John Lennon meets Paul McCartney

On the afternoon of 6 July 1957 the Quarrymen skiffle group played at the garden fete of St Peter's Church, Woolton, Liverpool.

The Quarrymen, 6 July 1957

The performance took place on a stage in a field behind the church. In the band were John Lennon (vocals, guitar), Eric Griffiths (guitar), Colin Hanton (drums), Rod Davies (banjo), Pete Shotton (washboard) and Len Garry (tea chest bass).

The group arrived on the back of a lorry. As well as music, there were craft and cake stalls, games of hoop-la, police dog demonstrations and the traditional crowning of the Rose Queen. The fete was a highlight of the year for the residents of the sleepy Liverpool district.

The entertainment began at two p.m. with the opening procession, which entailed one or two wonderfully festooned lorries crawling at a snail's pace through the village on their ceremonious way to the Church field. The first lorry carried the Rose Queen, seated on her throne, surrounded by her retinue, all dressed in pink and white satin, sporting long ribbons and hand-made roses in their hair. These girls had been chosen from the Sunday school groups, on the basis of age and good behaviour.

The following lorry carried various entertainers, including the Quarry Men. The boys were up there on the back of the moving lorry trying to stay upright and play their instruments at the same time. John gave up battling with balance and sat with his legs hanging over the edge, playing his guitar and singing. He continued all through the slow, slow journey as the lorry puttered its way along. Jackie and I leaped alongside the lorry, with our mother laughing and waving at John, making him laugh. He seemed to be the only one who was really trying to play and we were really trying to put him off!

Julia Baird
Imagine This

Poster for The Quarrymen at the Woolton Parish Church garden fete, Liverpool, 6 July 1957

That evening the group were due to play again, minus Colin Hanton, this time at the Grand Dance in the church hall on the other side of the road. They were due on stage at 8pm, and admission to the show, in which the Quarrymen alternated on stage with the George Edwards Band, was two shillings.

While setting up their equipment to play, the Quarrymen's sometime tea-chest bass player, Ivan Vaughan, introduced the band to one of his classmates from Liverpool Institute, the 15-year-old Paul McCartney.

This historic occasion was the first time McCartney met John Lennon, a year his senior. McCartney wore a white jacket with silver flecks, and a pair of black drainpipe trousers.

The pair chatted for a few minutes, and McCartney showed Lennon how to tune a guitar - the instruments owned by Lennon and Griffiths were in G banjo tuning. McCartney then sang Eddie Cochran's Twenty Flight Rock and Gene Vincent's Be-Bop-A-Lula, along with a medley of songs by Little Richard.

The Quarrymen, 6 July 1957

I remember coming into the fete and seeing all the sideshows. And also hearing all this great music wafting in from this little Tannoy system. It was John and the band.

I remember I was amazed and thought, 'Oh great', because I was obviously into the music. I remember John singing a song called Come Go With Me. He'd heard it on the radio. He didn't really know the verses, but he knew the chorus. The rest he just made up himself.

I just thought, 'Well, he looks good, he's singing well and he seems like a great lead singer to me.' Of course, he had his glasses off, so he really looked suave. I remember John was good. He was really the only outstanding member, all the rest kind of slipped away.

Paul McCartney, 1995
Record Collector

Lennon was equally impressed with McCartney, who showed natural talent for singing songs that the Quarrymen worked hard to accomplish. McCartney also recalled performing on the church hall piano.

I also knocked around on the backstage piano and that would have been A Whole Lot Of Shakin' by Jerry Lee. That's when I remember John leaning over, contributing a deft right hand in the upper octaves and surprising me with his beery breath. It's not that I was shocked, it's just that I remember this particular detail.
Paul McCartney
John Lennon, Philip Norman

The particular detail was later recalled by McCartney in his introduction to Lennon's first book, In His Own Write:

At 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
In His Own Write, John Lennon

Programme for the Woolton Parish Church garden fete, Liverpool, 6 July 1957The Quarrymen's set, remarkably, was recorded by an audience member, Bob Molyneux, on his portable Grundig reel-to-reel tape recorder. In 1994 Molyneux, then a retired policeman, rediscovered the tape, which contained scratchy recordings of the band performing Lonnie Donegan's Puttin' On The Style and Elvis Presley's Baby, Let's Play House.

The tape was sold on 15 September 1994 at Sotheby's for £78,500. At the time it was the most expensive recording ever sold at auction. The winning bidder was EMI Records, who considered if for release as part of the Anthology project, but chose not to as the sound quality was substandard.

After the Quarrymen's show the group, along with Ivan Vaughan and McCartney, went to a Woolton pub where they lied about their ages to get served.

Later on, Lennon and Pete Shotton discussed the young McCartney, and whether to invite him to join their group. For Lennon it was a dilemma - should he admit a talented member who may pose a challenge to his own superiority within the group, or should he persist without McCartney, retaining his leadership yet likely consigning the group to failure?

They decided McCartney would be an asset, and roughly two weeks later Shotton encountered McCartney cycling through Woolton. Paul mulled over the invitation to join, and eventually agreed to join the Quarrymen's ranks.

