Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Red Letter Day

February 9, 1961

The events in the history of the Beatles do not get any bigger than this.  Today, the Beatles play their first lunchtime date at the Cavern Club in central Liverpool.  (Please feel free to pass this posting on to your friends who are Beatle fans.  They'll thank you for it.)

The Cavern was opened by a local jazz impresario named Alan Synter in January of 1957.  It was modeled after a ground breaking club in Paris called "Le Caveau" which featured jazz in a cool cabaret setting.  The Liverpool version was established in the basement of a warehouse near the docks.  The rooms, featuring three parallel barrel vaults made of brick, had no outside ventilation to speak of, and had been used as a bomb shelter during the war.

In the late 50's, there was a surge in the popularity of American traditional jazz, invented in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Cavern was strictly a jazz club and uncouth rock and roll was very much frowned on.  There were lots of local practitioners, such as the Merseysippi Jazz Band (still going strong today) who needed a place to play.  Skiffle, the music practiced by the 17 year old John Lennon's earlier band the Quarrymen, was seen as an offshoot of this style of jazz and the Q-men actually played the Cavern in '57.  Of course, when they strayed into more rock influenced territory they were quickly and severely reprimanded.  (Want more evidence of the huge influence that skiffle had on British rock? Check out this amazing video of a very young Jimmy Page, guitarist of the Yardbirds and Led Zeppelin, playing it.  Do not miss this!)

Fast forward to 1961.  The club has changed hands and now is managed by Ray McFall.  The burgeoning local rock scene has finally convinced him to allow rock music to get its foot in the door of the Cavern.  But only for the lunch crowd.  The office and shop girls of downtown Liverpool bring in a few bob at each lunchtime session and the jazz aficionados can listen to "real" music in the evenings.

The Beatles are paid 5 Pounds for providing the music for today's lunchtime crowd.  (Oh! For a real working time machine!)

Me at the "reconstructed" Cavern.  Sadly, the original site is the parking lot to the right.


  1. awesome! they must have been so excited! you know, i am learning alot from reading your blog!

  2. You know what? I'm learning a lot, too, just doing the research for each post! But thanks for the encouragement.