Bob Wooler gets a lift from Liverpool star Kingsize Taylor


JULY 1998 - No. 227
43/45 St. Mary's Road,
Ealing, London W5 5RQ
Early in 1998 the Liverpool Echo held a telephone poll to discover the best entertainers on Merseyside.
100 stars were allocated personal phone lines, and callers could dial their numbers to register their votes.
It was a foregone conclusion that Ken Dodd would win, though some of the results defied belief:
how could Pete Best be No. 5 and John Lennon No. 10?
But one of the names on the list had an influence that went way beyond his personal renown in his hometown.
Bob Wooler is nothing less than a Liverpool institution.
He was the DJ at the home of Merseybeat, the Cavern Club, throughout its key years,
and he compered many beat shows across the city.
He had a quip for every occasion and he helped numerous groups with their stage presentation and repertoire.
Brian Epstein loved his 'Nemperor' (emperor of NEMS) pun so much that it became his telegraphic address.
Bob Wooler also managed several beat groups, like Earl Preston, the Fixx and the Clayton Squares.
His Woolerisms can be heard on the See For Miles CD "Live At The Cavern"
where be introduces the Big Three as "the boys with the Benzedrine beat".
Heady stuff for 1963.
Although Bob is friendly with those who seek him out, he has never told his story before.
Now qualifying for a bus pass and not in good health, he realises that time is pressing and he wants,
at long last, to tell his story in print. This lengthy Record Collector interwiew is the first step in the process:
Northdown will publish his autobiography in September 1999.
"Like James Mason, I have to get it down Before I Forget", says Bob.
Many of Bob's observations, about the Beatles and the Merseybeat scene in general,
are provocative and conflict with accepted wisdom. He is keen to tell the truth.
"I don't make things up", he told me at one point,
"I don't have any stories about Little Stevie Wonder's appearance at the Cavern because
I was too busy organising the evening and getting everyone on and off stage at the right time".
Many Beatle books have Bob Wooler telling the Cavernites that "Please Please Me"
had gone to No.1 and the fans being tearful because the Beatles no longer belonged to Liverpool.
"That didn't happen at all", says Bob. "Similarly,
I never welcomed Brian Epstein over the microphone when he came into the Cavern,
as I never knew he was there".
As Bob says, Mathew Street has become Mythew Street, but this interview tells the truth.


RECORD COLLECTOR:     You worked as a clerk at British Railways. Did you intend to make that your career?
BOB WOOLER:                  No, I really wanted to be a songwriter. I was influenced by the great lyricists of the pre-rock period - Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Johnny Mercer and the like - but I could never find a collaborator. I admired Lionel Bart, who started in rock'n'roll and became a legitimate songwriter, if I may put it that way. Of course, he lived in London, which helped a great deal. It all happened down there - as I was to learn, as the Beatles were to learn, as everybody was to learn. I did tout some lyrics around Denmark Street but no one wanted to know.

RECORD COLLECTOR:  When the beat groups came along, did you give them your lyrics and ask them to put music to them?
BOB WOOLER:                 Occasionally. I did write a few rock'n'roll songs, but even they may have been too sophisticated. The groups were polite but I drew a blank because of CV - not curriculum vitae but cover versions. That's all they would do, cover versions. I have a list of songs the Beatles used to perform in Liverpool. There are 99 songs on this list and only five or six of them are self-penned, usually by Paul. Groups hardly ever did their own songs even if they could write, because they were covering songs that American groups were doing.

RECORD COLLECTOR:   Yet you did have some songs recorded.
BOB WOOLER:                  Yes, I saw a rodeo movie called The Lusty Men where Susan Hayward asks Robert Mitchum something and he says, " I guess I got sidetracked on the way". I expanded that into a country and western lyric and it was recorded by Phil Brady & the Ranchers. The lyrics is the story of my life - I've been meaning to write the story of the Cavern for years, but I guess I got sidetracked on the way.

RECORD COLLECTOR:    And I know that Billy J. Kramer recorded "I Know".
BOB WOOLER:                   Yes, and I owe that to Brian Epstein. The credit on the record - I never succeeded in getting my songs onto sheet music - was shown as "Martin-Wooller" (sic) - my name is often misspelt but there is enough L in my life as it is. I was hoping that George Martin and I were going to have a partnership like Lerner and Loewe or Kander and Ebb, but that was the only song we wrote together.
Maybe he didn't think too much of my lyric, but he was involved in so many other things.
The title came from a film with Alan Ladd. He is testing a plane and when ground control asks him how he is, he says, "Now I know how the angels feel". The song was originally called "Now I Know", but Dick James altered it to "I Know". It caused me some anguish, but I did think, "You're in there, you're in there, don't complain." I get royalties from Polygram who acquired the Jaep catalogue - James/Epstein - and there's someone in Spain who keeps playing that record, which was the B-side to "I'll Keep You Satisfied". My last royalty cheque was for £25.