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21 responses on “John Lennon meets Paul McCartney

  1. Jemima Molyneux

    Bob Molyneux is infact my father. I was reading this and thinking how Special he is. Unfortunately i wasn’t around when this all happened, i was born in 1995 just a year after. So odd to find my Dad on the internet. 🙂 – Jemima molyneux

  2. Lindsay

    Sometimes you look at some sites and they get times and dates wrong… tis funny that Paul, who was there, so you think he would know, got their ages wrong when they met. He says’ they were 12 when actually he was fifteen and John sixteen…. you see, even when it’s from the horse’s mouth, it ain’t always right!

    1. apollo c vermouth

      …later recalled by McCartney in HIS INTRODUCTION to Lennon’s FIRST BOOK, In His Own Write:

      …I was a FAT SCHOOLBOY
      ….I realised he was drunk. We were twelve then, but, IN SPITE of his SIDEBOARDS, we went on to become teenage pals.

      Printed IN John’s book. Page 11 matter of fact. (check your copy)

      Later on in the intro Paul added,
      “…he left school and played with a group called the Beatles, and here he is with a book.
      Again I think – ‘Is he deep?’ ‘Is he arty, with it or cultured?’

      Paul didn’t get their ages or anything WRONG. Just joking of course.

      On the back cover of the book, the author says of himself,
      “I was bored on the 9th of Octover 1940 when, I believe, the Nasties were still booming us led by Madalf Heatlump.
      Anyway they didn’t get me….as far as I’m conceived this correction of short writty is the most wonderfoul larf I’ve ever ready.”

      1. Georgiann

        Yes,exactly. He was just emphasizing the fact of how young they were.

        Paul also mentions John’s beery breath and that he was drunk. Paul had just turned 15 at the time and John was going on 17. John was just a bit short of being a year and 8 months older than Paul. For people in their mid teens, that can make quite a difference. Add that to the fact of their very different upbringings…meaning that the way John grew up would make grow up quicker and Paul’s would make him on the young side and more innocent for his age.

        Paul still felt like a kid. He saw John as being more worldly, this evidently had an impact on him.

        As you pointed out, apollo c vermouth, the words of Paul:
        …I was a FAT SCHOOLBOY
        ….I realised he was drunk. We were twelve then, but, IN SPITE of his SIDEBOARDS, we went on to become teenage pals.
        He’s pointing out that they were very young, but very different. He was using the term sideboards (sideburns) mostly figuratively.

  3. Robert A Budahl

    John had his first band before Paul. I am sure he didn’t need to know how to tune a guitar or play ukele chords. Something isn’t right there. Someone is really trying to gain credit. Even in the photo here John knew chords. I don’t know how some run him down. Including Paul. John was the heart of the Beatles.

    1. Cristina

      Lol, what’s said in the article is true, whether some Lennon fans like it or not. His fisrt band was precisely The Quarrymen, which Paul would join. He didn’t know how to tune in a guitar, not many people knew then.

    2. Waldo Jeffers

      John didn’t know how to tune to standard guitar tuning. His mother, Julia, played banjo, so she taught him how to tune a guitar like a banjo, and taught him banjo chords. Paul taught him “proper” guitar tuning and chords.

  4. Antony

    A few comments.
    -The recording seems to have 2 versions of ‘Puttin’ on the Style’, one quite slow and one fast. Strange that they said it was without Colin Hanton because there are very loud drums on the faster version, and the recording is said to be from the evening performance.
    -Len Garry and Pete Shotton totally dispute that John was drinking or that they went to the pub afterwards. (the book Len Garry wrote had a CD attached, with him and Shotton at various sites of their youth discussing different events)
    -In the picture of them playing in the field, JOhn seems to be playing a regular G chord on his guitar.

  5. Nicole C.

    Woah. July 6th is also my dads birthday. He was about 2 years old then but he grew up to be a massive fan of The Beatles. And he didn’t even know that Mcartney and Lennon met on his b-day, of all days ! Guess you learn something new everyday 😀

  6. roy travers

    Wow what a fantastic pic.. The young man in the white T-shirt (back to camera) is me!!! and the lad with his sleeves rolled up is my brother. We were visiting my auntie’s house who lived across from Johns aunt Mimi, so off to the fete we went and spent the time glued to the Quarrymen oblivious to what would transpire in the future!!! I was 8 and my brother almost 12. Great memories and now an actual pic!!! Brilliant

  7. Ian Richardson

    i met john in June a few weeks before he played with the Quarrymen. He was staying in Largs in Ayrshire with his cousin Stan. He said he wanted to be as big as Elvis and that he had a skiffle group with his friend Pete and that his mother had taught him to play the banjo. I laughed and said he’d never make it with a banjo. I knew him over the course of three weeks. I was ten years old and I must say John was a big and sometimes a bad influence, stealing unashamedly from Woolies and Simpsons the local store. My little brother was Downes Syndrome and John had a thing about disabled people. He would point and laugh hysterically at them. There was something lacking in his upbringing I would say,maybe not his fault. We both loved the Goons and Hancock and he did turn me on to Rock and Roll. He knew even then about the beatniks and told me they were Cool!!! On a trip doon the watter on the Talisman John stood at the prow and said “I made all this!” I would say he had a bit of a God complex. I loved the guy, and in the absence of my two best friends who were on holiday and never met him we were as thick as thieves! My grandmother said of John, “He’ll go far that laddie, gin they dinna hing him”, and I think she got it about right! We fell out over his attitude to my brother. My father told me he was a bad influence and to ignore him in the street. I did as I was told and hid round the corner when he shouted,”Don’t turn your back on me!” i never saw him again in the flesh but of course he was everywhere and I loved the music! And always will!

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