On This Day: John Lennon Meets Paul McCartney
Posted by Reggie Connell
Date: July 05, 2016
On This Day in History: July 6th, 1957
From The History Channel
The front-page headline of the Liverpool Evening Express on July 6, 1957, read “MERSEYSIDE SIZZLES,” in reference to the heat wave then gripping not just northern England, but all of Europe. The same headline could well have been used over a story that received no coverage at all that day: The story of the first encounter between two Liverpool teenagers named John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Like the personal and professional relationship it would lead to, their historic first meeting was a highly charged combination of excitement, rivalry and mutual respect.
It’s easy to assume that John and Paul would eventually have met on some other day had a mutual friend not chosen that hot and humid Saturday to make the introduction. But as much as they had in common, the two boys lived in different neighborhoods, went to different schools and were nearly two years apart in age.
Only John was scheduled to perform publicly on July 6, 1957. The occasion was the annual Woolton Parish Church Garden Fete, a parade and outdoor fair at which John and his Quarry Men Skiffle Group had been invited to play. The main attractions were a dog show and a brass band, but a family connection had helped get the Quarry Men added to the bill as a nod to the hundreds of teenagers in attendance. Midway through their first set, 15-year-old Paul McCartney showed up and watched, transfixed, as John, despite his rudimentary guitar skills and his tendency to ad-lib in place of forgotten lyrics, held the crowd with charm and swagger. After the show, it was Paul’s turn to impress John.
A mutual friend made the introduction in the nearby church auditorium, where John and his bandmates slouched on folding chairs and barely acknowledged the younger boy. Then Paul pulled out the guitar he was carrying on his back and began playing Eddie Cochran’s “Twenty Flight Rock,” then Gene Vincent’s “Be Bop A Lula,” then a medley of Little Richard numbers. As Jim O’Donnell writes in The Day John Met Paul, his book-length account of this historic moment in music history, “A young man not easily astonished, Lennon is astonished.” Paul’s musicianship far outstripped the older Lennon’s, but more than that, John recognized in Paul the same passion Paul had detected in John during his earlier onstage performance. Soon Paul was teaching a rapt John how to tune his guitar and writing out the chords and lyrics to some of the songs he’d just played.
Later that evening, walking home with one of his bandmates, John announced his intentions toward their new acquaintance. Two weeks later, John Lennon invited Paul McCartney to join the Quarry Men.
John Lennon meets Paul McCartney
Saturday 6 July 1957
On the afternoon of 6 July 1957 the Quarrymen skiffle group played at the garden fete of St Peter's Church, Woolton, Liverpool.
The performance took place on a stage in a field behind the church. In the band were John Lennon (vocals, guitar), Eric Griffiths (guitar), Colin Hanton (drums), Rod Davies (banjo), Pete Shotton (washboard) and Len Garry (tea chest bass).
The group arrived on the back of a lorry. As well as music, there were craft and cake stalls, games of hoop-la, police dog demonstrations and the traditional crowning of the Rose Queen. The fete was a highlight of the year for the residents of the sleepy Liverpool district.
That evening the group were due to play again, minus Colin Hanton, this time at the Grand Dance in the church hall on the other side of the road. They were due on stage at 8pm, and admission to the show, in which the Quarrymen alternated on stage with the George Edwards Band, was two shillings.
While setting up their equipment to play, the Quarrymen's sometime tea-chest bass player, Ivan Vaughan, introduced the band to one of his classmates from Liverpool Institute, the 15-year-old Paul McCartney.
This historic occasion was the first time McCartney met John Lennon, a year his senior. McCartney wore a white jacket with silver flecks, and a pair of black drainpipe trousers.
The pair chatted for a few minutes, and McCartney showed Lennon how to tune a guitar - the instruments owned by Lennon and Griffiths were in G banjo tuning. McCartney then sang Eddie Cochran's Twenty Flight Rock and Gene Vincent's Be-Bop-A-Lula, along with a medley of songs by Little Richard.
Lennon was equally impressed with McCartney, who showed natural talent for singing songs that the Quarrymen worked hard to accomplish. McCartney also recalled performing on the church hall piano.
The particular detail was later recalled by McCartney in his introduction to Lennon's first book, In His Own Write:
The Quarrymen's set, remarkably, was recorded by an audience member, Bob Molyneux, on his portable Grundig reel-to-reel tape recorder. In 1994 Molyneux, then a retired policeman, rediscovered the tape, which contained scratchy recordings of the band performing Lonnie Donegan's Puttin' On The Style and Elvis Presley's Baby, Let's Play House.
The tape was sold on 15 September 1994 at Sotheby's for £78,500. At the time it was the most expensive recording ever sold at auction. The winning bidder was EMI Records, who considered if for release as part of the Anthology project, but chose not to as the sound quality was substandard.
After the Quarrymen's show the group, along with Ivan Vaughan and McCartney, went to a Woolton pub where they lied about their ages to get served.
Later on, Lennon and Pete Shotton discussed the young McCartney, and whether to invite him to join their group. For Lennon it was a dilemma - should he admit a talented member who may pose a challenge to his own superiority within the group, or should he persist without McCartney, retaining his leadership yet likely consigning the group to failure?
They decided McCartney would be an asset, and roughly two weeks later Shotton encountered McCartney cycling through Woolton. Paul mulled over the invitation to join, and eventually agreed to join the Quarrymen's ranks.