RECORD COLLECTOR:     Did you discuss your fondness for the great songwriters with Lennon and McCartney?
BOB WOOLER:                    Not really. I remember telling Paul McCartney how great Noel Coward was as a songwriter, and he looked at me very dubiously. At the Cavern, I used to slip in one or two records of my choice and I once played "I Only Have Eyes For You" by Cleo Laine.
John Lennon said, "I'd like to do that song", and I said, "Fine, marvellous", but nothing ever happened. He wanted to do it because it was one of Aunt Mimi's favourite songs.

RECORD COLLECTOR:      Did you meet aunt Mimi?
BOB WOOLER:                     Yes, John announced one Cavern lunchtime that everyone must behave, which was rich coming from him. Aunt Mimi was coming with a friend and she wanted to see him play. He wouldn't have allowed her to go to a venue in the evening but lunchtime was different.
They would perform some quieter or gentler numbers at lunchtime like "Over The Rainbow" or "Falling In Love Again". I met her there and there was no swearing while she was around. I often wonder what she thought of the place.

RECORD COLLECTOR:       There were a few people of Aunt Mimi's generation who did their bit for the Merseybeat scene. I'm thinking of Pete Best's mother and Rory Storm's mother, in particular.
BOB WOOLER:                      Yes, Rory's real name was Alan Caldwell and yet he would say to me, "Would you call my mother Mrs Storm?" He would fantasise and lived out an alter ego . She wanted him to be a success and she would pull out all the stops to help him. I would go along to Broadgreen Road where they lived and Ma Storm would say to me, "Has Rory met any nice girls lately, as I do want him to settle down and get married?" That was her concern as well as him being a success. Disillusionment set in terribly with him and they both committed suicide at their home in the early 70s. I'm sure his failure as Rory Storm the rock'n'roller had a lot to do with it.

RECORD COLLECTOR:      And Rory would have loved success.
BOB WOOLER:                     How true. Rory was showbiz. I used to call him Mr Showmanship, and he would call me Mr Big Beat. I had names for them all . Earl Preston was Mr Magnetism, Gerry Marsden was Mr Personality and Faron was Mr Fabulous. He was also the Panda-Footed Prince of Prance.

RECORD COLLECTOR:      Mona Best ran the Casbah, a club in her own home.
BOB WOOLER:                     Well, it was very fashionable to copy London with its basement coffee-bars. Rory Storm tried to get one going called the Morgue - and there was another one called the Masque in the centre of Liverpool. Allan Williams had the Jacaranda and Neil English had the Sink. Many people comment about the fact the Cavern had no liquor licence but that went for the majority of places. It wasn't an essential requirement in those days. It would be now, of course.

RECORD COLLECTOR:       And what about drugs?
BOB WOOLER:                       I left the table at the Black Rose club one afternoon and when I got back there were two pills loating in my drink. I said, "What's that?" and Lennon said, "Oh, give it here" and he knocked it back. It was two Preludin tablets they had brought back from Germany. They were in metal tubes and I used to say them, "Anyone travelling by tube tonight?"

RECORD COLLECTOR:       You witnessed the change from skiffle to beat music. What do you see as the key events in the changeover?
BOB WOOLER:                      I came into the scene in '57, which was an active year for skiffle and rock in Liverpool as groups were starting to proliferate. By then, Lonnie Donegan had served his purpose. They had learnt from him the simplicity of playing music. It was do-it-yourself music as it didn't involve you learning an instrument properly as you would the trumpet or violin - and slinging a guitar round your shoulder looked rather cool as well. The cost was a problem, but the HP (hire purchase) houses did well out of it. They still do.

RECORD COLLECTOR:       Can you remember when you first saw the Beatles?
BOB WOOLER:                      That would be at the Grosvenor Ballroom in Wallasey in 1960. I went to see Gerry & the Pacemakers who were on the same bill. I was going to stay in the hall to watch them but Gerry said, "Aren't we going to Burtonwood Ales?", and I only saw one number. It was the Pacemakers I was rooting for then.

RECORD COLLECTOR:         Were the Pacemakers already a good band?
BOB WOOLER:                        Oh yes, they were very organised and well-liked. I got them on Allan Williams' rock show at Liverpool Stadium in May 1960. Larry Parnes put the big names on the bill and the first half was local groups, which Allan provided. The Beatles were in the audience, or so I'm told. They had trouble in finding a drummer and so Allan didn't include them on the bill.
Philip Norman says in his book, Shout! The True History Of The Beatles, that Gerry was the hit of the stadium show. I told Philip Norman that Gerry was singing the Jack Scott song, "What In The World's Come Over You?", but he changed it to "You 'll Never Walk Alone". Gerry didn't even know that song at that stage. Tony Sheridan used to do the song in Hamburg, and he, in turn, had heard it from Gene Vincent. That's how Gerry learnt it, over in Hamburg, in 1961. I used to encourage Gerry to do it at Cavern lunchtime sessions. I never liked his melismatic ending, but he changed that when audiences began to sing along with it. It was ironic that the Kop should adopt the tune in December '63 as Gerry was an Evertonian in his youth.

