On 9 November 1961 local record shop owner Brian Epstein and his assistant Alistair Taylor descended the Cavern steps to see a lunchtime performance by The Beatles. Epstein was a well-known figure in Liverpool, and looked somewhat out of place in his pinstripe suit, tie, and with an attaché case under his arm.
Bob Wooler announced over the club’s PA: “We have someone rather famous in the audience today.”
Brian came down the street and checked us out. I remember Bob Wooler, the disc jockey, announcing, ‘We have with us a Mr Epstein, who owns NEMS,’ and everybody going, ‘Oh, wow. Big, big deal.’
Epstein was transfixed by the sight and sound of The Beatles. Afterwards he went into the dressing room to meet the group, and Bob Wooler played him a copy of ‘My Bonnie’, their recording from Hamburg as Tony Sheridan’s backing group.
At John Lennon’s request, Wooler was present at Epstein’s first formal meeting with The Beatles, which took place in December 1961. The group, and Wooler, stopped off at the Grapes pub before belatedly – and drunkenly – reaching Epstein’s NEMS store in Whitechapel.
He hated to be kept waiting. That was his first introduction to the many hours of being kept waiting by The Beatles. He was quite open by that time about wanting to manage them, but they still wouldn’t commit themselves. It was left at, ‘well, we’ll see what happens’.
Shout!, Philip Norman
Bob Wooler’s voice was captured on the only footage of The Beatles performing at the Cavern Club, during a version of ‘Some Other Guy’ filmed by Granada Television on August 22 1962.
We’ve got the hi-fi high & the lights down low, so here we go!
One unfortunate incident in The Beatles’ early years took place on 18 June 1963, at Paul McCartney’s 21st birthday party at his Auntie Jin’s house in Birkenhead. John Lennon had recently returned from a Spanish holiday with Brian Epstein, and much of Liverpool was awash with rumours that the pair had had a homosexual encounter.
When a drunken Wooler accused Lennon of homosexuality with Epstein, Lennon flew into a rage. He punched Wooler a number of times, breaking his nose and bruising several ribs. Wooler was given £200 in damages to settle the incident, which was reported in a national newspaper.
The first national press we got, the back page of the Daily Mirror, was me beating up Bob Wooler at Paul’s twenty-first. That was the first ‘Lennon hits out’ story. I was so bad the next day. We had a BBC appointment; they all went down in the train, and I wouldn’t come. Brian was pleading with me to go, and I was saying, ‘I’m not!’ – I was so afraid of nearly killing Wooler.
Bob had insinuated that me and Brian had had an affair in Spain. And I must have been frightened of the fag in me to get so angry. I was out of my mind with drink. You know, when you get down to the point where you want to drink out of all the empty glasses; that drunk. And Bob was saying, ‘Come on, John, tell me about you and Brian – we all know.’ You know when you’re twenty-one, you want to be a man – if somebody said it now I wouldn’t give a shit, but I was beating the shit out of him, hitting him with a big stick, and for the first time I thought, ‘I can kill this guy.’ I just saw it, like on a screen: if I hit him once more, that’s going to be it. I really got shocked. That’s when I gave up violence, because all my life I’d been like that.
Bob Wooler remained a major figure on the Mersey music scene, helping out a number of groups in their quests for fame and fortune. One of his songs was recorded by the Merseyside country and western band Bill Brady and the Ranchers on the Liverpool Goes Country album. In 1963, his I Know was the b-side to Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas recording of Lennon/McCartney’s song I’ll Keep You Satisfied.
He remained at the Cavern until 1967. In later years he teamed up with Allan Williams once more to stage annual Beatles conventions in Liverpool. In 1973 Wooler was divorced from his wife Beryl Adams, Brian Epstein’s secretary, whom he married in 1967.
Bob Wooler suffered a heart attack in the 1980s. He died at the age of 76 at the Royal Liverpool Hospital, on 8 February 2002, following a long illness.