The angry cry of a new-born baby was heard amid the thunder of one of the worst air raids Liverpool had seen. At 6:30 in the evening, on October 9th 1940, Julia Lennon gave birth to a son, and called him John Winston.
Julia's husband, Fred, was a seaman which means that they saw very little of one another. Eventually they separated and John went to live with his Aunt Mimi, one of Julia's sisters. She and her husband George looked upon John as their son although Mimi was fairly strict with him. When her "no nonsense" attitude became too much for him, he would turn to his uncle George who was always there with a treat of sweets, pocket money or even a visit to the pictures.
John was 4 years old when he went to his first school, Dovedale Primary, and within five months he had learnt to read and write. About a year later his father Fred, on shore-leave, came to Liverpool to see his son. He took John on holiday to Blackpool with him and they stayed there for several weeks during which Fred decided that he wanted to keep his son, and made plans to emigrate to New Zealand. Everything was ready for the big move when Julia turned up and announced that she wanted to take John home. The parents could not agree on a decision, and the poor little boy was told to choose between them. He had grown quite used to living with his dad, and ran to his knee -but as soon as the door had closed behind Julia, John went chasing after her, and Fred disappeared from his life.
Julia took John back to Liverpool, and before long he had moved back with Mimi and George and a childhood as normal as protective Mimi could give him.
By the time he was seven years old, John had started to write and illustrate his own little books of satires, jokes and cartoons. He was the intrepid leader of a gang at school, constantly proving himself by undertaking dares so brave that his contemporaries could not fail to be impressed. When John was 12, he and fellow gang member, Pete Shotton, started at Quarry bank Grammar School. Ivan Vaughan, member of the same school gang, went to the Liverpool Institute, and a fourth, Nigel Whalley, went to Bluecoat School. Towards the end of John's first year at Quarry bank, in June 1953, his beloved Uncle George died of a haemorrhage.
Mimi was left to bring up a rebellious, strong-willed boy alone. he was unpopular with the schoolmasters, being one of the most disruptive members of his class, and he seemed to have no respect for authority or discipline. Now, instead of turning to George, John turned to his mother. he and Pete Shotton used to take days off school to visit her, and she never minded -they were always welcome in her warm, relaxed, laughter-filled household. She was, they felt, like someone of their own generation, and they loved her.
Towards the end of their schooldays, John and Pete discovered the thrilling, anti-establishment teddy Boy fashion. They had their regulation school trousers taken in to resemble the drain-pipe trousers or "drainies" that were an essential part of the Teddy Boy uniform, and Julia bought John a coloured shirt. Mimi thoroughly disapproved of the Teddy Boy look, and John used to hide his most outrageous clothes from her. then came the momentous impact of Elvis Presley, whose record, "Heartbreak Hotel", was top of the charts in 14 countries in May 1956! John idolised this new hero and, like thousands of his contemporaries, wanted to emulate him -to be a star.
It was a totally different brand of music, however, that gave John the break he was looking for, and it came in a song called "Rock Island Line" sung by Lonnie Donegan. it was called skiffle. The sound could be created using instruments as basic as tin cans and washboards, and home-made "double basses" of broom-handles, tea chests and lengths of wire -and the possibility of forming a group was no longer a hopeless dream. John pleaded and begged for a guitar, and eventually Mimi gave in, while Julia, who could play banjo, taught John a few chords and he spent every spare moment practising.
John Lennon and Pete Shotton set about forming a skiffle group which, as Quarry Bank boys, they named the Quarrymen. One of the early gang, Nigel Whalley, became a regular member of the group, who wore Teddy Boy clothes and sticked back and piled up their hair in true Elvis style. Ivan Vaughan, still a close friend of John's, occasionally brought very carefully selected acquaintances and one day, in the summer of 1957, he introduced his schoolfriend Paul McCartney.
James Paul McCartney was born at Walton Hospital in Liverpool on June 18, 1942 where even at that early stage, he was given VIP treatment due to the fact that his mother had been in charge of the maternity ward at the hospital prior to his birth. Two years later Mary McCartney gave birth to another son, Paul's brother, Michael.