RECORD COLLECTOR:         One of the Beatles' early drummers was the hapless Tommy Moore.
BOB WOOLER:                        Yes, I knew Tommy from my days on Garston docks, as he worked there. He was a messenger boy and he told me that he was crazy about drums. He took drum lessons and he held the drumsticks in the correct position - that is, the conventional dance band way, which has gone out of fashion now. He went to Scotland with the Beatles but his wife was very contemptuous of the beat groups as she never thought they would lead to success. In the end, she told him to stick to his job driving a fork-lift truck at Garston Bottle Works.

RECORD COLLECTOR:          A lot of people were contemptuous about rock'n'roll.
BOB WOOLER:                        Oh yes, the country and western brigade regarded the rock'n'roll groups as a novelty, while the jazz bands poured contempt on them. I got a hell of a bad name for encouraging rock'n'roll to be played at the Cavern. The Cavern was a jazz cellar and the musicians and their followers didn't like rock'n'roll groups coming in. The groups were cheaper than the jazz bands, and I'm sure that had a lot to do with it.

RECORD COLLECTOR:          How did you get insolved in running the Cavern?
BOB WOOLER:                         In 1960 I decided to go pro. I would say to my fellow clerks on the railway, "This is not my station in life", and so on. They would say,"Wooler's gone off the rails". All very funny, but they couldn't believe that I would pack in my job to go to the Top Ten club in one of the nost difficult areas in Liverpool. Allan Williams launched the club and he took the name from the Top Ten club in Hamburg. It lasted five days and then someone got careless with the Bryant and Mays.
I soon learned about incinerations, as that was not the only place that went up in smoke. A promoter in the north end of Liverpool, Brian Kelly, came to the rescue and I worked at his circuit of dances. The Remo Four told me about the Cavern and I went there one lunchtime in December 1960. It was a forbidding place, a Black Hole of Calcutta, noisy and initially menacing.

RECORD COLLECTOR:           But, in its favour, it couldn't be torched.
BOB WOOLER:                          No, only the chairs were flammable, but there was no back exit or entrance. The ventilation left a lot to be desired and I was sure I was going to get TB. At the end of his set, Johnny Hutch of the Big Three thrust a Reslo mike at me and said, "Make an announcement". I'd had a little wine and I said, "Remember all you cave-dwellers, the Cavern is the best of cellars". (Cavern owner) Ray McFall was at the other end of the club and heard me - and that's how I got the job of introducing the Cavern's lunchtime sessions.
I used to run ads for the Cavern which said, "Meet the Beat that's reet for the feet" or "The venue with the menu with the mostest".

RECORD COLLECTOR:            Did you see anything of the Cunard Yanks bringing in American records for the groups?
BOB WOOLER:                           That is one of those myths. I have yet to meet anyone who could show me a record that was taken up by one of the groups that was not already available in this country. The songs could be obscure but they were released here. Possibly the merchant seamen brought in country and western records, but with regards to rock'n'roll records, I'm a man from Missouri. A man from Missouri always, says, "Show me". Only then will he believe it.

RECORD COLLECTOR:            But your own record collection was crucial to the development of the Mersey scene.
BOB WOOLER:                           When I started, I didn't have obscure rock'n'roll records - I was buying Ella Fitzgerald, quality songs with well-considered lyrics. In 1959, Mike Millward, who was with Bob Evans & the Five Shillings at the time, asked me if I had heard Chan Romero's "Hippy Hippy Shake", which was mainly falsetto singing. We didn't even know if it was by a guy or a girl. The record had come out on Columbia and I bought it. Mike was very impressed with the song but I don't think he did it either with Bob Evans or later with the Fourmost.
I played it at a lunchtime session at the Cavern, and Paul McCartney asked me about it. He always fancied himself as a high-voiced singer. I lent him the record and the Beatles started doing it. In the summer of '63, following a lunchtime session at the Cavern. I got a call from Brian Linford, the manager of the Mardi Gras club, who asked if he could borrow "Hippy Hippy Shake" and return it within the hour, which he did. I thought he wanted it for the Escorts, who were under the Mardi's management. It never occurred to me that he wanted it for the Swinging Blue Jeans, because they had an upright bass and banjo. The Blue Jeans were jumping on the band-wagon - a classic case of "If you can't beat them, join them".

RECORD COLLECTOR:             What do you recall of that legendary Blue Jeans Guest Night at the Cavern in March 1961, where they introduced the Beatles?
BOB WOOLER:                            The Blue Jeans had a Tuesday guest night at the Cavern and they chose the groups they wanted, such as Dale Roberts & the Jaywalkers, the Remo Four or the Four Jays, groups that wouldn't conflict or clash with themselves. Ray McFall put the Beatles on with them, and the Beatles' fans just swamped the Blue Jeans' fans. The Blue Jeans did not have a happy night that night and altercations between Ray Ennis of the Blue Jeans and Ray McFall took place in Mathew Sreet at the top of the steps to the Cavern. Ray Ennis said, "We're not having them on our Guest Night again" Rai McFall liked the Beatles and he was also considering his receipts, so shortly afterwards the Blue Jeans packed in.

