Live: Cavern Club, Liverpool (lunchtime) – Brian Epstein meets The Beatles

12.00pm, Thursday 9 November 1961 (52 years ago)

Having seeing their name several times in Mersey Beat magazine, and on posters around Liverpool, Brian Epstein had become curious about The Beatles.

Brian Epstein at the Cavern Club, Liverpool (photo: David Steen)

Beatles legend has it that Epstein realised there was a buzz around the young group after a customer, Raymond Jones, entered Epstein’s NEMS shop and asked for a copy of the My Bonnie single, recently recorded in Hamburg.

I was there when Brian Epstein came to the Cavern. He was a beautifully-suited, elegant man and he looked totally incongruous. I knew who he was, althugh I had never spoken to him.
David Blackhouse, Liverpool architect
The Cavern, Spencer Leigh

Epstein’s assistant Alistair Taylor later claimed that he had made up the name while ordering copies of the single for NEMS, after hearing requests from fans. Taylor’s tale was a fabrication, however, and Jones was indeed a genuine customer.

Epstein had grown curious about the group after hearing the mention of their name in several places, and Mersey Beat’s Bill Harry arranged for him and Taylor to see them perform in Liverpool.

Brian Epstein learnt that The Beatles were playing close to his shop in Whitechapel. He was intrigued to see what they were like and he phoned Bill Harry at Mersey Beat and asked him to smooth his entrance into the Cavern. Bill arranged this with Ray McFall and with Paddy Delaney on the door.
Bob Wooler
The Cavern, Spencer Leigh

On 9 November The Beatles performed a lunchtime concert at the Cavern Club. Epstein and Taylor were allowed in without queuing. Epstein was welcomed over the club’s PA system by resident DJ Bob Wooler.

On 9 November 1961, Brian took his PA, Alistair Taylor, along for support and they stood at the back of the crowd and heard John, Paul, George and Pete on stage, although they can’t have seen much. Nevertheless, Brian was bowled over by them. It was fortunate that Brian saw a good performance when he came down to the Cavern that lunchtime. He also liked how they behaved, and he found them very animalistic. They were unkempt, they didn’t comb their hair – and, most importantly, they were lithe and physically attractive.
Bob Wooler
The Cavern, Spencer Leigh

Epstein later recounted in his autobiography, ghost written by Derek Taylor, his first thoughts on seeing the group perform.

I was immediately struck by their music, their beat, and their sense of humour on stage – and, even afterwards, when I met them, I was struck again by their personal charm. And it was there that, really, it all started.
Brian Epstein

Epstein and Taylor entered the band’s dressing room – “as big as a broom cupboard” – after the show. The Beatles recognised Epstein, with George Harrison opening the conversation by asking: “And what brings Mr Epstein here?”

Brian Epstein was well-groomed in a smart, dark suit and he looked out of place. When it was all over, he was still hanging about, so I approached him and said, ‘It’s all over now, sir.’ He said, ‘It’s all right, I’m going to meet The Beatles.’
Paddy Delaney
The Cavern, Spencer Leigh

Epstein watched The Beatles at the Cavern Club a number of times over the next few weeks. On 10 December he suggested becoming the band’s manager. They signed a five-year management contract on 24 January 1962.

On the evening of 9 November, however, The Beatles performed for the final time at Liverpool’s slightly down-at-heel Litherland Town Hall ballroom. They performed a total of 20 shows there, the first of which was a triumphant appearance on 27 December 1960, following their first trip to Hamburg.

I’d met Brian Epstein before and I asked him what he was doing in the Cavern. He said, ‘I’ve come to watch The Beatles. I believe they are very good.’ He didn’t say anything about signing them.
Ray Ennis, singer, Swinging Blue Jeans
The Cavern, Spencer Leigh

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