John, Paul, George, Pete…and Ringo!

8. December 1961, Rory Storm and the Hurricanes are getting off the stage, as the Beatles prepare to go on stage. Or the other way around. Photographer: Dick Matthews

Five years ago, in 2015, we published a photo from the Tower Ballroom in New Brighton (close to Liverpool), of the Pete Best line up of the Beatles. What was special about that photo, taken by Dick Mathews from the local music newspaper Mersey Beat, was that Ringo also was in the picture. The photo had been around for years, but its significance had not been noted before. Before this, no photo of Ringo with all of the Beatles prior to him joining the group had been acknowledged.

Well guess what? Here is another one. One of our readers, Gary Fitch bought this photo at Rockaway Records in California about 25 years ago. It was in a bin of random Beatle pictures/postcards, they were around $1 each. Printed on postcard stock, but with no print or writing on the back, the photo shows the Beatles on stage, performing, with Ringo beside the stage. Believing it to be from Hamburg, Gary sent it to us for confirmation, as he had not seen it published online or in any books.

15 December 1961, presumably. A somewhat damaged photo, as John looks rather blonde! Note the two girls with an embroidered B for Beatles.

We contacted Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn about this image, and he told us that he had seen a print of it before. He also said that he had not seen it published anywhere before, so perhaps this is a first? Both Lewisohn and Mark Ashworth, keeper of the blog “There are places I remember – Beatles Liverpool Locations” confirmed the location as, once again, the Tower Ballroom in New Brighton. Lewisohn also made an informed guess at the date: December 15, 1961 – exactly one week after our previous photo of the Fab Five.

Flyer for the depicted gig.

Booking acts for the Tower Ballroom was Sam Leach, a colourful promoter from Liverpool, and friendly with all the bands in town. Sam loved rock’n’roll music and in the late 1950s started promoting shows in a suburb of Liverpool. He moved to the city centre with regular nights at the Cassanova Club and established all-night sessions at the Iron Door, a rival club to the Cavern, in 1961. In the same year, he began Operation Big Beat nights at the Tower Ballroom, New Brighton, with attendances reaching 4,000. He called his one man set-up the Leach Organisation. In later days, Sam spoke at many Beatles festivals and wrote a memoir, The Rocking City (1999). He kept in touch with Beatles fans, selling photos at a stall in The Grapes pub in Mathew Street and keeping a Facebook page updated until he passed away in 2016 at 81.

10 November 1961, Sam Leach started a series of shows at The Tower Ballroom. The shows were called Operation Big Beat, lasted several hours, featured several bands and lasted throughout the end of 1961
to early 1962. Photo: Dick Mathews

9 Responses

  1. Corwin Booth says:

    Curious why Lewisohn gave the photos different dates

  2. jack says:

    Obviously an incorrect statement in the story. Ringo was not in the photo with “all” previous members of the Beatles before him. Stu was still alive and not in the photo.

  3. RobH says:

    The posters that are visible in the 1st picture (8th), aren’t visible in the second (15th) would they have removed them before the events happened? Why assume Ringo had to be on the same bill, he could have been there just to see or hang out with the other bands.

  4. Jason Paris says:

    If I remember rightly, the first photo was published in 1996, in Lewisohn’s ‘The Complete Beatles Chronicle’, with a caption that stated (or implied) that the photo showed John, Paul, George, Pete and Ringo.

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