RECORD COLLECTOR:              I remember you compiling a Top 10 of Merseyside groups in Mersey Beat magazine, excluding the Blue Jeans....
BOB WOOLER:                            ........"who are in a class of their own". They had a skiffle, folk, and jazz style and they were unique. They were very disciplined with very good presentation. The Big Three gave me a hell of a lot of stick for putting them at No. 10 and putting Mark Peters abead of them in my "Mersey Beat Top 10". I was at Aintree Institute when Kingsize Taylor and the Dominoes were on the bill and I quaked as they weren't listed in my Top 10 and they were very sore about it. Kingsize lifted me up and say, "I've got a good mind to throw you out of that window."

RECORD COLLECTOR:              This article was written in October 1961 and you have the Beatles at No. 1. You first heard them a year earlier, so what had happened in the meantime?
BOB WOOLER:                            I wrote an article in August 1961 about the Beatles for Mersey Beat. People were always asking me about this group: they knew they were remarkable, magic even. I tried to encapsulate that in an article full of soundbites, to use a contemporary expression. I culled the famous last words of Humphrey Bogart from The Maltese Falcon. When he is asked about the black bird by Ward Bond, he replies, "It is the stuff that dreams are of". I paraphrased that as "the stuff that screams are made on".
I closed the article by saying the Beatles were so fantastic that I didn't think anything like them would happen again. The only Beatle that I mentioned by name was Pete Best. The poster for Jane Russell in The Outlaw described her as "mean, moody and magnificent". I applied that to Pete Best, and it stuck. Sam Leach called him the Atom Beat Drummer, which seemed appropriate, although I've no idea what it meant.

RECORD COLLECTOR:                Why do you think you singled out Pete Best at that time?
BOB WOOLER:                              Well, he smouldered, but so did the front line in a way. Paul, John and George were the communicators, but the girls would be looking beyond the front line to this moody guy on the drums, so there was a charisma about him that I always found fascinating.

RECORD COLLECTOR:                Even more so than the others?
BOB WOOLER:                               Oh no, it was the Beatles as a whole that carried the show. Incidentally, when they started off, there were five Beatles. Stuart Sutcliffe was on bass guitar and later Paul took over as you know. People would go crazy for the closing number which was "Wat'd I Say". Paul would take the mike off the stand, shed his guitar and  do fantastic antics all over the stage. They would all be stomping like hell, and the audience would go mad. You would say then that Paul was the leader of the band because he was the front guy with the mike - and that, I suppose, is the way he thought of himself.

RECORD COLLECTOR:                When were you aware that there was something special about the Beatles?
BOB WOOLER:                               You can write your own entry for Who's Who, and Paul McCartney has written, "Made first important appearance as the Beatles at Litherland Town Hall near Liverpool in December 1960". They had come back from Hanburg and they had no work. Mona Best had given them work at the Casbah but she couldn't sustain them as a residency and I got them in on Brian Kelly's circuit. It was Tuesday 27th December 1960 - a Beekay, Brian Kelly, dance. I am pleased that I got them the booking. I asked for £8 and Brian nearly collapsed because he was a tight wad but then most of the promoters were. He offered £4 and we compromised on £6, which is £1 a man, five Beatles, and £1 for the driver. I didn't take my 10 per cent. The impact was so tremendous on that Tuesday evening that Brian Kelly got his diary out and he signed them for a string of dates for £7.10s, 30 bob (£1.50) a man. He posted a bouncer on the door that led backstage to stop any other promoters getting to the Beatles.

RECORD COLLECTOR:                Had you heard the new-look Beatles when you got them that booking?
BOB WOOLER:                               No, I hadn't and I was fab-bergasted. Other groups weren't doing these songs, they were concerned with the hit parade and the Beatles liked all this obscure R&B stuff. They were on for 30 minutes and they just rocked the joint. They put everything into that performance. I went backstage and I congratulated them and there was Kelly with his diary, "Are you free on such and such a date?".

RECORD COLLECTOR:                Do you think Hamburg had transformed them?
BOB WOOLER:                                I'm not sure. If Hamburg is so magical that it transforms groups, then how come it didn't transform the Big Three, Rory Storm & the Hurricanes, Derry & the Seniors, Gerry & the Pacemakers and the others? I saw them before they went and when they came back, and I noticed no great difference. This is another myth of the scene. Of course, it was a strange environment, a strange people, a strange language, long hours and exploitation. Hamburg gave the Beatles the awareness of working as a team and maybe that was the most important factor.

RECORD COLLECTOR:             You mentioned this list of songs that the Beatles performed in their Cavern days.
BOB WOOLER:                             The list was given to me by a Beatles fan, who followed them around Merseyside. They took "Red Sails In The Sunset" from Ray Sharpe, and they used to call "Besame Mucho" "Besammy Leacho" for Sam Leach the promoter. They got "Falling In Love Again" from Hamburg and Paul got some songs from his father. Stuart would do "Love Me Tender" and he would stand at the front of the stage and croon the song, and there would just be George doing a few chords. There is an instrumental, "Beatle Bob", on the list - the Beatles used to call themselves the Big Beat Boppin' Beatles, so the title might really be "Beatle Bop".

