DISC JOCKEY AT THE CAVERN CLUB, FRIEND AND ADVISOR
TO THE BEATLES, PUBLICIST FOR THE WHOLE
HELPED INVENT THE SOUND OF THE
SPENCER LEIGH PERSUADED HIM
TO TELL HIS STORY FOR THE
JULY 1998 - No. 227
43/45 St. Mary's Road,
Ealing, London W5 5RQ
Early in 1998 the
Echo held a telephone poll to discover the best entertainers on
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
But one of the names on the list had an
that went way beyond his personal renown in his hometown.
Bob Wooler is nothing less than a Liverpool
He was the DJ at the home of Merseybeat, the
Cavern Club, throughout its key years,
and he compered many beat shows across the
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
Northdown will publish his autobiography in
"Like James Mason, I have to get it down
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
"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.
I never welcomed Brian Epstein over the
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.
You worked as a clerk at British Railways. Did you intend to make that
No, I really wanted to be a songwriter. I was influenced by the
great lyricists of the pre-rock period - Cole Porter, Irving Berlin,
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
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
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?
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
because of CV - not curriculum vitae but cover versions.
all they would do, cover versions. I have a list of songs the Beatles
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
that American groups were doing.
Yet you did have some songs recorded.
Yes, I saw a rodeo movie called The Lusty Men where
Hayward asks Robert Mitchum something and he says, " I guess I got
on the way". I expanded that into a country and western lyric and it
recorded by Phil Brady & the Ranchers. The lyrics is the story of
life - I've been meaning to write the story of the Cavern for years,
I guess I got sidetracked on the way.
And I know that Billy J. Kramer recorded "I Know".
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
"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
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 -
- 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
Did you discuss your fondness for the great songwriters with
Not really. I remember telling Paul McCartney how great Noel
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.
Did you meet aunt Mimi?
Yes, John announced one Cavern lunchtime that everyone must
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
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
I met her there and there was no swearing while she was around. I often
wonder what she thought of the place.
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
Storm's mother, in particular.
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
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
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
I'm sure his failure as Rory Storm the rock'n'roller had a lot to do
And Rory would have loved success.
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
was Mr Magnetism, Gerry Marsden was Mr Personality and Faron was Mr
He was also the Panda-Footed Prince of Prance.
Mona Best ran the Casbah, a club in her own home.
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.
Williams had the Jacaranda and Neil English had the Sink. Many people
about the fact the Cavern had no liquor licence but that went for the
of places. It wasn't an essential requirement in those days. It would
now, of course.
And what about drugs?
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
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?"
You witnessed the change from skiffle to beat music. What do you
see as the key events in the changeover?
I came into the scene in '57, which was an active year for
and rock in Liverpool as groups were starting to proliferate. By then,
Lonnie Donegan had served his purpose. They had learnt from him the
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 -
slinging a guitar round your shoulder looked rather cool as well. The
was a problem, but the HP (hire purchase) houses did well out of it.
Can you remember when you first saw the Beatles?
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
to Burtonwood Ales?", and I only saw one number. It was the Pacemakers
I was rooting for then.
Were the Pacemakers already a good band?
Oh yes, they were very organised and well-liked. I got them on
Allan Williams' rock show at Liverpool Stadium in May 1960. Larry
put the big names on the bill and the first half was local groups,
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
Philip Norman says in his book, Shout!
The True History Of The Beatles, that Gerry was the hit of the
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
Walk Alone". Gerry didn't even know that song at that stage. Tony
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
encourage Gerry to do it at Cavern lunchtime sessions. I never liked
melismatic ending, but he changed that when audiences began to sing
with it. It was ironic that the Kop should adopt the tune in December
as Gerry was an Evertonian in his youth.
One of the Beatles' early drummers was the hapless Tommy Moore.
Yes, I knew Tommy from my days on Garston docks, as he worked
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
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.
A lot of people were contemptuous about rock'n'roll.
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
a hell of a bad name for encouraging rock'n'roll to be played at the
The Cavern was a jazz cellar and the musicians and their followers
like rock'n'roll groups coming in. The groups were cheaper than the
bands, and I'm sure that had a lot to do with it.
How did you get insolved in running the Cavern?
