“By the turn of the decade, the most unlikely places had become beat clubs. At first, it had been small cafés and cellar clubs, but now even the once-jazz-proud Cavern had given way and was booking beat groups, as was another jazz castle, the Iron Door Club…”
Responding to the demands of the hundreds of teenagers who worked in the city, McFall opened the club as a lunchtime venue in February 1961—featuring The Beatles—and in a veritable heartbeat huge crowds regularly stretched the length of Mathew Street clamouring to get in. (Brian Epstein, the man who would become The Beatles’ manager, first saw the group perform at the club on 9 November that same year.) That the Cavern was cramped, crowded, sweaty and dank, and the walls ran constantly with condensation deterred absolutely no one.
The Cavern Club
"GOT TO GET YOU INTO MY LIFE"
The Cavern was synonymous with the rise of Merseybeat and, at one time or another, every Merseyside group of any standing played the club: Gerry and The Pacemakers, The Big Three, The Searchers, The Swinging Bluejeans, Kingsize Taylor and The Dominoes, Billy J. Kramer and The Dakotas to name but a few.
However, The Cavern became justly world famous because of its long and storied association with The Beatles, who played at the club 292 times—their last performance there on 3 August 1963.
The Beatles began their time at The Cavern as leather-jacketed Rockers and ended as polished performers ready to face Granada's television cameras—and then ultimately the eyes of the world.
The Cavern Club first opened its doors January 1957 as a Parisian-like ‘cellar’ jazz club. And was situated in a multi-arched basement in the city’s old warehouse district better known for its storage of fruit and vegetables and other perishable commodities.
The original owner—Alan Sytner—sold the club to Ray McFall—his accountant. More attuned to the times, McFall added folk and skiffle sessions to compliment the club's jazz offerings. And again—later—sensing a growing demand—he added rock ‘n’ roll lunchtime sessions—before finally switching the club completely to the pounding sounds of Merseybeat.
BOB WOOLER | CAVERN DJ & COMPÈRE EXTRAORDINAIRE
One of the people responsible for The Cavern Club's enormous success was Bob Wooler, the DJ and compère. His incomparable rock ‘n’ roll, R&B, and Tamla-Motown record collection helped keep things bopping between live sets, but it was his brilliant use of language that kept everyone on their toes. He was a past-master of the pun and it was he that gave birth to the immortal line to describe The Cavern—The Best of Cellars—a play on the title of the LP 'The Best of Sellers' that showcased the work of the actor Peter Sellers (produced by none other than George Martin).
International stars like Bruce Channel and Gene Vincent, as well as famed London groups such as the Rolling Stones. The Kinks. The Yardbirds (two of them pictured above with Bob Wooler). The Who. Queen. Elton John. All were more than eager to play at the club. The singer Cilla Black worked there for a time as a coat-check girl—“Step inside, love…it’s lorra fun”—and sang there, too, with The Beatles, no less.
THE CAVERN CLUB has had its ups and down, financial and otherwise, as the pop parade inevitably moved on to greener, more profitable pastures.
The warehouse building that housed the club was pulled down in March 1973—and The Cavern dismantled, brick-by-brick—to make room for the Merseyrail underground loop.
The club was rebuilt—across the street—in 1984 using many of the original bricks, but closed again in 1989.
It re-opened yet again in 1991—under new owners—true Merseybeat enthusiasts—living proof that it’s hard to keep a legend down. The Cavern Club is in full swing, today.
And the Rockin’ City is still rockin’.
— Ian Whitcomb | Musician | Singer | Author |
ROCK ODYSSEY – A Chronicle of The Sixties
THE INIMITABLE BOB WOOLER | AT THE CAVERN |
THE YARDBIRDS | CILLA BLACK
THE INCOMPARABLE CILLA BLACK |
THE LEGENDARY GENE VINCENT | AT THE CAVERN |
THE CAVERN CLUB | 10 MATHEW STREET
THE CAVERN | LUNCHTIME SESSIONS | DAY FOR NIGHT
THE BEATLES | AT THE CAVERN
THE WORLD'S STARS | SHINE AT THE CAVERN