This list was given to Bob Wooler by a teenage fan was a Cavern regular in the early 60s.
Ain't She Sweet (John) Johnny B. Goode (John) Sheik Of Araby (George)
Anna (John) Kansas City (Paul) Sheila (George)
Baby It's You (John) Keep Your Hands Off My Baby (John) Shimmy Shimmy (John)
Beatle Bop (Instrumental) Lend Me Your Comb (John) Shine (George)
Beautiful Dreamer (Paul) Like Dreamers Do (Paul) Shot Of Rhythm And Blues (John/Paul)
Besame Mucho (Paul) Locomotion (John) Slow Down (John)
Boys (Ringo) Long Tall Sally (Paul) Soldier Of Love (John)
Chains (George) Love Me Tender (Stuart) Some Other Guy (John/Paul)
Clarabella (Paul) Love Of The Loved (Paul) Stand By Me (John)
Claudette (Paul) Loving You (Paul) Sure To Fall (Paul)
Darktown Strutters Ball (George) Lucille (Paul) Sweet Little Sixteen (John)
Don't Ever Change (George/Paul) Matchbox (Pete or Ringo) Talkin' 'Bout You (John)
Dream (George) Maybellene (John) A Taste Of Honey (Paul)
Dream Baby (Paul) Memphis (John) Three Cool Cats (George)
Falling In Love (George) Money (John) Till There Was You (Paul)
Glad All Over (George) Mr. Moonlight (John) Time (George)
Hello Little Girl (John) My Bonnie Tip Of My Tongue (Paul)
Hey Baby (Paul) Nothin' Shakin' (George) To Know Her Is To Love Her (John)
Hey Good Lookin' (George) Oh! My Soul (Paul) Too Much Monkey Business (John)
Hey Hey Hey Hey (Paul) Open (George) Tutti Frutti (Paul)
Hippy Hippy Shake (Paul) Over The Rainbow (Paul) Twist And Shout (John)
Honeymoon Song (Paul) Picture Of You (George) What A Crazy World (George)
Hully Gully (John) Pinwheel Twist (Instrumental) What'd I Say (Paul)
I Call Your Name (John) Please Mr. Postman (John) What's Your Name (John)
I Forgot To Remember To Forget (George) Quarter To Three (Paul/John) Where Have You Been (John)
If You Gotta Make A Fool Of Somebody (John/Paul) Rip It Up (Paul) Wooden Heat (Paul)
I'm A Hog For You Baby (Paul/John) Red Hot (George) Yakety Yak (George/John)
I'm Gonna Sit Right Down & Cry (John) Red Sails In The Sunset (Paul) You Better Move On (John)
I'm Henry The Eighth (George) Roll Over Beethoven (George) Young Blood (George)
I Remember You (Paul) The Saints Your Feet's Too Big (John/Paul)
It's Now Or Never (Paul) Save The Last Dance For Me

RECORD COLLECTOR:               Did they ever cover songs that other Liverpool groups were doing first?
BOB WOOLER:                              I'm not aware of it, but they may have done some the same as Kingsize Taylor or the Big Three as they favoured the same kind of music. The other groups played what was in the charts. They felt reassured: if it's in the charts, we'll cover it. Once the Beatles were successful, they took their lead from the Beatles and started to do the same kind of songs themselves.
Freddie Garrity of Freddie and the Dreamers heard the Beatles do "If You Gotta Make A Fool Of Somebody", which was in 3/4 time, very unusual for a rock number. He didn't steal it from them as it was up for grabs. Faron goes on about Brian Poole stealing "Do You Love Me" from him, but that is being childish: it was a cover version, so why prevent somebody else from doing it? Because most groups were doing cover versions, I am sure there was no such thing as a Liverpool sound, except of course when the groups made their stage announcements. We were obsessed by cover versions, like a lot of other cities - we just had more groups than other cities.

RECORD COLLECTOR:              Was George Harrison the Beatles who was the most keen to perform Top 20 material?
BOB WOOLER:                              Joe Brown was his influence and he copied Joe Brown to a large extent - how he would stand and how he would play, and it was George who inspired the Beatles to wear blank leather, which he had taken from Joe Brown too. They picked obscure numbers and often went for the B-sides. They wouldn't do "Will You Love Me Tomorrow": they would do the other side, "Boys", instead. They would slavishly copy the records on occasion - when Elvis does "Wooden Heart", he takes a breath after "wood", and so did Paul. Paul was very Elvis-oriented.

 RECORD COLLECTOR:              Do you ever hear the Beatles sing their new compositions privately?
BOB WOOLER:                              One day in 1961 the Beatles did the Cavern lunchtime session and afterwards we decided we would have some drinks. We went to the Mandolin, which was an old cinema in Windsor Street, just outside the city centre, run by Harry the Pole. John sat on a settee with a girl in the club, and Paul went over to the upright piano on stage and played a song. When he came across to where I was sitting, he said it was called "Suicide", and I told him that was a rather strange and uncommercial title for a song.
(Note: in Many Years From Now, Paul McCartney recalls how Frank Sinatra asked him for a song and he sent him "Suicide". "He thought it was an almighty piss-take", Paul recalls. "I tink he sent the demo back").

