Beatles legend has it that, one day in 1961, a young man called Raymond Jones brought The Beatles’ existence to the attention of Brian Epstein, when he asked for their single My Bonnie at Epstein’s NEMS record store in Liverpool.
On Saturday, 28 October, an 18-year-old Huyton boy named Raymond Jones strolled into the Whitechapel branch of NEMS. Brian, that morning, happened to be behind the counter, helping with the weekend rush. He himself stepped forward to serve Raymond Jones, whom he recognised vaguely as one of the crowd of printers’ apprentices often to be seen in the shop during their lunch-hour, sorting through the country and western stock. Like a good businessman, he even remembered that Carl Perkins was this particular customer’s favourite singing star.
Today, Raymond Jones did not as usual ask for anything new by Carl Perkins. He asked for a single called My Bonnie, by The Beatles. … Raymond Jones could provide no further details of the disc. He had heard about it, he said, at Hambleton Hall, where he and his mates always went on Friday night. The compere, Bob Wooler, had urged them to be sure and ask their record shop for My Bonnie by The Beatles.
It is unlikely – if not impossible – that Epstein had never heard of The Beatles until his meeting with Jones. The group appeared regularly in the pages of Liverpudlian music publication Mersey Beat, which Epstein sold in NEMS and wrote record reviews for. Although he had little interest in the actual content, he could hardly have failed to notice the leather-clad group which had taken Hamburg by storm.
Epstein’s curiosity was, nonetheless, piqued after his encounter with the enthusiastic Jones, and on Thursday 9 November 1961 he and Taylor paid their first visit to the Cavern Club to watch The Beatles perform. It was the beginning of a chain of events that would irrevocably change the lives of the people involved, and cause a revolution in popular culture.
The first written reference to Jones came in an interview Brian Epstein gave to a UK newspaper.
When the Beatles had had a couple of recording under their belt, Brian Epstein was telling his story in a national newspaper, I was livid when he described me in the article as a “scruffy” 18-year-old leather-jacketed youth. I wrote to NEMS to show him my disgust about his remark. In the letter I said not everyone wore suits and that some people had to work for a living.
Shortly after that someone from NEMS wrote to me and asked me to contact Mr Epstein at his office, which at that time was in Moorfields off Dale Street. When I contacted him he asked me to call to his office and said he would like to apologise in person. After his somewhat poor apology we both went to Rigby’s pub in Dale Street and had a couple of drinks. He was asking me all sorts of questions and taking notes at the same time. He didn’t say so but I think he must have been planning the book A Cellarful Of Noise.
Some time later a neighbour of mine wrote to Brian – for what reason I’m not quite sure – but by return of post she received a letter from Diana Vero, Mr Epstein’s secretary, asking for my address so he could send me a copy of his book. A week or so later I received it.
Epstein recounted the story of Jones’ record request in his autobiography A Cellarful Of Noise, first published in October 1964. The account was the two-paragraph prologue to the book, proving its significance to The Beatles’ story.
At about three o’clock on Saturday, October 28th, 1961, an eighteen-year-old boy called Raymond Jones, wearning jeans and a black leather jacket, walked into a record-store in Whitechapel, Liverpool, and said: ‘There’s a record I want. It’s “My Bonnie” and it was made in Germany. Have you got it?’
Behind the counter was Brian Epstein, twenty-seven, director of the store. He shook his head. ‘Who is the record by?’ he asked. ‘You won’t have heard of them,’ said Jones. ‘It’s by a group called The Beatles….’
A Cellarful Of Noise
The story was expanded upon later in the book.
On Saturday, October 28th, I had just come back from a long holiday in Spain during which I had wondered how I could expand my interests.
And then, suddenly, though quite undramatically, a few words from Raymond Jones brought the solution. The words, of course, were ‘Have you got a disc by The Beatles?’
I had never given a thought to any of the Liverpool beat groups then up and coming in cellar clubs. They were not part of my life, because I was out of the age group, and also because I had been too busy. But I knew that a lot of boys had taken up the guitar because of the influence of teenage stars since the early days of Presley and Tommy Steele, through the late fifties to the Shadows, who, by the autumn of 1962, were the star instrumental group backing Cliff Richard, unchallenged British pop idol.
The name ‘Beatle’ meant nothing to me though I vaguely recalled seeing it on a poster advertising a university dance at New Brighton Tower and I remembered thinking it was an odd and purposeless spelling.
Raymond Jones was one of any average dozen customers who called in daily for unknown discs and there seems now no valid reason why, beyond my normal efforts to satisfy a customer, I should have gone to such lengths to trace the actual recording artistes. But I did and I wonder sometimes whether there is not something mystically magnetic about the name ‘Beatle’? …
On October 28 Raymond Jones left the store after I had taken a note of his request. I wrote on a pad: ‘”My Bonnie”. The Beatles. Check on Monday.’
A Cellarful Of Noise