Entertainment & Arts

Cavern Club owner Ray McFall dies

Paul McCartney at The Cavern
Image caption The Beatles played at The Cavern Club almost 300 times over two-and-a-half years

Former Cavern Club owner Ray McFall, who helped launch the careers of The Beatles, has died at the age of 88.

McFall owned the Liverpool club in the 1960s, changing it from a jazz venue to a rock 'n' roll club and booking Merseybeat bands like The Beatles.

The Fab Four went on to play at the legendary basement venue 292 times.

"It was Ray who opened it up to those early Merseybeat sessions, which led to the whole Merseybeat explosion," said Jon Keats, a director of the Cavern.

"It was completely his vision that moved the club forward, with what turned into the huge Merseybeat explosion and The Beatles' success and Gerry and the Pacemakers and all the main bands.

Image caption By 1966, The Beatles had moved on and the club was forced to close

"He changed The Cavern completely and allowed the rock 'n' roll into the club."

McFall took over the club in 1959 and, with compere Bob Wooler, opened it up to the city's young rock 'n' roll bands.

The Beatles first performed there in a lunchtime session on 9 February 1961 - but their legendary association with the club almost did not happen.

McFall had banned jeans from the club because he thought they signified a rough crowd. Guitarist George Harrison wore jeans to that first gig but managed to persuade the doorman to let him in.

McFall was not pleased at first - but was soon won over when he saw the band perform.

"The Beatles were sensational and I was smitten," he later said. "Completely, Absolutely, Instantly.

"I stood at the side, between the pillars, about halfway up the hall, and as soon as they started playing I was captivated by them.

"From that very first day, there was no stopping them. I said to Bob: 'What other lunchtimes have they got? We must have them regularly.'"

The venue also hosted gigs by The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds, John Lee Hooker and Howlin' Wolf. But in 1966, McFall was declared bankrupt and the Cavern Club was forced to close.

In 1973, the cellar was filled in but the club was rebuilt near the original site and opened again in 1984.

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