RECORD COLLECTOR:               You put the Beatles together with Gerry and the Pacemakers as the Beatmakers?
BOB WOOLER:                               Yes, that was in October 1961. I'd been drinking with the Beatles in the afternoon and we got to Litherland Town Hall, where Gerry and Pacemakers were also on. Gerry had a few as well and everybody was in a merry, outgoing mood. I thought, "Ah, we've got the Beatles, we've got the Pacemakers, we should have the Beatmakers". It was a wide stage and it could have worked but they larked around too much. They did a few numbers like "Hit The Road Jack", swopping instruments, John Lennon was on Les Maguire's sax and at one stage, he was lying on his back under the piano. Brian Kelly was fraught with anxiety over it, but the audience liked it. It was a bit of a shambles really, so I lowered the curtain on the proceedings.

 RECORD COLLECTOR:                Did you know Brian Epstein before he got involvet with the Beatles?
BOB WOOLER:                                No, but I bought my records from NEMS because they gave me a 10% discount. Otherwise, I would have bought them from Rushworth & Dreaper's down the road. I got to know him through his visits to the Cavern and his total infatuation with the Beatles. Raymond Jones, an 18-year-old boy, went into the basement of NEMS to order "My Bonnie" and I'm sure Brian was enchanted by him. This caused him to meet the Beatles, so I am convinced that Raymond Jones is a vital cog in the wheel. I know Alistair Taylor, Brian's personal assistant, now reckons he was Raymond Jones - in other words, there wasn't a Raymond Jones - but in my book, he still exists.

RECORD COLLECTOR:                 Did you arrange for Brian Epstein to come down to the Cavern that lunchtime?
BOB WOOLER:                                No, he phoned Bill Harry at Mersey Beat and he wanted his entrance smoothed into the Cavern. He took Alistar Taylor with him for support. Bill Harry arranged it with Ray McFall and Pat Delaney on the door and Brian stood at the back of the crowd and saw these four people on the stage. Brian knew about "My Bonnie" and he discovered that the Beatles were playing close to his shop in Whitechapel. He was intrigued to see what they were like and from the moment he came, he was conquered by them. He didn't rush in on it, though, there was a getting-to-know-you period. He went to one or two venues to see what they were like and how they behaved, and be found their behaviour quite animalistic.

RECORD COLLECTOR:                   Did the fact that Brian was gay contribute to him liking the Beatles?
BOB WOOLER:                                  I am sure that Brian was attracted to them physically on the initial impact, but then he became aware of the music. Paul McCartney was the outstanding bass player on Merseyside. Paul admitted that Johnny Gustafson had the edge on him, but Paul was exceptional. Their vocal harmonies were fantastic, so the musical side must come into it. Initially, though, it was those four figures on stage that captivated him. I will never forget him being transfixed at New Brighton Tower as he looked at John Lennon singing "Baby It's You". I was talking with him but he wasn't listening, he was somewhere on Cloud Nine. It was both the music and the person.

RECORD COLLECTOR:                   Did you see his disappointment when he wasn't able to secure a recording contract for them?
BOB WOOLER:                                   I was the shoulder, as it were, for Brian to cry on. He would invite me to the Peacock in Hackins Hey for lunch, and he would say, "What am I doing wrong? Why aren't the record companies responding?" All I could say was, "I can't believe it, Brian. They should come and see what the Beatles are doing to audiences." In those days, the A&R men didn't hurry to a provincial town to see a group. It was different once the Beatles happened - we had a rush of A&R men up here. Brian was so disappointed but he was persistent and he was determined to make it. Of course his family didn't approve of it - "Give up, Brian, you've had a go". Then he made inroads, first with Dick James and then with George Martin.

RECORD COLLECTOR:                   Is it true that John Lennon tormented him when he couldn't deliver the goods?
BOB WOOLER:                                  It's possible. I remember at the Blue Angel, Paul McCartney was upstairs talking to some press people, while in the basement John Lennon was shooting his mouth off, well away with drink or whaterver. He said, "Hitler should have finished the job", meaning that the gas ovens should have been more active than they were. His manager was Jewish and I prevailed upon him to be quiet because the press were upstairs but he didn't take any notice of me. I told Paul that John was shooting his mouth off and that the press must not get wind of it.
That was an example of John's indifference. He enjoyed the danger associated with some of his remarks, and of course he did say "We're more popular than Jesus now". It's on the cards that he made the Hitler remark to Brian, which certainly would have offended him, but Brian would have let it ride as he hated flare-ups.

RECORD COLLECTOR:                   Did you know about Pete Best's sacking before it happened?
BOB WOOLER:                                   I learnt that Pete Best was going to be sacked the night before it happened. I could imagine it with someone who was constantly late or giving problems, but Pete Best was not awkward and he did not step out of line. I was most indignant, and I said, "Why are you doing this?", but I didn't get an answer.

