester caused record producers who had previously never ventured very far from London to start looking to the north.

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. Future star Cilla Black worked as the hat-check girl at The Cavern in her pre-fame days. A recording studio, "Cavern Sound" opened in the basement of an adjoining building, run by Nigel Greenberg and Peter Hepworth. 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.

 

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Taken on November 8, 2011