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
gone off the rails". All very funny, but they couldn't believe that I
pack in my job to go to the Top Ten club in one of the nost difficult
in Liverpool. Allan Williams launched the club and he took the name
the Top Ten club in Hamburg. It lasted five days and then someone got
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
of Liverpool, Brian Kelly, came to the rescue and I worked at his
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.
But, in its favour, it couldn't be torched.
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
thrust a Reslo mike at me and said, "Make an announcement". I'd had a
wine and I said, "Remember all you cave-dwellers, the Cavern is the
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
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
Did you see anything of the Cunard Yanks bringing in American
for the groups?
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
available in this country. The songs could be obscure but they were
here. Possibly the merchant seamen brought in country and western
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.
But your own record collection was crucial to the development of
the Mersey scene.
When I started, I didn't have obscure rock'n'roll records - I
buying Ella Fitzgerald, quality songs with well-considered lyrics. In
Mike Millward, who was with Bob Evans & the Five Shillings at the
asked me if I had heard Chan Romero's "Hippy Hippy Shake", which was
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
with the song but I don't think he did it either with Bob Evans or
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
I got a call from Brian Linford, the manager of the Mardi Gras club,
asked if he could borrow "Hippy Hippy Shake" and return it within the
which he did. I thought he wanted it for the Escorts, who were under
Mardi's management. It never occurred to me that he wanted it for the
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
What do you recall of that legendary Blue Jeans Guest Night at
the Cavern in March 1961, where they introduced the Beatles?
The Blue Jeans had a Tuesday guest night at the Cavern and they
chose the groups they wanted, such as Dale Roberts & the
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
fans just swamped the Blue Jeans' fans. The Blue Jeans did not have a
night that night and altercations between Ray Ennis of the Blue Jeans
Ray McFall took place in Mathew Sreet at the top of the steps to the
Ray Ennis said, "We're not having them on our Guest Night again" Rai
liked the Beatles and he was also considering his receipts, so shortly
afterwards the Blue Jeans packed in.
I remember you compiling a Top 10 of Merseyside groups in Mersey
Beat magazine, excluding the Blue Jeans....
........"who are in a class of their own". They had a skiffle,
folk, and jazz style and they were unique. They were very disciplined
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
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."
This article was written in October 1961 and you have the
at No. 1. You first heard them a year earlier, so what had happened in
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
last words of Humphrey Bogart from The Maltese Falcon. When he
asked about the black bird by Ward Bond, he replies, "It is the stuff
dreams are of". I paraphrased that as "the stuff that screams are made
I closed the article by saying the Beatles
were so fantastic that I didn't think anything like them would happen
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
I applied that to Pete Best, and it stuck. Sam Leach called him the
Beat Drummer, which seemed appropriate, although I've no idea what it
Why do you think you singled out Pete Best at that time?
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
about him that I always found fascinating.
Even more so than the others?
Oh no, it was the Beatles as a whole that carried the show.
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
off the stand, shed his guitar and do fantastic antics all over
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
When were you aware that there was something special about the
You can write your own entry for Who's Who, and Paul
has written, "Made first important appearance as the Beatles at
Town Hall near Liverpool in December 1960". They had come back from
and they had no work. Mona Best had given them work at the Casbah but
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,
I am pleased that I got them the booking. I asked for £8 and
nearly collapsed because he was a tight wad but then most of the
were. He offered £4 and we compromised on £6, which is
a man, five Beatles, and £1 for the driver. I didn't take my 10
cent. The impact was so tremendous on that Tuesday evening that Brian
got his diary out and he signed them for a string of dates for
30 bob (£1.50) a man. He posted a bouncer on the door that led
to stop any other promoters getting to the Beatles.
Had you heard the new-look Beatles when you got them that
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
all this obscure R&B stuff. They were on for 30 minutes and they
rocked the joint. They put everything into that performance. I went
and I congratulated them and there was Kelly with his diary, "Are you
on such and such a date?".
Do you think Hamburg had transformed them?
I'm not sure. If Hamburg is so magical that it transforms
then how come it didn't transform the Big Three, Rory Storm & the
Derry & the Seniors, Gerry & the Pacemakers and the others? I
them before they went and when they came back, and I noticed no great
This is another myth of the scene. Of course, it was a strange
a strange people, a strange language, long hours and exploitation.
gave the Beatles the awareness of working as a team and maybe that was
the most important factor.