RECORD COLLECTOR:                   So you wouldn't agree with the Anthology series in which the Beatles said that Pete Best wasn't reliable.
BOB WOOLER:                                  It is absolute rubbish to say that. The most unreliable Beatles was Paul McCartney, who had the worst punctuality record, although he was not consistently late for engagements. I saw him on TV saying that Stevie Wonder was a bit unreliable, he turned up late, and I thought, "Look who's talking." I would say to Paul at Aintree Institute, "You've missed the middle spot and you'll have to go on last", which is the going home time. He'd say, "Sorry, I was busy writing a song". That didn't impress me at all at the time as I had a show to put on. John, surprisingly, was quite dutiful. Maybe Aunt Mimi was the one behind him, telling him to get out of the house.

RECORD COLLECTOR:                   So why do you think Pete Best was sacked?
BOB WOOLER:                                   I was annoyed about what happened to Pete Best because I couldn't see any reason why he should have to leave the group. People said he wasn't a very good drummer - well, it makes you wonder who is a good drummer, because Ringo wasn't on the first record. But I was an outsider looking in. I was going to write an article called "Odd Man - Out" but it never materialised, and I regret that very much.

RECORD COLLECTOR:                    Were there any signs that the other Beatles were dissatisfied with his drumming?
BOB WOOLER:                                    The Beatles used to play the Cavern at lunchtime and sometimes they would stay behind and rehearse, and just myself and the cleaners would hear them. One day Paul showed Pete Best how he wanted the drums to be played for a certain tune and I thought, "That's pushing it a bit".

 RECORD COLLECTOR:                   Was Ringo Starr the obvious replacement?
BOB WOOLER:                                   The Beatles didn't want a drummer who would be a force to be reckoned with. So Johnny Hutch didn't stand a chance. Trevor Morais was also considered but he was a centre of attraction and they didn't want all the showmanship. also in the running were Bill Buck from Dale Roberts & the Jaywalkers, Tony Mansfield from the Dakotas and Bobby Graham from Joe Brown's Bruvvers. Apparently there was another name in the frame, one that was certainly news to me. When Mike McCartney was on Radio 4 about five years ago, he said that he would have become the Beatles' new drummer if only he hadn't broken his arm! I'd never heard that one before!
The Beatles wanted a very good drummer who would not intrude and Ringo played that role very well indeed. No-one notices the finer point of drumming technique, as you're falling for the voice or the image. That's what it is all about. AIM - Attitude, Image, Music - and in that order. AIM is the name of the game, as far I can see.

RECORD COLLECTOR:                    Are there any other factors surrounding Pete Best's dismissal?
BOB WOOLER:                                   Yes, when I think of Brian Epstein and Mona Best, I am reminded of Neil Kinnock and Margaret Thatcher and how they clashed in the 80s. Kinnock would say in despair, "Oh, that woman", after an encounter with her. Brian Epstein would do the same. He would say, "That woman", meaning Mona Best, "she's driving me crazy". They never got on very well. She was very strong and he was also strong, and she felt that Pete wasn't getting a fair crack of the whip. For one thing, she felt he should be given more songs.

RECORD COLLECTOR:                    It seemed as though Brian Epstein wanted to sign up the whole of Liverpool.
BOB WOOLER:                                   He missed the Searchers. Brian wanted the Searchers but they were not prepared to play second fiddle to the Beatles, and Brian wouldn't have anyone vying with the Beatles. He also missed Beryl Marsden. I preferred her to Cilla as a singer. Cilla was a belter, a girl with a big voice a la Della Reese or Bette Midler. If Brian had taken Beryl, she would have been a big seller, but once he had got one girl singer, that was enough. He was like Larry Parnes, who also only had one girl singer, Sally Kelly.
The Coasters, Billy Kramer's original backing group, were very resentful when Billy Kramer deserted his manager, Ted Knibbs, who had nutured him. But you can't blame him really because Epstein was Mr. Big with everything happening and Ted was not in that category. The Coasters refused to go with him and Brian put Billy with the Dakotas, who were an excellent band from Manchester.

RECORD COLLECTOR:                   And set Brian signed Tommy Quickly.
BOB WOOLER:                                   Tommy Quickly & the Challengers were on stage at the Queen's Hall, Widnes and there was Brian in one of his transfixed states. He said, "Isn't he marvellous?", but I couldn't see that ingredient, although I dutifully said yes. "I think I'll manage him", said the Nemperor, and out went Tommy's twin sister, who was part of the group. Nothing must interfere with Tommy. The Challengers were not part of the scene, so Brian put him on Beatles tours backed by the Remo Four. Tommy got into the charts with a country and western number, "The Wild Side Of Life", and how prophetic that turned out to be as he went on the wild side of life. Tommy got marvellous exposure but all to no avail. Eventually Brian dropped him because he hated failure.

RECORD COLLECTOR:                    Someone who didn't make it for years was Freddie  Starr.
BOB WOOLER:                                   Freddie came to the Cavern one lunchtime and I said, "Don't let me down, Freddie, as Ray McFall hates it when you're on stage, so please behave yourself". Gerry & the Pacemakers were on stage and I indicated that Freddie was in the bandroom and Gerry invited him up to do a couple of numbers. I went to the snackbar at the far end of the Cavern for a coffee and all of a sudden there were screams and I thought, "What is happening?". Freddie worked in the fruit market and he had got a kingsize carrot which he was brandishing in one particular place. The girls were going crazy, and I thought, "If Ray sees this, there's going to be trouble". I got back to the bandroom and got him off. He was always a law unto himself.