Paul was always very well behaved at school (in contrast to John) and due to his Academic standing was accepted to the Liverpool Institute adjacent to Liverpool Art College. In 1956 Mary McCartney discovered a lump in her breast but avoided seeing a doctor in hopes that it was simply something to do with menopause and would go away on its own. When the pain from the tumour became positively unbearable, she finally relented and submitted herself to admission into Northern Hospital. It was diagnosed as cancer, and she was dead hours after the operation, leaving fifty-three-old Jim McCartney to raise two young boys, 12 and 14, on his 8 pound-a-week salary.
The two boys held up well under the shock of their mother's sudden death, and several months later, when Lonnie Donegan's skiffle band came to Liverpool, Paul decided that he wanted a guitar more than anything else in the world. Eager to give his eldest son something constructive to channel his energy into, Jim scraped together the 15 pounds to purchase the prized instrument. At first, try as he might to extract music from the guitar, Paul found it impossible -until he discovered that the problem was that he was naturally left-handed and the guitar was strung to accommodate a right handed player. He marched the guitar back to the music store, promptly had it restrung in the opposite order and he was on his way!
Paul's father, Jim, had once had his own jazz band and still played the piano at every family gathering. Both of his sons took weekly piano lessons, and he was more than delighted that his boys were interested in music. They received not only his approval, but his encouragement as well!
On July 7, 1957, when Paul attended the church fete, the Quarrymen weren't bad. John played the lead guitar, but he played it like a banjo, the way his motherJulia had taught him. Paul, then, showed them how to play "Twenty Flight Rock" (from the film "The Girl Can't help It", performed by Eddie Cochran) and told them all the words. This really impressed the band members. So Pete Shotton ran into him bicycling by the Allerton Golf Course some days later and announced that John and the rest of the members of the Quarrymen had mulled over the idea and wanted him to join their band. He said yes but it would have to wait until after he and his brother came back from summer camp at Butlin's. Paul's first public appearance with John's group was at a dance at a local Conservative Club.
Before long, Paul and John had become almost inseparable, and Paul taught John many new guitar chords -although Paul's left handed playing was sometimes difficult to follow.
That autumn, John started a course at an art college which was just a stone's throw from Paul's school, the Liverpool Institute. Towards the end of the year Paul introduced another Liverpool Institute pupil to John. His name, George Harrison.
Born on February 25 1943, George Harrison was the only one of the four Beatles who did not come from a broken home. The youngest of four children born to Harold and Louise Harrison, George had two older brothers and older sister.
George's mother, Louise Harrison, was very supportive and completely encouraging of her son's interests. When George was 14 years old, Louise was constantly finding little pieces of paper onto which George had drawn sketches of guitars, and one day he came to her with the desperate plea that he wanted a guitar one boy at his school was selling. She bought it for George and encouraged John, Paul and George antics!
John, Paul and George formed the nucleus of other members around which a succession of other members revolved. By now they had advanced from tea chests and washboards and were working on a more exciting sound -rock and roll. Many groups were making this transition, and to mark their new style, they were changing their names -the Gerry Mardsen Skiffle Group, for example, became Gerry and the Pacemakers. Unfortunately for the Quarrymen, their name was emblazoned all over their drum kit, so they had to stick with it!
In the winter of 1957 a new group emerged from the United States called The Crickets, its leader, Buddy Holly, both wrote and played his own songs. If Buddy Holly could write his own material, then so could Lennon and McCartney... A unique partnership was born.
The students from art college used to hang out for hours on end, sipping cups of coffee while sitting on benches at long, narrow tables at a coffee shop called the Jacaranda, or the jack for short. On one occasion John introduced his friends another friend of his with whom John had struck up a deep, intellectual relationship, and his name wasStuart Sutcliffe.
Stuart was born on June 23 1949 in Edinburgh. He had two sisters, Joyce and Pauline. His mother Millie nurtured his son's interest in the field of art, as she taught the subject in elementary school. Stuart attended Prescott Grammar School and was later accepted at Liverpool College of Art. Stuart was a very intense and intelligent artist, and he appealed to John Lennon's romantic sense by being broadingly deep and creative.
