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Features

The Beatles
The Beatles played 292 times

Cavern celebrates 50 years

By Paul Coslett
The world famous club that launched the Beatles celebrates its 50th birthday. Share your memories of The Cavern.

The world’s most famous rock and roll club, Liverpool’s The Cavern celebrates its 50th birthday on Tuesday 16 January 2007.

The Beatles played at The Cavern 292 times and it was during one of their lunchtime sessions at the club that they were first seen by their future manager Brian Epstein.

The Cavern, named by owner Alan Synter after a Paris venue ‘Le Caveau’, opened on Wednesday 16th January 1957. The club began life as a Jazz venue, the first act was Merseysippi Jazz Band, and for three years the club would mainly feature jazz artists.

The Beatles first promoter Sam Leach recalls that The Cavern, because of its jazz associations was one of the last Liverpool clubs to feature beat music; “It makes me smile when you read ‘The Cavern where it all began’. They were the last ones in.

“Truthfully it was a hole, it was smelly. The girls weren’t that particularly nice, they were ok but a little bit rough. I used to go the Mardi Gras because the girls there were higher class.”

audio Revellers at the closure of The Cavern in 1973 >
Audio and Video links on this page require Realplayer

The Cavern will be celebrating its 50th birthday with a day long concert for a specially invited audience.

Home of Merseybeat

In 1959 The Cavern was sold to Ray McFall who continued the jazz theme, but over time beat music began to take over. Lunchtime sessions had been introduced in April 1957 partly to deal with the skiffle craze. John Lennon made his first appearance at the Cavern with The Quarrymen on 7 August 1957. In 1960 Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, featuring Ringo Starr on drums, played the first beat evening session.

The Cavern Club
The new Cavern in Mathew Street

From 1960 onwards beat music became The Cavern’s mainstay. Bob Wooler was recruited as the compere at lunchtime sessions and most of the Merseybeat acts played there at one time or another. The Beatles made their first appearance on Wednesday 21 February 1961 and their last on Friday 3 August 1963.

Sam Leach says that despite its reputation now, the club was never his favourite venue; “I didn’t enjoy it. If you went there with a pair of new hush puppies they’d be finished by the time you came out with the mud and the coke. There was no drink in those days. Cigarettes and coke, that was all you had underneath you feet in those days.”

“But it was exciting The Cavern, I’ll give it that. You have to say The Cavern has become and is the most important rock club of all time. There’s no argument. No one can dispute that.” 

By the late 1960’s the club had lost much of its appeal. The introduction of an alcohol license in 1967 – the club had previously only served soft drinks – did little to stop the slide.

In 1973 the original Cavern closed its doors for the final time. The cellar venue stood in the way of a planned ventilation shaft for the new underground rail loop line. In the event the shaft was never constructed and the club lay filled in but undisturbed until the early 1980’s.

Revellers at the closing night of the Cavern in 1973, at a time when The Beatles had only recently split, seemed to care little for the club’s Merseybeat associations one saying “I don’t think that’s recognised now. They don’t think of the Cavern as where the Beatles were discovered now. The Cavern now is just the place where you can go and hear good music.”

In 1984 a new Cavern opened, constructed on 75% of the original site and built with 15,000 bricks from the original club. The new venue is deeper than the original but the dimensions and design are the same.

In 1999 Paul McCartney returned to the club which launched his career playing a special gig at the new Cavern.

last updated: 18/01/07
 
Have Your Say
What are your memories of The Cavern? Did you see The Beatles there? Did you attend in the late 1960's? Were you at the last night? Add your memories.
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Steve Malpass
My father-in-law-to-be (John Rigby) was in a band called The Boys from Warrington and played at the Cavern in the 60s. They have their name on one of the bricks. If anybody reading this can remember The Boys, either through playing on the same set, or seeing them play, please leave a message on this site and I'll pass it to John - he'd love to hear from you.

Allan Schroeder
I first played the Cavern in 1959/1960 with an outfit called Cliff Roberts and the Rockers, we did the lunch time sessions with Gerry & the Beatles. But prior to this we where involved in an audition to back Billy Fury when the Beatles where terrible. Then they came home from Germany. I will never forget it,they where incredible,and took over the Cavern. I found the Cavern scary because at the other venues every body danced in front of the stage, but at the Cavern they would sit staring from the middle Isle I then played the Cavern with The Black Knights appeared in Ferry Cross the Mersey, Recorded by George Martin at Abbey Road, Did the Star Club Hamburg & toured the country in an old Van !Brill!

