Raymond Jones played a small but pivotal role in The Beatles’ history. He was the man who, on Saturday 28 October 1961, ordered a copy of the group’s single ‘My Bonnie’ from the NEMS shop at 12-14 Whitechapel, Liverpool. Jones was served by Brian Epstein, who at the time ran the store’s record department.
Epstein’s curiosity was piqued after Jones told him about The Beatles, and on 9 November 1961 he paid a visit to the Cavern Club to watch them perform. So began a chain of event which let to him managing the group, securing them a record deal and steering them to worldwide fame.
In later years, Epstein’s assistant at NEMS, Alistair Taylor, claimed that Raymond Jones never existed, and that he had invented the character so that the record could be ordered into the store. Taylor’s story was refuted by the Cavern Club’s DJ, Bob Wooler, and Liverpudlian writer and broadcaster Spencer Leigh.
In August 2010 Raymond Jones left a comment on this site’s profile of him, along with an email address. We contacted him to see if he’d be willing to be interviewed, and corresponded by telephone and email. During those conversations he spoke of his time in Liverpool, his memories of The Beatles and Brian Epstein, and why he’d rarely come forward to set the record straight. Here’s what he told us.
The Beatles legend has it that in 1961 you were 18, and a printer’s apprentice from Huyton. Is this correct?
In his book A Cellarful Of Noise, Brian Epstein described me as an 18-year-old leather jacketed youth. I must have looked younger than my actual years. I was born on 21 June 1941, so I must have been 20 at the time. By the way, my friend and I Ron Billingsley wore leather jackets well before we ever saw or had even heard of The Beatles. I rode pillion on Ron’s motorbike.
I worked for a small printing company KB Print, which originated over Rigby’s pub in Dale Street. It later moved to Tithebarn Street. My address at that time was 48 Stonefield Road, Dovecot, Liverpool 14. Dovecot was only a couple of short bus stops away from Knotty Ash Village Hall.
How did you first hear about The Beatles?
I was a regular visitor to the lunchtime sessions at the Cavern in Mathew Street. I worked about a five minute walk away in Dale Street. My boss didn’t mind how long I stayed there as long as I made the time up in the evening. I suppose I was very lucky.
The first time I saw The Beatles I was totally blown away. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing and watching. It was a sound I had never heard before. Pete Best was the drummer then; he used to sing ‘Matchbox’, a Carl Perkins song, and being a keen Perkins fan I was intrigued to see how they played the chord sequences.
One particular day Bob Wooler, the DJ from the Cavern, came into my place of work to have some tickets printed so I asked him where they were playing next. He said he’d let me know when he picked up the tickets, which I took to mean he’d find out the time and venue and tell me.
When he came in to pick the tickets up he opened the package and gave me two, which he signed so I could get free entry to the venue. The show was at Knotty Ash Village Hall. After that I started to follow The Beatles to most of the venues they played in the evenings. You could say I was totally hooked.