When Paul McCartney Met John Lennon

It was at the Woolton Parish Church’s garden fete in early July 1957 — 60 years ago this month — that the future of pop music was changed forever, although no one attending the event likely realized it at the time.

Performing as part of the celebration was a semi-amateur garage band called The Quarrymen, who played a type of music known as skiffle. In that group was a young Liverpool lad named John Lennon. He was only 16, and he captured the attention of another young fellow British musician, 15-year-old Paul McCartney.

McCartney borrowed Lennon’s guitar, tuned it properly, and proceeded to whip out a few popular ’50s hits of the time, including “Be-Bop-A-Lula” and some Little Richard tunes. The two artists quickly hit it off. As McCartney later reflected to Record Collector, “I remember John was good. He was really good.”

McCartney was a member of the Quarrymen only two weeks later — and the rest is history.

Well, maybe it didn't quite happen that quickly. The first time McCartney wound up on stage with Lennon and the rest of the Quarrymen was on Oct. 18, 1957 — and he flubbed a guitar solo in the then-popular song, "Guitar Boogie." Fortunately, the lads persevered and continued playing shows together.

Eventually, everyone aside from McCartney and Lennon left the band. Luckily, audience member and guitarist George Harrison first saw the Quarrymen perform in February 1958 and wanted to join. He and Paul had known each other for about a year, and on July 12, 1958, Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison recorded a cover of Buddy Holly's "That'll Be The Day."

For the longest time the trio performed without a drummer, having lost their original drummer in a drunken scuffle. Young drummer Pete Best was interested in the gig by the end of 1959, but hadn't yet worked up the courage to ask if he could perform with them. Before he could, the threesome auditioned for ABC's "TV Star Search," performing for no obvious reason as Johnny and the Moondogs.

They didn't win, but the judges liked their unique all-guitar sound and invited them to the show's final on Nov. 15, 1959, at the Hippodrome in Manchester. The band changed names again — this time going by the Silver Beetles (and then the Silver Beatles).

Related: Ron Howard Brings Back Beatlemania

Finally, in August 1960, they asked Pete Best to be drummer for their once-again renamed band, the Beatles. As George Harrison recalled, according to beatlesbible.com, "I remembered a guy I'd met who'd been give a drum kit for Christmas." The foursome was ready to make history. They'd do it at a dive bar in Hamburg, Germany, called the Indra Club.

Related: How the Beatles' 'Sgt. Pepper' Changed Music Forever

You may be asking, "But what about Ringo?"

After 48 days of performing at the Indra Club, the young men moved to another Hamburg club called the Kaiserkeller, alternating with a band called Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. On drums for Rory was a lad named Ringo Starr. That gig finished up for the Beatles when McCartney and Best were arrested on Nov. 29, 1960, and kicked out of Germany the next day.

The incident was a misunderstanding; the owner of the club claimed the two tried to burn down the building. In reality, they had lit an object on a wall in a dark room to see clearly, but accounts differ on this.

By the beginning of 1961, the band's fortunes had improved, and they had actual fans. People showed up at any dive bar or dance hall where they were performing. As Pete Best recalled, according to beatlesbible.com, "They stopped dancing when we played and surged forward in a crowd to be nearer to us, to watch every moment, and above all to scream. People didn't go to a dance to scream: This was news!"

By New Year's Day in 1962, the boys — still with Pete Best — famously auditioned for Decca Records in London. They didn't get the gig, but producer George Martin of Parlophone heard their work, and in June 1962 they auditioned for him at a recording studio called Abbey Road. The only problem was this: Martin didn't think Pete Best was strong enough as drummer. Enter Ringo Starr.

"It was evident they'd found their man from the moment that Ringo took over the beat," as Bob Spitz noted in his definitive 2005 biography of the band, "The Beatles." "The energy, the cleverness, the right groove — the magic — breezed back into their overall sound."

Things exploded fairly quickly after that, with the release of their first album, "Please, Please Me," in March of 1963. Then albums dropped astonishingly quickly after that, including "Meet the Beatles!" (1964), "A Hard Day's Night" (1964), "Help!" (1965), "Rubber Soul" (1965), "Revolver" (1966), "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" (1967), "Yellow Submarine" (1969), "Abbey Road" (1969), and their final studio album, "Let It Be" (1970).

There was also a little thing known as their earth-shattering TV appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show," in February of 1964, which catapulted them into the stratosphere in the United States. Movies helped their success as well, with the still fresh and delightful "A Hard Day's Night" (1964) and the slightly odd "Help!" (1965), along with "Yellow Submarine" (1968). There was merchandise galore, more TV appearances, a stint in India early in 1968, practicing transcendental meditation with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi — and so much more, as scores of Beatles fans today know as well as the backs of their hands.

Related: How Joe Cocker Outdid the Beatles

By the time the four musicians went their separate ways, John Lennon and Paul McCartney had not only led one of the most successful pop bands ever, but they'd also contributed over 200 songs to music history. They'd won 10 Grammy Awards and received nominations for "Yesterday," "Michelle," "Hey Jude," "Let It Be," "A Hard Day's Night," and so many more.

It all started back in 1957 at that garden fete in the Woolton Parish Church, when two young kids who dreamed of playing music onstage found each other. And neither could have known at that young age they'd make an impact on contemporary culture and pop music that to this day remains incalculable.

Related: Boomers Still Can't Get Enough of the Beatles

Dave Taylor, based in Boulder, Colorado, has been writing about consumer electronics, technology, and pop culture for many years and runs the popular site AskDaveTaylor.com.

Last Modified: November 21, 2017, 1:32 pm

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