Mona’s diary

Mona Best used this 1959 diary as the booking diary for early 1960.

In an upcoming auction, Mona Best’s early 1960 booking diary for her Casbah Club is for sale. You might remember that after having lost Colin, their drummer, the second to last incarnation of the Quarrymen disbanded in 1959. At the time, the Quarrymen were John, Paul, George, Colin and, whenever there was a piano on stage where they were booked, John Duff Lowe.

After the group had split up, John and Paul weren’t in a band, but George joined the Les Stewart quartet, consisting of himself, Ken Brown, Les Stewart and drummer Geoff Skinner.

The Casbah Club, in Mona Best’s cellar i Hayman’s Green, was to open on 29 August 1959, and Mona started selling membership cards while looking for a band to perform on the opening night.

So she met with Ken Brown and George Harrison, to hire the The Les Stewart Quartet, and the band got the job. However, before the event, Les Stewart quit and his quartet fell apart. George called in his mates John and Paul, to make a band who could fulfill the engagement. So, Paul, John, George and Ken formed a new group. For want of a better name, again they went under the Quarrymen monicker.

The Quarrymen at the Casbah Club, Ken with glasses. The photo has been AI improved.

As The Quarrymen, the four played the Casbah every Saturday, and even helped decorate the club’s interior.

However, after only eight shows, The Quarrymen quit over a financial dispute with Mona. Ken had injured his leg on 10 October and it was agreed that he could not play, so the group played as a trio, while Ken was in charge of ticket sales on the door. When Mona wanted to pay Ken the same amount as the other three, they protested, and Mona fired them. But they came back, and Mona’s diary contains a record of one of their bookings.

Ken also joined a band with Pete Best, Chas Newby and Bill Barlow, called The Blackjacks. They disbanded when Pete joined the Beatles. In the nineties, Ken wrote a rough manuscript for a book about his time with George, Paul and John, called “My Life” and subsequently retitled “Some Other Guy!”. The approximately 38,000-word manuscript never found a market and remains unpublished. Brown suffered from emphysema and died at his home in Essex in June 2010, aged 69.

Mona’s booking diary which is now for sale, feature multiple sheets of paper displaying the weeks (excluding Sundays) from 1 January 1959 to 2 January 1960. However, Mona seems to have used the early part of the diary for the 1960 bookings, by just amending the dates and days to coincide with the first few weeks of 1960.

The diary contains Mona’s handwritten notes and doodles, and mentions several bands she booked. On Saturday 9 January, she wrote “Quarrymen”, as the only known written record of Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Brown being booked under this name, though it is not known whether this performance took place. Interestingly, the band booked for Sunday 10 January is “Rory Storm & The Hurricanes”, whose line-up included Ringo Starr. There is also a note on the back of the first sheet reading “Find Woods number; also Richie’s address”, which also may be an early reference to Ringo.

An image of the Quarrymen diary entry can be seen on page 55 of The Beatles: The True Beginnings by Roag Best. In the book, the caption incorrectly attributes the dates to October 1959 when the date in the diary is 9 January 1960.

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