Allan Williams, The Beatles’ first manager, has died at the age of 86.
Williams was the owner of the Jacaranda coffee bar and music venue, where The Beatles played and socialised in their early days. Williams became their booking agent, getting them a number of gigs in Liverpool and their first residency in Hamburg, Germany.
In the summer of 1960 Williams arranged for The Beatles to perform at the Indra club in Hamburg. He drove them to the German city on 16 August 1960, along with his wife Beryl and local musician Lord Woodbine.
We probably met with the van outside Allan Williams’ club, the Jacaranda. There were the five of us and then Allan, his wife Beryl and Lord Woodbine.
It was cramped. The van didn’t even have seats; we had to sit on our amplifiers. We drove down to Harwich and got the boat to the Hook of Holland.
En route to Hamburg they stopped at Arnhem in the Netherlands, after taking a wrong turn. There, Williams, his wife Beryl, Lord Woodbine, Stuart Sutcliffe, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Pete Best were photographed at the war memorial, possibly by John Lennon. They also spent time wandering around the city.
The residency in Hamburg heralded a sea-change in the group’s live act, helping them become one of Liverpool’s leading rock ‘n’ roll groups.
Williams fell out with The Beatles in 1961, over a disputed 10% fee for a subsequent Hamburg trip. The Beatles had negotiated a contract for a residency at the Top Ten Club without Williams’ involvement, and chose to withhold his fee.
Williams had no further involvement with the group. In 1962 he told Brian Epstein, who was considering managing The Beatles: “Don’t touch them with a fucking bargepole; they will let you down.”
The animosity between the two parties waned in later years, and Williams played a key role in the first Beatles conventions to be held in Liverpool in the 1970s. He was a well known raconteur and wit in the city, always happy to share a Beatles anecdote.
In 1977 he published a memoir, The Man Who Gave The Beatles Away, and the same year recovered a 1962 recording of The Beatles performing at Hamburg’s Star-Club. He sold the recording, which was released in 1977 as Live! At The Star-Club In Hamburg, Germany; 1962.
Williams’ death was confirmed by a message on the Jacaranda’s Facebook page, which stated:
Today is one of the saddest days in our history.
The Jacaranda’s original owner and the man who discovered The Beatles, Allan Williams, has sadly passed away at the age of 86.
All of our thoughts and wishes go to his family and his wife Beryl.
His legacy has allowed us to remain at the heart of the Liverpool music scene for almost 60 years and his memory will live on through every band that plays our famous stage.
Allan, you will be missed.
Today our founder and the man who discovered the Beatles passed away at the age of 86
Allan Williams, you will be missed pic.twitter.com/Mh7sq5Er4q
— The Jacaranda Club (@thejacclub) December 30, 2016
— The Jacaranda Club (@thejacclub) December 31, 2016
Also on this day...
- 1999: George Harrison is attacked at his Friar Park home
- 1966: Mixing, recording: When I’m Sixty-Four, Penny Lane
- 1964: Live: Another Beatles Christmas Show
- 1963: Live: The Beatles’ Christmas Show
- 1962: Live: Star-Club, Hamburg
- 1961: Live: Cavern Club, Liverpool (evening)
Want more? Visit the Beatles history section.