In 1959 in the annual John Moore Art Exhibit held at the Walker Art Gallery, there was a competition into which Stuart entered one of his paintings. John Moore, a wealthy Liverpool art collector, personally purchased Stu's painting for the unheard-of sum of 65 pounds. John was very impressed with this feat and convinced Stuart that he should buy a bass and thus become the Quarrymen's bass player. Stuart had absolutely no musical aptitude but this didn't make any difference and suddenly he was a member of John's band. This was something that Paul McCartney was not thrilled about, as he wanted to be the bass player.
Allen Williams, the owner of the Jacaranda, was thrilled when the local Liverpool music scene began to blossom. His club, the Jacaranda, was the local hangout for many groups like Rory Storm and the Hurricanes and Cass and the Casanovas. To capitalise on the new trends in music, John and his band renamed themselves Johnny and the Moondog. Almost daily, John, Paul, George, Stuart andCynthia (John's girlfriend) would meet at the Jac.
Allan Williams saw this music explosion as a way to draw business into the Jacaranda and soon began a booking agency for the rock bands, where he would procure 10 pounds a night for their services. Allan soon began acquainted with a promoter named Larry Parnes, who was famous for discovering pop talent like Tommy Steele. Williams talked Parnes into hosting an audition for the local Liverpool talent he was familiar with.
At this time the American band Buddy Holly and the crickets were very big, so it was Stuart who came up with the brainstorm that the group abandon the moniker Johnny and the Moondogs in favour of another insect name, The Beetles. John loved the idea, but with a pun on the word "beat" as in beat music and called themselves The Silver Beatles. They asked Johnny Hutch, the drummer of Cass and the Casanovas, to play the drums for them and they were on their way.
At the audition at the Manchester Hippodrome, Larry Parnes liked the music the Silver Beatles produced and was interested but with one minor change: without Stu. Much to Paul's irritation, John told Parnes that without Stu he could forget it. So Cass and the Casanovas got the gig over the Silver Beatles.
However, Parnes offered them another shot (Stuart included) consisting of a two-week tour of Scotland as the backup group for a soloist singer named Johnny Gentle. The tour was a depressing mess and they lived on a bowl of soup a day. Also back in Liverpool the Silver Beatles were offered work at a new club that Allan Williams had opened up. It was a strip joint called the New Cabaret Artists Club, and John and the gang would be the backup group for a stripper named Shirley.
The night the boys played the Litherland Town Hall was to change their lives in a dramatic way. After the show, the band was surrounded, chased and attacked by a gang of teddy boys in the parking lot. Stuart couldn't run fast enough, and the Teds pummetted him down to the ground and proceeded to beat him. In fact, they were repeatedly kicking him in the head when John had to jump into the middle and drag Stu to safety or they would surely have broken his skull.
The year 1960 was fraught with changes for the group. First of all they changed their names to simply read "The Beatles" for an engagement on June 6 at Neston Institute. The new name stuck from that day forward. And the Beatles were offered a gig that would totally change their careers.
Allan Williams had been booking among other rock groups, the Royal Caribbean Steel band, which had played extensively at the Jacaranda. The band had gone to Hamburg, West Germany, and wrote back to say that business there was excellent -especially in the fast moving and decadent St. Pauli district, which was full of bars and night clubs and was eager for foreign music.
After making a business trip over to Hamburg, he found the vicinity called Herber Strasse was a veritable carnival of porno shops, movie theatres and tiny, sleazy clubs where the rocking beat music of the Liverpool bands would go over well. After making the right contacts, Williams found that a club owner named Bruno Koschmider was willing to take a chance on one of William's bands. The test case was a group called Derry and the Seniors. When word got back to Liverpool that the group was doing great business, they were ready for another group, and this was to be the Beatles' shot at the Hamburg market. The only hitch in their plans was that they didn't have a regular drummer.
On August 29 1959 the Quarrymen had played at the opening of a coffee club called the Casbah. The club was owned by a woman named Mona Best whose son Pete was a drummer in his own right in a group known as the Blackjacks. It was Paul who phoned him up to ask if he was interested in joining their group. He agreed, the deal was set and the Beatles set sail for Hamburg with their line-up: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Stuart Sutcliffe andPete Best.
