New Clubmoor Hall or not?
Yesterday was the anniversary of a gig by the Quarry Men (or the Quarrymen) in the Conservative Club at New Clubmoor Hall. The image above has been identified as coming from that occasion, and it’s also the first time Paul McCartney is depicted with the group after having joined. The image shows drummer Colin Hanton, tea chest bass player Len Garry and guitarist Eric Griffiths alongside John and Paul. It is Hanton who has cast his doubt about the date, and now the venue is also under dispute by a Liverpool historian. The reason why Hanton has doubts about the date is that Len Garry apparently had fallen ill in late September and was out of commission for a long while. From Hanton’s book, “Pre:Fab!: The Story of One Man, His Drums, John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison” (also due to become a documentary film):
“It was at a booking at the Wilson Hall that Len first failed to turn up for a show. He’d already gone when we played Dovedale Towers on the 11th October and wasn’t there for our first ‘advertised’ booking at the New Clubmoor on the 18th October. I do not recall him being on stage with us for either of those bookings.
We had played the New Clubmoor before this date but always unadvertised; that’s what is forgotten in most books – we played many bookings at these venues but our name was not always used in the advertisements for the shows. It was at one our first bookings at the New Clubmoor that along with the rest of us Len had been caught on camera wearing our new stage uniform but not long after at a booking at the Wilson Hall he failed to turn up. As I say, he did not play those two dates in mid-October that I’ve mentioned which means he left sometime in late September/very early October”.
“To not turn up was so unlike him. He never missed a practice or a gig. I remember asking Nigel Walley if he knew where Len was and he replied that Len was ill”.
After this, Colin does not remember Len playing with the group again or turning up to rehearsals. “I don’t recall seeing Len again after this. I’m not sure why he stopped turning up at this particular time but I never saw him again until the late 1990s when we got together at a Cavern anniversary. I know he contracted tubercular meningitis but he says this was in 1958, so this must have been something different that afflicted him. Tubercular meningitis is a hugely nasty and serious illness: they call it a ‘killer’ disease. Apparently Len collapsed at home, fell into a coma and was rushed to hospital and placed in isolation. Fortunately he was made of strong stuff and did not succumb although he spent seven months in hospital.” Len was not replaced in The Quarry Men.
Len’s sudden departure directs Colin’s thoughts to the famous photograph that appears in many books depicting Colin, Len, John, Paul and Eric on stage at the New Clubmoor Hall. The picture is often dated as being taken on Saturday 23rd November 1957. The boys are decked out in white shirts and long bow ties, with John and Paul also wearing ‘white/light coloured’ jackets. In Lewisohn’s “Tune In”, the photo is still identified as coming from this date and this venue. In Colin’s own book, the photo is also captioned as coming from New Clubmoor Hall. But Colin’s memory is that this photograph was taken “much, much earlier” than November 23rd. “It had to be because Len had departed the group well before then.”
It was at an early appearance at the New Clubmoor that the whole group appeared for the first time on stage in matching attire.
“Paul wore a ‘light coloured’ jacket (I remember it being an ‘oatmeal’ colour), which was matched by John – goodness knows from where he got his – but there was no way he’d have let Paul upstage him by drawing more attention to himself on stage in the way he dressed. Not too long after that photograph was taken Len left the group. He was not with us by late November. I don’t know who decided that was the date of the picture. People like to accrue this kind of information even if they don’t know if it’s correct. So many people want it to be a photo of the first time Paul performed with The Quarry Men but wanting it to be doesn’t mean it was. Not all Quarry Men dates were advertised. I believe this specific ‘dating’ of the photo as 23rd November, 1957 happened when the New Clubmoor was reopened earlier in the 2000s and it suited their purpose to quote that date in publicity for the club but in truth there is no written evidence that it is correct. I have never believed it was.”
In a recent interview with GQ Magazine, published in August 2020, Paul McCartney recalls that his first public appearance with the Quarry Men was at Wilson Hall. Could the photos have been taken on that occasion, and not at the New Clubmoor Hall after all? On his website, Liverpool historian Philip Kirkland is trying to connect the dots. Another source of information in this blog post is the Facebook group There Are Places I Remember: Beatles Liverpool Locations