Although opening its doors to the public a few years later than the now legendary "Cavern", the Iron Door would make a substantial contribution to the social fabric of Liverpool and set the stage for the development of
the Merseybeat sound. While the Cavern was well established as a jazz club, the Iron Door was first to offer
evening sessions that focused exclusively on Rock and Roll. It was larger and entertained more fans at one
time which made it more desirable for bigger events than the Cavern. Moreover, it offered healthy competition
and an alternative for aspiring groups. Finally, it was not structured to the same
extent as the Cavern which allowed the musicians to promote themselves as opposed to
relying on an announcer.
That the Iron Door was perhaps the only musical forum of its day that encouraged and promoted Scouser Rock through rivalry among emerging groups is underscored by Prem Willis-Pitts. Willis-Pitts grew up in Liverpool during the 1960s and had the good fortune to play on stage at the Iron Door. Mr. Willis-Pitts remembered -
"The Iron Door is the only club that openly promoted jamming between bands and also allowed new and experimental bands to play there. This wasnt the policy at the Cavern as it passed from a "no rock we are a jazz club" snobbery to realizing rock was where the money was at. At the Iron Door, bands would jam together after hours - the first mingling of the different strands at an "open" stage venue where experimentation could take place. Freddie Starr cut his teeth there as did Cilla Black, Beryl Marsden, The Searchers, The Detours and many more. In fact Geoff Hogarth was the first manager for Freddie Starr. I believe The Searchers wanted him to manage them too but he was too busy and turned them down. In many ways Merseybeat formed and was moulded down the Iron Door in a way it never was in the Cavern."(July 2002).
The Club was originally named as The Iron Door Club in 1958 by Geoffrey Hogarth and his partner Harry
Ormesher. Mr. Hogarth confirmed -
"after some work the business opened two years later. It got its
name from a big iron door that was in the warehouse. It became the Liverool Jazz Society sometime
later and then the Storeyville Jazz Club.
The frequent name changes were associated with
a business that was struggling to some extent. Indeed, it seems that the Club would be known
as the Pyramid Club for a period before it finally closed its doors. At one point the club was closed in November
1960 following facilities fines. In spite of these minor setbacks the demand was such that it was able to open under another name. Sam Leach recalled
"Although it was officially The Liverpool Jazz Society when I hired it to promote my
Merseybeat shows and all night sessions with The Beatles, etc,
we always called it The Iron Door. It was managed by Les Ackerly who, for a
brief period of time, was the manager for The Searchers."
It was the introduction of Mr. Sam Leach to the Iron Door Club that would quickly put this
venue on the Liverpool map and through his promotions many music promoters and popular clubs sat up
and took notice. Sam Leach recalls that
"The Cavern was a jazz club when I commenced at the Iron Door. They did lunchtime sessions
but never booked rock bands at night. Ray McFall and Bill Harry were both jazz freaks. Shortly after I started at the
Iron Door, doing three and four sessions a week, I put on my first all nighter on March 11, 1961 and drew almost 2000 fans
for a 12 hour session with 12 bands. That night the Cavern had a total of 50. I continued big nightly sessions at the
Iron Door and also the Cassanova Club. Finally, on March 21, 1961 the Cavern succumbed and was dragged - no doubt kicking and
screaming - into the Rock'n'Roll age."
Chis Huston, lead guitarist for the Undertakers and close friend to Beatle - John Lennon, was able to provide many insightful comments about the climate and "goings on" at the Iron Door. In comparing the Iron Door to the Cavern Huston commented
"They also had lunch time sessions to compete
with the Cavern. They actually got a good crowd, but that observation could be tempered by remembering
that the Cavern had a very limited occupancy! Then again, by 1962, music was a way of
life in Liverpool and lunch time sessions at either place drew a full house. I'm searching
for words to describe the difference between the two places - The Cavern and the
Iron Door. It all came down to the magic that the Cavern seemed to have. As if it was
guaranteed that something special was going on. Whereas, at the Iron Door, it was more
up to the customer to get things happening. It just didn't have that 'built-in' excitement that the cavern had."