The Iron Door
“There must be over three hundred groups, around Merseyside, all playing rock ‘n’ roll, country, western, Trad-jazz, folk. There are duos, trios, quartets, even all-girl rock ‘n’ roll bands. There are black vocal groups and Caribbean steel bands. There’s even a flourishing poetry scene…”
— Bill Harry—founder and editor of MERSEY BEAT—telling Brian Epstein about the explosion of music groups that was happening all over Liverpool and beyond
The Iron Door Club
"YOU SAY YOU WANT TO HEAR EVERY SOUND THERE IS"
Founded May 1960 by Geoff Hogarth and a business partner in a warehouse previously used as a 'cold' factory for packing butter. The first floor was used for a cloak-room, and an office, and served as a space for band practice or selling food and drink. The upper six floors of the warehouse remained vacant. It originally served as the home of the Liverpool Jazz Society, though Sam Leach changed all that when 'his' club took over residency.
STOMPING AT THE L.J.S. |
MONDAY 6 MARCH | 1961 |
As locals remember it—Liverpool 'beat fans' went to one club or the other—rarely both. The Cavern experience—for bands, as well as the audience—was very much controlled by the club's resident DJ, Bob Wooler. Whereas, The Iron Door not only permitted bands to announce themselves, but openly promoted jamming between groups, even allowing mixing of music styles. Cilla Black cut her teeth—singing with Kingsize Taylor and The Dominoes—at the Iron Door Club—as did The Searchers.
ROCKING THE IRON DOOR CLUB | MARCH 1961 |
Rory Storm | Ringo Starr | Lu Walters
THE IRON DOOR | 'CRADLE OF MERSEY BEAT' | YES OR NO?
The Iron Door Club (née Liverpool Jazz Society—later the Storeyville Jazz Club) and The Cavern Club were originally conceived as city centre 'jazz only' clubs—each with a strict policy of not booking rock bands for evening performances.
The Beatles' first gig at The Cavern was at a lunchtime session on 9th February 1961. The group's first gig at The Iron Door Club, for Sam Leach, on the evening of 6th March 1961—The Beatles having, by then, already made half-a-dozen or so night-time appearances at Sam's 'Cassanova Club'.
This makes The Iron Door the first Liverpool city-centre club to present Merseyside beat groups on an on-going nightly basis—arguably, the true engine of Merseybeat—as The Cavern didn't change its policy and follow suit until March 21st. And so despite any niggling questions as to whether the pre-Hamburg 'skiffle-group' Silver Beetles claim is strictly kosher—the timing of the 'night-time sessions' alone gives added credibility to The Iron Door's claim to being the true "Cradle of Mersey Beat".
And this, even despite the fact that some people argue that The Beatles' appearance at Litherland Town Hall, on 27th December 1960—their very first Liverpool gig, post-Hamburg—is 'the true cradle of it all'. While others, insist that it all began at the Casbah Coffee Club, West Derby. And, still, others point to The Jacaranda or The Blue Angel.
But whether the first, the second, or one of but a very select few clubs that can make any such claim of bringing us—The sound that conquered the world—The Iron Door Club's justly famed connection with the rise of Merseybeat——is incontestable.
TEMPLE STREET | Looking south towards Victoria Street | The entrance to The Old Iron Door is on the left-hand side—midway down the street—the signboard just to the front of the white van.
THE IRON DOOR CLUB | 13 TEMPLE STREET
(Author's note: It's a crying shame that those responsible for the commemorative plaque didn't think to include Sam Leach.)
Among the groups said to have played that fabled night were: The Beatles, Kingsize Taylor and The Dominoes, Gerry and the Pacemakers, The Big Three, The Remo Four, Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, Johnny Rocco and The Jets, The Searchers, Ian and The Zodiacs, Howard Casey and the Seniors, Faron and The Flamingoes, and Dale Roberts and The Jaywalkers.
Mark Lewisohn cites attendance capacity of the Temple Street cellar as being 1000—although he adds that as many as 2000 fans were there—at one time or another—for some or all of that fabled, first, 'all-night' event at the Iron Door.
SATURDAY 11 MARCH | 1961 | SAM LEACH PRESENTS THE FIRST 12-HOUR 12-GROUP 'ROCK AROUND THE CLOCK' ALL-NIGHT SESSION
The Beatles' first appearance for Sam Leach at The Iron Door Club was on the night of Monday 6th March. The next, on Saturday 11th March 1961—at the legendary 12-group, 12-hour, 'Rock Around The Clock ' all-night session that ran from 8PM to 8AM—with a new band performing each hour. An event made even all the more significant, as it was the very last time Stu Sutcliffe played bass for the group.
"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 Beatles: 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!" — Sam Leach
The Rocking City | The Birth Of The Beatles