The trip was initially set to be six weeks long but it was to turn out to be five months before the lads returned to Liverpool.
The prime spot for the Beatles to be was ideally a club called the kaiserkeller, where Derry and the Seniors were stationed. Instead, when they arrived they found that they were to play the seedy Indra Club in the sleazy part off the Reeperbahn. The bill of fare at the Indra was generally a potpourri of strippers, female mud wrestlers, and various erotic whatnat. The idea behind bringing the Beatles there was to attract a bigger crowd with a band, as had been done at the kaiserkeller. That first night when they hit the stage there were only a handful of people in the audience -so things couldn't help but improve!.
Their guaranteed living quarters were, much to their surprise, three tiny rooms at the front of a movie house owned by Bruno Koschmider called the Bambi Kino. Their little cubicles were located behind the movie screen. It was common for them to be awakened from their sleep in the afternoon by the sound of a sex film or a bad western. Their work hours at the Indra were from 8 p.m. to 2 p.m., and they were expected to play straight through in six forty-five minute sets, mainly consisting of a mix of rock song cover versions like "Rock around the clock" and "Roll Over Beethoven" and rock versions of standards like "Falling in Love again" and "Red sails in the sunset".
With the exception of Pete Best, the boys soon discovered the cheap amphetamines called Preludin -nicknamed Prellys. When they were taken with beer, they delivered quite a buzz- just right for the non-stop show schedule they were on.
The German audiences who frequented the clubs in the Reeperbahn came for a rowdy good time, and they would shout at the stage for the Beatles to "Make show! Make show!" The more Prellys the boys took, the thirstier they became and the more beer they drank. Away from England for the first time, John loved to get wild on stage, and he loved to do crazy things like perform the set with a toilet seat around his neck.
On one particular night an art student called Klaus Voorman went to the Kaiserkeller where Rory Storm and the Hurricanes were in the middle of their act -with their talented and animated drummer, Ringo Starr. The Indra had closed two months after the Beatles' gig began, so they were moved to a larger club (this Indra), where they shared the bill with the other Liverpool band. They were on a twelve-hour shift, with the two bands alternating every other hour.Klaus, then, sat next to the Beatles and spoke to them in broken English about his desire to get into designing record album covers. When the Beatles hit the stage for their next set, Klaus flipped over their music. Next time he came back, he did it on his own but the third time he insisted on his girlfriend, Astrid Kirchherr, going with him. Stuart with his teddy boy looks and a pair of clip-on sunglasses over his own glasses, immediately caught the eye of Astrid. They soon became lovers with the help of a German-English dictionary. Klaus didn't resent this at all, and they often brought their friends down to hear these great teddy boys from England and their sets of American rock music. Astrid convinced them to let her photograph them, and there are absolutely fantastic shots dating from this session.
Not only did she take photographs, she was also to be an important part of the Beatles' evolution. She was responsible for their changing their style of dress to leather pants and collarless suit jackets. But Astrid's most important contribution to the group's look came when she cut their hair into the combed-down-with-bangs style that was destined to become known the world over as "The Beatles cut". Only Pete Best refused to allow Astrid to change his hairstyle.
The boys' trip to Hamburg could have gone on indefinitely, but their stay came to a sudden halt in early December when their original contracts ran out. They had a dispute with Koschmider and played at the rival Top Ten club. Koschmider promptly notified the cops that George Harrison was only seventeen years old and that none of the boys had valid work permits. It was back to Liverpool for them without a cent to show for their five months' work.
Their first gig back in Liverpool was at the Casbah, and the audience was astonished at the change in the Beatles since their trip abroad. The non-stop playing in Hamburg had allowed them to truly polish their act to a bright and exciting scene. They had a new look and a new found confidence that had been lacking in those first one-night stands around Liverpool. When they played the Litherland Town hall on December 27, 1960, the crowd went crazy for the band. Whatever they had done in Hamburg had made them into an exciting live act to watch and word soon spread about the frenzy they created on stage. That particular gig is said to be the true start of Beatlemania.
