Wednesday, January 21, 2009


John Lennon started the Quarrymen (sometimes written as Quarry Men) in March of 1957, with Lennon on vocals and guitar, Pete Shotton on washboard, Eric Griffiths on guitar, Rod Davis on banjo and guitar, and Bill Smith on washtub bass. Bill Smith was kicked out of the band for missing rehearsals and replaced with Len Garry (tea chest bass)and Colin Hanton (drums).

The style of music that the band played at school dances, band contests, and church and county fairs was called skiffle, which literally means "rent party," an informal way to get enough money to pay next month's rent. Skiffle, a blend of folk music and jazz, blues, and country, started in New Orleans in the early 1900s and made use of guitars, banjos, and homemade instruments, such as the comb-and-paper kazoo, washtub bass, and cigar box banjo. It became popular in the United States and thrived until the 1940s, where skiffle bands were also known as "spasm" bands. It was revived in England in the 1950s, where skiffle was a form of what was known in America as rockabilly, made famous by Carl Perkins, a songwriter who the Beatles covered frequently. In England, the father of skiffle was Lonnie Donnegan.

Lennon and Shotton originally called their band the Black Jacks, the symbol for which was a black tea chest adorned with silver musical notes. (The tea chest bass had been a common skiffle instrument since the early 1900s.) Because most of the band attended Quarry Bank School, the band changed it's name to the Quarrymen. The band played traditional folk songs, such as "Rock Island Line," Worried Man's Blues," "Freight Train," and "John Henry."

Paul McCartney joined the band in 1957 after meeting John at the Woolton Church Fete, and shortly afterwards, Paul's friend George Harrison was added because he could pick out melodies instead of just strumming chords. The group disbanded after a drunken fight among band members in 1959, when a performance didn't go particularly well. Lennon, Harrison, and McCartney remained together, however, calling themselves Johnny and the Moondogs. Their first homemade basement recordings on reel-to-reel equipment were "That'll Be the Day" and "In Spite of All the Danger." The latter was written by McCartney.

Soon after, Stuart Sutcliffe was brought in to play bass (even though he didn't yet know how to play the instrument), and Pete Best was added on drums. The group changed names to the Beetles, then the Silver Beetles, and finally to the Beatles (all of the "insect" names inspired by Buddy Holly and the Crickets). Sutcliffe died of a brain tumor, and Best was asked to leave the band right before the recording of "Love Me Do." A session drummer was used on the "Love Me Do" single, after which Ringo Starr, formerly of Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, was asked to join the Beatles.

Pete Shotton was later made manager of Apple Boutique.

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