Jimi Knowles
Im Another who sagged school to go to the lunchtime sessions. Ok I failed all my G.C.E.'s So what, What I got was a life time of memorys, as a tall lad I had no problem getting in and getting a membership for the evenings, even Paddy the doorman said hello, I was there almost every day and almost everynight for about fout or five years, Ive seen them all, My love of blues music started there, John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Sony Boy Williamson,Long John Baldry, too many for this, the list was endless, in my early days I even turned up in my school uniform, I can not believe I did that. When Ive read the recent articals thier has been no mention of the great Local R&B bands The Claton Squares The Roadrunners The Hideaways. Who had local fans flocking to the Cave every week, mostly student filling in time with thier love of music. Everone there would tell you The Big Three Rory Storm The Remo 4 were FAB. id say, not looking for an argument Yeah But... OK many a goog conversation point. But you had to be there to know. Memorable moments, well thier were so many Herman knocking himself out doing Mashed Potatoe, Sitting on the stage while John Lee Hooker played Dimples at 3am on an all nighter. seing the Yardbirds and not being able to remember if it was Eric Clapton or Jimmy Page or Both of them on stage? seeing the Spencer Davies Group for the first time wow! never to be forgotten also the Moody Blues playing Go now before it was released as a single they were backing Sony Boy Williamson. But THE best of all rememberance is my Girl friend requesting The Beatles "Il get you" for me Bob Wooler played it. and this year 2007 is our 40th anniversary. thanks to the Cavern Stomp.

Terry Broughton
I was in a group called "The Incas" and we appeared at The Cavern several times but on the 19th May 1963 with Gene Vincent and The Hollies on the bill. What A night. We always played some of the latest songs, and one was one of The Hollies called " Hey, What's Wrong with me." which we did a good version of. We played it and when we came off The Hollies went on and it was their opening song! They weren't too happy with us - we'd stolen their opening song! But a great night, and I still have photos of Gene Vincent in the Cavern "dressing room"!!!

Eric Potter Prince Edward Island Canada
Only once went inside the Cavern, but back in the early sixties when I was in the navy we would go down to Matthew Street and the girls would go to the Cavern while the boys would go to the Grapes Pub across the street. Later we would all meet up at the Grapes and often the Beatles, Rory Storm and the Hurricanes and other groups would come in for a jar. Rory Storm (real name Alan Caldwell) was a good friend of mine at that time, sadly he tragically passed away in the late sixties. Remember visiting Liverpool in December 1980 and hearing on radio that John Lennon had just been killed. We went down to Matthew Street that night for a candle lit vigil, there were thousands there that night and we sang songs like Imagine, it was a magical night. Also remember in October 1962 sitting with my sister and parents having supper when the Beatles came on local Granada T.V., it must have been there first appearance on t.v. and it was a special slot for local talent. They sang Love Me Do and my sister said then "They will be famous", I laughed at her but two months later they were indeed on their way...Great memories...

Jimmy Rae
Sadly I wasn't around in the 60s for the Cavern's heyday but in the 80s I was one half of a local duo called The Reverb Brothers who had the honour of being asked to play at the official re-opening of the club in 1984. We were being tipped for big things back then and were very influenced by the 50s and 60s sounds so I guess we were chosen to represent the next wave of bands that were breaking through at that time. There was a lot of TV crews and media attention on the day which made it an exciting thing to be part of but my biggest memory was of walking through Williamson Square afterwards and hearing our first single 'Aint So Sorry' (which had just been released) blasting out from a radio on one of the stalls. We asked the woman what station she was tuned to and she said it was Radio One! Woohoo!! I'll never forget the excitement of playing the Cavern and hearing one of my songs on national radio for the first time -both on the same day. Sadly the band split up a few years later but after a long break from the business I'm back songwriting and gigging again and looking forward to a long overdue return to the Cavern on 29 March. If anyone remembers us, please come down and I promise we'll play 'Aint So Sorry' just for you! (contact me at www.jimmyrae.co.uk)

Steve Burkhill
One band who played the Cavern more times than the Beatles in the late sixties was The Klubs often known as the Wild Wild Klubs. Featured on Frankie Connors show last year. The Klubs will be on stage tonight playing high energy rock and roll and hits from the 50's sixties and seventies in their own inimitable way at 22:00. The Klubs were forerunners of Glam Rock well before the Sweet or Ramones started wearing make up

Rob Davidson
I was lucky enough to see the Beatles play live around 1960. I was only 4 at the time and it was at the Mecanno Xmas Panto. Pete Best was on drums. Years later, and now a self taught bass player I was invited to play the Cavern in the Pete Best Band on the night Ringo returned to Liverpool to play The Empire with his All Starr Band. The Cavern rocked that night. A memory that will stay with me fo ever. Thanks Pete for giving me the chance to fulfill a childhood dream.