RECORD COLLECTOR:                    What do you remember of the Beatles' final appearance at the Cavern on 3rd August 1963?
BOB WOOLER:                                    That only came about because Epstein couldn't pull them out of a booking at the Grafton Ballroom the night before. Les Ackerley said, "No, I have got them under contract", and Epstein was furious because, by then, he had other things in mind for them. They were coming to Liverpool for the Friday, so we were offered them on Saturday. We only had them because he couldn't get them out of the Friday booking. I rather resented this as he was doing it to get at Ackerley, to steal his thunder.
The Beatles were paid £300, which was quite a bit of money then. We made no money out of it because Brian restricted the audience to 500 and as the admission price was ten shillings, that meant £250 on the door. All the staff had to be paid, and the other groups on the bill too. I can't blame Brian as he had seen how crowded the Cavern got when we had 800 in. The Beatles were very professional that night, there was no larking around and they got on with it. We all felt it was their swan song and that we would never have them again. As it happens, Brian Epstein still owes the Cavern about six dates for the Beatles as he kept pulling them out of lunchtime and evening bookings by saying, "You wouldn't stand in the boys' way, would you, Bob?".

RECORD COLLECTOR:                       You had a lot of American acts at the Cavern.
BOB WOOLER:                                       Yes, I remember talking Ben E. King to the Blue Angel after the Cavern session at 11.30, and I left him at the bar as I had a Cavern lunchtime the next day. I learned the next day that Ben E. King had thoroughly enjoyed himself at the Blue Angel, so much that ha had sung there, and I was furious about this. We had paid him £120 to play at the Cavern and there he was playing for Allan Williams for nothing. Allan Williams said, "Well, I didn't charge him to come up".

RECORD COLLECTOR:                        Did you come up with the names for a lot of the groups?
BOB WOOLER:                                       I ran an ad in the New Musical Express for the Jerry Lee Lewis show at the Tower Ballroom in New Brighton in May 62. The Four Jays were on the bill and, as a result of this appearing in a national paper, the Four Jays from the South protested that they had the name first. The Four Jays from Liverpool told me that they would have to change their anything, they weren't Jim, John, Joe and Jerry - so I came up with the Four Mosts, which Brian Epstein contracted into the Fourmost.
Also, I didn't like the name one group had, the Mavericks, which suggested country and western. I told Bill Harry that the name the Merseybeat, could be reciprocal publicity, so he agreed to it. There was another group that I said was "way out" so I called them the Exit. I gave one group the name the Fix and when they went to record for Decca in London, they were told that they couldn't be the Fix as that suggests one thing only, which was the reason that I gave it to them. They changed the spelling to the Fixx. I also came up with Rip Van Winkle & the Rip It Ups, and Johnny Autumn & the Fall Guys. I didn't think of the Beatles, but I wish I had as it is the most marvellous name. Everything is in that name - beat music, a good pun and something akin to the Crickets.

RECORD COLLECTOR:                       You also managed some of the bands. I think, in particular, that the Clayton Squares were very unlucky.
BOB WOOLER:                                       A telegram boy arrived at the Cavern offices in '64, and my face was crushed as it read, "To Bob Wooler, Congratulations on signing the Clayton Squares. Now take the knife out of my back. Allan Williams". The irony was that it was a Greetings Telegram, so it cost more to send than a standard telegram.
The Clayton Squares wanted to sign with me because the Cavern had more clout at that time, but they only made one single, "Come And Get It". You see, it was reaching the stage where no-one wanted to know Liverpool. It was a case of mal de Mersey with those people down south. By '65, forget it, chum. It was as though they had drained the Klondike seam and there was nothing worth signing. Of course, there was, but they thought differently.

RECORD COLLECTOR:                        What is the story of the siege of the Cavern in 1966?
BOB WOOLER:                                        The Cavern's finances had been in bad shape for some time. Ray McFall had been expecting the baliffs and it happened on the Monday morning, 28th February 1966, if I rememnber rightly. He had been told that this time it was for keeps, and we played there from three o'clock on Sunday afternoon to eight o'clock on Monday morning. The groups had been playing the whole night through for free, but to no avail. The Cavernites barricaded the stairs with chairs but they were soon cleared away and if you see photographs, they are bewildered or laughing, they are not crying. The debt was about £8.000 and Ray McFall made his exit. It was reopened five months later by the then Prime Minister and MP for Huyton, Harold Wilson, with a lot of ballyhoo and hype, and it was a different scene. It just became another club, the more so when it obtained a liquor licence.

RECORD COLLECTOR:                         Bob Wooler, tank you very much.
BOB WOOLER:                                        Let's close with my bow-out record at the Cavern, what I would play as people were leaving: Bobby Darin's "I'll Be There".