The Cavern Club is a nightclub in Mathew Street, Liverpool, England. Opened on Wednesday 16 January 1957, the club was originally a jazz club changing to rock and roll when the music gripped the city. Liverpool was the centre of a musical renaissance in the 1960s based on rock and roll with The Cavern centre of the movement. This renaissance spread to art and design.
The Beatles, central to the musical renaissance, played in the club nearly 300 times in their early years. The Cavern was similar inside to Le Caveau de la Huchette jazz club in Paris on which the club was based with both clubs in basements with tunnels and thick brick arches. The original Cavern club closed in March 1973, and was filled in during construction work on the Merseyrail underground rail loop. Jan Akkerman with Dutch group Focus were the last to play the original The Cavern, a few days before the club was shut down in May 1973. Now extensively rebuilt with similar arches and tunnels, and located across the street from the site of the original club, The Cavern is still open today and the centre of a mini cultural quarter of the city. The Cavern Club is the centre of the Liverpool Mathew Street Music Festival, an annual music festival in Liverpool on the city centre’s streets and waterfront.
Looks like a nice bunch of kids, right?
The club hosted its first performance by The Beatles on 9 February 1961, although John Lennon of The Beatles had played at the club soon after its opening in 1957. Brian Epstein, The Beatles manager, who secured the groups’ first recording contract, first saw the group perform at the club on 9 November 1961. Inspired by the group Epstein made moves to take over their management.
The Beatles made their first lunchtime appearance at the club on Tuesday 9 February 1961. They had returned to Liverpool from Hamburg, Germany, where they had been playing at the Indra and the Kaiserkeller clubs. Their stage show had been through a lot of changes with some in the audience thinking they were watching a German band as they were billed from Hamburg. From 1961 to 1963 The Beatles made 292 appearances at the club, with their last occurring on 3 August 1963, a month after the band recorded “She Loves You” and just six months before the Beatles’ first trip to the U.S. At the time, Brian Epstein promised the club’s owners that the Beatles would return someday, but it was a promise that was never fulfilled. By this time, “Beatlemania” was sprouting across England, and the small club could no longer satisfy audience demand for the group. During 1962, The Hollies took The Beatles’ slot at the Cavern Club. The Beatles had graduated from the club and had been signed to EMI‘s Parlophone label by producer George Martin. The amount of musical activity in Liverpool and Manchester caused record producers who had previously never ventured very far from London to start looking to the north.
Future star Cilla Black worked as the hat-check girl there. A recording studio, “Cavern Sound” opened in the basement of an adjoining building, run by Nigel Greenberg and Peter Hepworth. The club closed in March 1973, and was filled in during construction work on the Merseyrail underground rail loop. Jan Akkerman with Dutch group Focus were the last to play The Cavern, a few days before the club was shut down in May 1973.
Here’s an incredibly rare set of very early Rolling Stones autographs on a 1963 Cavern Club membership card. This is my earliest set of signatures. I’m thrilled to add this gem to my growing collection.
The autographs were obtained at the sometimes dubbed the home of The Beatles, the Cavern Club, Liverpool, England on November 5th 1963 were the Stones made their debut performance at the venue.
Mick Jagger said of the Cavern gig….
“Man it was hot! We almost sweated away. They’ve had so many big groups at the Cavern that you’ve really got to prove yourself, they asked us back so they must like us.”
Bill Wyman was also quoted in his autobiography….
“While some people were building a wall, metaphorically, dividing the north from the south in pop music, we found no barriers whatsoever from Merseyside fans. Walking around the city we were stopped and chatted to by friendly Liverpudlian’s. In the evening our show at the Cavern was fantastic, with a marvellous crowd.”
The Beatles’ road manager, Neil Aspinall, thought the Stones were just “OK” that night—not particularly better or worse than a typical Liverpool band playing at the Cavern Club. But the Beatles were more effusive. “I remember standing in some sweaty room and watching them on the stage,” Ringo said years later. “Keith and Brian—wow! I knew then that the Stones were great.” George was struck by the tremendous enthusiasm of the Stones’ fans. “The audience screamed and shouted and danced on tables,” he recalled.
Here’s story behind the signatures.
“My name is Neil Hamilton and I was born in Liverpool in 1947, during the baby boomer years. During my teenage years I served an apprenticeship as an engineer on pretty low wages. My big form of entertainment was going to the Cavern Club several nights a week. One Sunday night in 1963, I was aged 16 years, I was in the Cavern Club and much to my astonishment who came walking down the stairs but the Rolling Stones, who at the time were one of my favourite rock groups. I’d just started playing guitar and was really into the Blues. I got chatting to them in particular Brian Jones and was standing next to him when we were both mobbed by hoards of young female fans and I was signing autographs along with Brian. As I had long hair they mistook me for a Stone. After several minutes one savvy Mary Ellen type shouted “He’s not a Rolling Stone” and my minutes of fame came to an abrupt end. I then got chatting to Mick Jagger and said to him “Let’s get a couple of birds (girls) up to dance” so we did the Cavern stomp! I later got them to sign my Cavern Club card which I’ve treasured ever since. The sixties was a great time to be a teenager.”
*Please note that the recipient has got the day that he received the autographs wrong as November 5th 1963 was a Tuesday.
Here’s an ad from the Mersey Beat newspaper promoting the Stones show on the 5th.
From The Rolling Stones ” A Life on The Road,” Bill Wyman describes his reaction to seeing The Beatles play The Cavern Club.