The Beatles First Performance at the Cavern Club in 1961
January 16, 2017 will mark the 60th anniversary of the opening of the Cavern Club in Liverpool, England. As we anticipate the landmark celebration of one of the most famous music venues in the world, we’d like to look at the special place the Cavern Club holds in Beatles history.
The Cavern Club was opened on January 16, 1957 in the basement of a warehouse on Matthew Street in Liverpool, England. During WWII the cellar had served as an air raid shelter, but in 1957 the space was opened as a music venue by jazz enthusiast, Alan Sytner. Inspired by the music scene and jazz clubs in Paris, Sytner’s vision was to create a venue to host bands that played jazz and a variation on that genre called “skiffle”. With roots in jazz, blues and folk music, skiffle originated in the American South in the early 20th century. The musical genre was all but forgotten until its rediscovery in Britain in the 1950s.
Liverpool native John Lennon and his band, the Quarrymen, played at the Cavern Club on Jan. 24, 1958. They played a combination of skiffle and rock and roll and were joined by their newest band member, Paul McCartney, who had joined the Quarrymen in October, 1957. Legend has it that Alan Syter passed a note to John Lennon during their performance at the Cavern Club telling him to “Cut out the rock and roll!” when his band played “Don’t Be Cruel”. (Written by Otis Blackwell and recorded by Elvis Presley in 1956.)
The skiffle craze in England fizzled out within the next couple of years. On the 9th of February, 1961 The Beatles (after several name and band member changes) had their first performance at the Cavern Club as The Beatles, and playing rock and roll. The band featured John Lennon as lead guitarist, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Stuart Sutcliffe on bass and Pete Best on drums.
The Beatles went on to play the Cavern 292 times between 1961 and 1963. The last performance by The Beatles at the Cavern Club took place on August 3, 1963.
In addition to The Beatles, an impressive list of bands have performed at the Cavern Club, including The Rolling Stones, The Who, Queen, The Kinks, Elton John, The Temptations and The Hollies, among other notables on the huge list. This list does actually exist, in the form of the Wall of Fame. Unveiled on the 40th anniversary of the opening of the Cavern Club, the wall is paved with bricks, each bearing the name of bands that played at the original club location from 1957 through 1973. In addition to the band names are a brick each, featuring the names Paul, John, Ringo and George, since the Cavern Club will always be known as the club that launched The Beatles.