The Beatles: Early History


Katie Farquhar, Staff Writer

Now, I’m sure you all have heard of The Beatles. You may have even listened to some of their songs. However, how much do you know about the early history of The Beatles, how they came to be? If you don’t know much, I’d be happy to enlighten you!

The group which became the Beatles was originally called the Quarrymen (or Quarry Men, depending on the source) and was started by John Lennon in 1957. The name Quarrymen came from the school John Lennon was attending at the time, Quarry Bank School in Liverpool, England. The Quarrymen was a skiffle group, which were popular in England during the 1950’s. Skiffle, according to Wikipedia is, “a genre of folk music with influences from blues, jazz, and American folk music, generally performed with a mixture of manufactured and homemade or improvised instruments.”, if that helps you picture the kind of music they were playing. Although John Lennon tried to put as much Rock n’ Roll into the mix as possible. 

The members of the Quarrymen were generally pretty fluid, but the considered original core group consisted of: John Lennon (vocals/guitar), Pete Shotton (washboard), Eric Griffiths (lead guitar), Rod Davis (banjo), Bill Smith (tea chest bass), and Colin Hanton (drums). Bill Smith was succeeded many times by Ivan Vaughn or Nigel Whalley, however, the steady bass eventually became Len Garry. In July of 1957, Paul McCartney joined the ranks of the Quarrymen, as a vocalist/guitarist, and in February of 1958, George Harrison also joined the band as a vocalist/guitarist. John Lowe also came in around that time as a pianist.

However, by the middle of 1958, members left the group for a plethora of reasons, which left John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Colin Hanton, and John Lowe. The numbers dwindled even more, and at the beginning of 1959 only Lennon and McCartney would remain, however Harrison would rejoin the band later that year, who would then consist of Lennon, McCartney, Harrison, and Ken Brown (guitar/vocals), who would eventually leave the group to join the Black Jacks, one of whom’s members was Pete Best. By Autumn of 1959, the group would change it’s name to Johnny and the Moondogs, and would consist of Lennon, McCartney, Harrison, and Stuart Sutcliffe (bass), who was a friend of John’s from art school.

In 1960, they changed their name again to the Silver Beetles (later, Silver Beatles), and added Tommy Moore on drums, who was succeeded by Norman Chapman, who would also be succeeded by the formerly mentioned Pete Best. By then, the group was known as, simply, the Beatles. However, within a year, Sutcliffe had left the band, leaving Paul McCartney to play bass, with Lennon on guitar, Harrison on lead guitar, and Best on drums. 

At that point The Beatles were in Hamburg on a residency, making their very first recordings, after a series of well received concerts in Liverpool. Following their successful residency, which was arranged by their first manager, Allan Williams, the group would return to Liverpool, becoming stars of the up-and-coming merseybeat sound that was thriving in the city. Following a series of shows at the now-famous Cavern Club, the group would get noticed by Brian Epstein, who worked at a local record store, and would become the Beatles manager in 1962. Epstein got the group auditions at record labels, in hopes of getting them signed. The Beatles would get rejected by Decca records, although they would get signed to EMI’s Parlophone label in 1962, and in June the group started their first recording session at Abbey Road Studios. It would be at this point that the group’s producer, George Martin, thought that Pete Best, the drummer, was lacking in talent, and didn’t mesh well with the other members of the group. They replaced him with Richard Starkey (more popularly known as Ringo Starr), of a local group called Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. The line-up of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr would remain until the group’s end. 

The Beatles then went on to record most of their first LP in one day, February 11, 1963, which was about 6 months after Starr had officially joined the group. This LP, Please Please Me, was released on March 22 of that year, and went to Number 1 in the UK charts on May 11. It stayed there for the next thirty weeks, sending the Beatles into fame all over the UK. In February of 1964, the Beatles would go on to play on the Ed Sullivan Show in America, which would lead them to international fame and make them the most recognizable faces in the world at the time.

And that’s The Beatles: Early History! I hope you enjoyed, and learned something new. I had a great time researching this, so If you’re curious about the extensive history of the Beatles, I encourage you to look into it.