You mentioned this list of songs that the Beatles performed in
their Cavern days.
The list was given to me by a Beatles fan, who followed them
Merseyside. They took "Red Sails In The Sunset" from Ray Sharpe, and
used to call "Besame Mucho" "Besammy Leacho" for Sam Leach the
They got "Falling In Love Again" from Hamburg and Paul got some songs
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
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
might really be "Beatle Bop".
Did they ever cover songs that other Liverpool groups were doing
I'm not aware of it, but they may have done some the same as
Taylor or the Big Three as they favoured the same kind of music. The
groups played what was in the charts. They felt reassured: if it's in
charts, we'll cover it. Once the Beatles were successful, they took
lead from the Beatles and started to do the same kind of songs
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
as it was up for grabs. Faron goes on about Brian Poole stealing "Do
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
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
obsessed by cover versions, like a lot of other cities - we just had
groups than other cities.
Was George Harrison the Beatles who was the most keen to perform
Top 20 material?
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
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
"Boys", instead. They would slavishly copy the records on occasion -
Elvis does "Wooden Heart", he takes a breath after "wood", and so did
Paul was very Elvis-oriented.
Do you ever hear the Beatles sing their new compositions
One day in 1961 the Beatles did the Cavern lunchtime session and
afterwards we decided we would have some drinks. We went to the
which was an old cinema in Windsor Street, just outside the city
run by Harry the Pole. John sat on a settee with a girl in the club,
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",
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
"Suicide". "He thought it was an almighty piss-take", Paul recalls. "I
tink he sent the demo back").
You put the Beatles together with Gerry and the Pacemakers as
Yes, that was in October 1961. I'd been drinking with the
in the afternoon and we got to Litherland Town Hall, where Gerry and
were also on. Gerry had a few as well and everybody was in a merry,
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
but they larked around too much. They did a few numbers like "Hit The
Jack", swopping instruments, John Lennon was on Les Maguire's sax and
one stage, he was lying on his back under the piano. Brian Kelly was
with anxiety over it, but the audience liked it. It was a bit of a
really, so I lowered the curtain on the proceedings.
Did you know Brian Epstein before he got involvet with the
No, but I bought my records from NEMS because they gave me a 10%
discount. Otherwise, I would have bought them from Rushworth &
down the road. I got to know him through his visits to the Cavern and
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
that Raymond Jones is a vital cog in the wheel. I know Alistair Taylor,
Brian's personal assistant, now reckons he was Raymond Jones -
other words, there wasn't a Raymond Jones - but in my book, he still
Did you arrange for Brian Epstein to come down to the Cavern
No, he phoned Bill Harry at Mersey Beat and he wanted
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
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
He didn't rush in on it, though, there was a getting-to-know-you
He went to one or two venues to see what they were like and how they
and be found their behaviour quite animalistic.
Did the fact that Brian was gay contribute to him liking the
I am sure that Brian was attracted to them physically on the
impact, but then he became aware of the music. Paul McCartney was the
bass player on Merseyside. Paul admitted that Johnny Gustafson had the
edge on him, but Paul was exceptional. Their vocal harmonies were
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
transfixed at New Brighton Tower as he looked at John Lennon singing
It's You". I was talking with him but he wasn't listening, he was
on Cloud Nine. It was both the music and the person.
Did you see his disappointment when he wasn't able to secure a
recording contract for them?
I was the shoulder, as it were, for Brian to cry on. He would
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
happened - we had a rush of A&R men up here. Brian was so
but he was persistent and he was determined to make it. Of course his
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.
Is it true that John Lennon tormented him when he couldn't
It's possible. I remember at the Blue Angel, Paul McCartney was
upstairs talking to some press people, while in the basement John
was shooting his mouth off, well away with drink or whaterver. He said,
"Hitler should have finished the job", meaning that the gas ovens
have been more active than they were. His manager was Jewish and I
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
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.
Did you know about Pete Best's sacking before it happened?
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?",
I didn't get an answer.
So you wouldn't agree with the Anthology series in which the
said that Pete Best wasn't reliable.
