The Beatles
A Famous Evening Before The Cavern
by Peter R. McCormack

Beatles' Evening Session - An Iron Door First

The Beatles played the Iron Door on roughly a half-dozen occasions over the period March 1961 to March 1962.

The Beatles first evening performance was on Monday March 6, 1961, Beat Night at the Liverpool Jazz Society. According to the advert in the Liverpool Echo on Saturday March 4, 1961, the event was billed as "Merseysides Best Ever Rock Parade" and included: Gerry and the Pacemakers, The Sensational Beatles, Rory Storm & The Hurricanes, The Big Three, Derry & The Seniors and Kingsize Taylor & The Dominoes.

There next three appearances took place at the Iron Door on March 11, March 13, and March 15, 1961. Their March 15, 1961 performance was on a Wednesday afternoon and they shared a five hour concert with with Gerry and the Pacemakers and Rory Storm and The Hurricanes. John, Paul George and Pete returned a year later on March 1 and March 8, 1962 playing in the newly named Storyville Jazz Club.

The Beatles' final performance was on March 15, 1962 at which was dubbed the "Beatles' Farewell Party." Sue Shead remembers

"We were in the coffee bar area on the evening the Beatles were given the "Freedom of the City." Everyone was rushing out to Dale Street to see them going past. But we were upset with them, as they'd recently relocated to the London area and we figured their original fans and their "roots" so we stayed put. The year before, we'd cued all night outside the Empire to get tickets to see them. How fickle."

Sam Leach makes a number of interesting comments about the Beatles and their appearances at the Iron Door. In his book, The Birth of The Beatles" he mentions

"I worked my socks off to put on gigs for The Beatles when Eppy had never heard of them and The Cavern would only play jazz of an evening. Two thousand kids queued to get into The Iron Door when I had The Beatles headlining there. According to the book, [The Anthology] they were never allowed in to the Iron Door but that is just plain wrong. I even managed to secure a ladies' toilet for the boys to use as a dressing room. They got the star treatment!"

The Beatles first performed at the Cavern Club during a lunchtime session on February 21, 1961, a fortnight before they took the stage at the Iron Door. Of special interest to Beatle historians, however, is that their first evening session, at the Cavern was March 21, 1961 at the Bluegenes guest night. On this night the Bluegenes shared the stage with The Beatles, Dale Robert and The Jay Walkers and The Remo Four. The Beatles were actually introduced to an evening crowd at the Iron Door on March 6 and March 11, 1961, two-weeks before they appeared for the Cavern's evening show. On this occasion they appeared in the now famous, first "Rock Around The Clock" all-night session. It is somewhat ironic that it would be the Iron Door who promoted the Beatles moreso than the Cavern for a brief period in March 1961.

Sam Leach has vivid memories of the exciting and very busy times at the Iron Door in 1961. He recalls numerous Rock shows.

I promotoed shows at "The Iron Door (Liverpool Jazz Society), The Cassanova Club and The Merrifield Club and the Easter Festival from Friday March 31, 1961 until Easter Monday April 3, 1961. I turned Liverpool promoters, and the pathetic Cavern, on their heads."

A stiff competition began to develop among the club owners and music promoters in Liverpool which surfaced just a few days before the planned Easter "All-Nighter" was to take place at the Iron Door. Sam Leach describes this situation in detail in his great book "The Rocking City: The Explosive Birth of the Beatles."

"My decision to put on an all-nighter at the Iron Door on Easter Saturday made it inevitable that there would be a major conflict with The Cavern. To me, the tusle for fans was nothin personal, just keen competition. But a trusted friend and a regular at The Cavern warned me: 'No mistake Sam. I definitely heard Bob Wooler say We've finally fixed Leach!'" (Page 105)

Leach goes on to explain in his book that Bob Wooler (announcer at the Cavern) and George Williams (Owner of the Zodiac Club) had plans to make a deal with Geoff Hogarth's new partner Mr. Billy Glanz to obtain the franchise at the Iron Door. In Leach's own words

Moving fast, I contacted all the main bands, who assured me they would boycott the club if I wasn't running it. Armed with this support, Billy capitulated. Standing by my deal with Geoff, Billy had to renege on a verbal agreement made with Bob and George felt oblidged to allow them a one-off all-night jazz festival on Maundy Thursday. This was two days before my all-nighter and an obvious attempt to cash in on my publicity and confuse the public. Bob was the compere, but it was, as I expected, a complete flop and ended shortly after two in the morning." (Page 106)

A review of the early history of The Iron Door certainly reveals that the Club did not take a back seat to the Cavern. The increasing fame of The Beatles, however, would seem to have turned the Cavern into a legend while little documentation is available with regard to the Iron Door. Fortunately there is considerable oral history available from those patrons, performers and promoters who were there. It is through their vivid memories of the performances at the Iron Door that the true influence of this club is revealed.

March 27, 2001 - Revised October 14, 2008
2001-2008 Peter McCormack. All rights reserved.

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