Gerry Walker
I started going to the Cavern when it first opened as a jazz club (Still have my original membership card) with friends Joe McNally, Valerie Forsyth and others. Loved the atmosphere, it was a real escape from the reality of that time. Saw the Beatles at Adelaide town hall 12 June 1964 with 300,000 others, married the next day and went to their concert at Sydney boxing stadium while on honeymoon. Great memories and still the greatest band and the greatest music in my experience. Just love to visit the club again one day and relive those memories. Gerry Walker, Hope Valley, South Australia.

Malcolm Sexton
I was a regular lunchtime fan as i came down from school(Collegiate Grammer) to follow The Beatles and and friends in other groups inc.The Dennisons,Farons Flamingoes.Ialso remember seeing The Animals,and all the Manchester groups of the time.The dance was called The Cavern Stomp which i still dance too at parties ! The other hot spot for all the bands on my side of the city (Aintree) was The Orell Park Ballroom.Iam still in touch with friends from the time inc.Allan Willis from The Dennisons.

Larry Curtis
I have never been to the Cavern Club, but as a Beatles fan (since 1964) I would like to wish everyone associated with the club a Happy 50th Anniversary! The Cavern has a very significant place in the history of Rock n Roll and if I am ever able to actually make the trek to Liverpool I fully intend to visit and enjoy some great music! Cheers to all in Liverpool as this is a great year for you all! Larry Curis Houston, TX, USA

Tony Vaughan
I remember the Cavern when it was a Jazz/Skiffle cellar. In my lunch break I used to get the train from Hamilton Square where I worked as a Junior Clerk at Martins Bank through to James St, down the steps into the smokey darkness to sweat it out in the press of bodies then back again all within an hour - rejuvenated!

suzanne quinlan
attended the last night of the cavern at the age of 16 saying that i was doing homework at a friends overnight and it was an all nighter which ill remember forever and we all drank orange juice no drugs and had a ball!

Ellen Cruise
Oh yes I remember going down the steps into the Cavern, and almost falling in my new shoes. I held onto my membership cards for many years but over time they were cleared out. I remember going to the lunch time session in June 1963, the day before I took my Geography O level exam. Well itmust have done me good because I passed. I also remember queuing outside and the pigeons. The Cavern Stomp was great, does anyone every do that dance now. My sister & did it at a dance on holiday in Dunfermline in the Summer of '63, and we had some funny looks. Happy Days. No booze that I can remember just coke, the drinking stuff.

alan P
1961 Started at 14 working at James Smiths Music Store(Now Showboat front only) in Williamson Street . One of the Engineers there was witth the Merseysippi Jazz Band(then based in Lord St) The other Apprentices used to find the Lunchtime session time the Beatles were on,although then there were alot of groups playing there just as popular NEMS Store was a large store but I remember just a small side window on Whitechapel featured the Beatles release record. A lot of people said it wouldn't have closed 1n the70'sif it was popular,but the difference was then other Clubs sold Drink,not Coffee\Coke

Anne Newman
I remember being at the Cavern with The Prowlers in 1965. My boyfriend was the Roadie for the group and we sat backstage while they played. Fantastic atmosphere.

sue quinlan
ye I was there on the last night of the cavern at the ripe old age of 16! It was an all nighter and was a night to remember and am glad I was there. despite telling me mum I was sleeping over at my friend doing homework!

Bill Logan
I first visited the Cavern in 1963. In the mid-sixties a group of us used to go most weekends. I remember a friend being challenged over his age. We were all 15 and we knew we had to be 17 to be admitted. We had all practiced increasing our age by 2 years, but the lad challenged put two years on to the year he was born, saying he was born in 1950 instead of 1946. the bouncer just laughed but let us go in anyway. I stopped going the Cavern in the 1970's after I got married and didn't go back until I showed some out of town friends around buring Beatles Week in the 1990's.

Margaret Whitfield
1962/63 I sagged school for 18 months to go to the Cavern at lunchtime (my friends elder sister took us for the first time and we were hooked) After the Cavern we used to go straight to the Iron Door for the rest of the afternoon. One day my dad and his workmate Johnny Howells turned up at the bottom of the Cavern steps when I was dancing - I was only 14 and my Dad had brought a carrier bag with my school uniform in, he made me go to the toilets and change into it and then walk up and down the three ailes before we left - I think I was back there the following week though!!!! My friends were Pauline Mallon, Anne Sealey, Tony Bennett and Tommy Smith who were all regulars. I remember Cilla and The Beatles. We were pretty good dancers my friend and I and popular partners for the Cavern Stomp - I went to the big festival thing with Jimmy Saville and loads of groups. My favourite dancing partner was a lad called Tommy Smith who was brilliant. Happy Days - I'm just glad that there wasn't this temptation for my own children but it was brilliant thought.

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