It is absolute rubbish to say that. The most unreliable Beatles
was Paul McCartney, who had the worst punctuality record, although he
not consistently late for engagements. I saw him on TV saying that
Wonder was a bit unreliable, he turned up late, and I thought, "Look
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
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
dutiful. Maybe Aunt Mimi was the one behind him, telling him to get out
of the house.
So why do you think Pete Best was sacked?
I was annoyed about what happened to Pete Best because I
see any reason why he should have to leave the group. People said he
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.
Were there any signs that the other Beatles were dissatisfied
The Beatles used to play the Cavern at lunchtime and sometimes
they would stay behind and rehearse, and just myself and the cleaners
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".
Was Ringo Starr the obvious replacement?
The Beatles didn't want a drummer who would be a force to be
with. So Johnny Hutch didn't stand a chance. Trevor Morais was also
but he was a centre of attraction and they didn't want all the
also in the running were Bill Buck from Dale Roberts & the
Tony Mansfield from the Dakotas and Bobby Graham from Joe Brown's
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
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
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.
Are there any other factors surrounding Pete Best's dismissal?
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",
Mona Best, "she's driving me crazy". They never got on very well. She
very strong and he was also strong, and she felt that Pete wasn't
a fair crack of the whip. For one thing, she felt he should be given
It seemed as though Brian Epstein wanted to sign up the whole of
He missed the Searchers. Brian wanted the Searchers but they
not prepared to play second fiddle to the Beatles, and Brian wouldn't
anyone vying with the Beatles. He also missed Beryl Marsden. I
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
have been a big seller, but once he had got one girl singer, that was
He was like Larry Parnes, who also only had one girl singer, Sally
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
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
who were an excellent band from Manchester.
And set Brian signed Tommy Quickly.
Tommy Quickly & the Challengers were on stage at the Queen's
Hall, Widnes and there was Brian in one of his transfixed states. He
"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
went Tommy's twin sister, who was part of the group. Nothing must
with Tommy. The Challengers were not part of the scene, so Brian put
on Beatles tours backed by the Remo Four. Tommy got into the charts
a country and western number, "The Wild Side Of Life", and how
that turned out to be as he went on the wild side of life. Tommy got
exposure but all to no avail. Eventually Brian dropped him because he
Someone who didn't make it for years was Freddie Starr.
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
behave yourself". Gerry & the Pacemakers were on stage and I
that Freddie was in the bandroom and Gerry invited him up to do a
of numbers. I went to the snackbar at the far end of the Cavern for a
and all of a sudden there were screams and I thought, "What is
Freddie worked in the fruit market and he had got a kingsize carrot
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
to the bandroom and got him off. He was always a law unto himself.
What do you remember of the Beatles' final appearance at the
on 3rd August 1963?
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
for the Friday, so we were offered them on Saturday. We only had them
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
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
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
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
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,
wouldn't stand in the boys' way, would you, Bob?".
You had a lot of American acts at the Cavern.
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
the next day. I learned the next day that Ben E. King had thoroughly
himself at the Blue Angel, so much that ha had sung there, and I was
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,
I didn't charge him to come up".
Did you come up with the names for a lot of the groups?
I ran an ad in the New Musical Express for the Jerry
Lewis show at the Tower Ballroom in New Brighton in May 62. The Four
were on the bill and, as a result of this appearing in a national
the Four Jays from the South protested that they had the name first.
Four Jays from Liverpool told me that they would have to change their
they weren't Jim, John, Joe and Jerry - so I came up with the Four
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
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
for Decca in London, they were told that they couldn't be the Fix as
suggests one thing only, which was the reason that I gave it to them.
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
the Beatles, but I wish I had as it is the most marvellous name.
is in that name - beat music, a good pun and something akin to the
You also managed some of the bands. I think, in particular, that
the Clayton Squares were very unlucky.
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".
irony was that it was a Greetings Telegram, so it cost more to send
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
wanted to know Liverpool. It was a case of mal de Mersey with
people down south. By '65, forget it, chum. It was as though they had
the Klondike seam and there was nothing worth signing. Of course, there
was, but they thought differently.
What is the story of the siege of the Cavern in 1966?
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
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
the whole night through for free, but to no avail. The Cavernites
the stairs with chairs but they were soon cleared away and if you see
they are bewildered or laughing, they are not crying. The debt was
£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
another club, the more so when it obtained a liquor licence.
Bob Wooler, tank you very much.
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".