In January 1961 the Beatles played their first gig at a small basement club on an alley called Mathew Street. the club called the Cavern, was formerly a jazz club, but it had recently changed its music policy. The Beatles became famous for their lunch time sessions as well as evening gigs. The club was down seventeen steps into a damp basement which used to be a wine cellar.
With a growing following and all visions of going back to school and getting regular jobs gone, the Beatles were proceeding full steam ahead. Jim McCartney would often stop in.Cynthia (John's girlfriend) was a permanent fixture and Louise Harrison dropped in often to see the boys play to an ecstatic house. One particular day even Aunt Mimi decided to make a surprise appearance.
In February of that year, George turned eighteen and the next trip to Hamburg was planned for April 1961. This time they worked out all the arrangements for the engagement at the Top Ten Club. In preparation for this trip, Astrid and Peter Eckhorn of the Top Ten Club made sure work permits had been secured so that there wouldn't be any problems this time.
It was during this second trip to Hamburg that one of the major events was going to happen to the Beatles while they remained there it was the recording of their first record. It was not a Beatles record per se -it was of all things "My bonnie" by Tony Sheridan and the Beat Brothers. English singer Tony Sheridan had a record deal but needed a backup band, so the Beatles went into the studio to become the "Beat Brothers" for their session. This change in their name was due to the fact that Beatles sounded too much like "peedles", the German word for the man genitalia. So they changed it.
This trip to Hamburg lasted until July 1961. In spite of his deep friendship with John, Stuart at this time decided he'd had it with trying to cut mustard as a musician. Stuart and Paul hated each other at this point and they had even erupted into an on-stage fistfight one night in the middle of a song. Stuart had made up his mind to remain in Hamburg with Astrid to resume his art career. This thrilled Paul, as he'd always wanted to play bass in the group anyway. Now, with Stuart out of the way, his dream came true.
The remaining four Beatles returned to Liverpool and to the damp underground excitement of the Cavern while Stuart stayed behind.
Right around the corner from The Cavern in Liverpool stood the Whitechapel branch of North End Music Stores (NEMS). The chain was owned by the father of twenty-seven-year-oldBrian Epstein, who ran the record department of this particular branch with meticulous order. Brian was a ver well educated and clever young man who had gone from one career infatuation to another -much to the exasperation of his father. However, when he turned the staid record department of the Whitechapel branch store into a viable money maker, his dad thought that Brian had finally discovered his niche in life. Little did Brian suspect, but he was soon to unearth a new interest with which he would become totally obsessed: The Beatles.
Brian Epstein was destined to be the Beatles manager. He was to become attracted to the undirected and unfocused raw energy that the Beatles exuded on stage and it was under the auspices of his objective eye that the band was turned into an international hit-making sensation.
The story (some say is more mythology than anything else) goes like this. It was about 3 0'clock one Saturday afternoon in the autumn of 1961 -October 28 to be exact -that a lad wearing a black leather jacket bounded into Brian's record department at the Whitechapel store and asked to purchase a copy of a German single called "My Bonnie" by the Beatles. Brian looked the inquiring young Raymond Jones in the eye and informed him he had never heard of a recording group named the Beatles, but he would make a note and try to find on Monday.
The following Monday morning another two youngsters turned up at Brian's shop and asked for "My Bonnie" by the Beatles. Brian got on the telephone and made several phone calls to his European record agents searching for this German group. After several phone calls and a few inquiring conversations, the mystery of the recording's origin was finally solved. Not only was the group not German, but the record was credited to "Tony Sheridan and the Beat Brothers". Brian thought it was strange that the youngsters started asking for a rock version of the traditional song "My Bonnie(Lies Over The Ocean)" but very professionally he quickly ordered a shipment of the records.
He went on investigating after talking to some of the young girls who entered his record asking for the same record and then he discovered that not only were the Beatles from Liverpool but they were also regular performers at the lunchtime sessions at the Cavern, right around the corner from Brian's shop!
On November 9, 1961, dressed in his business suit and tie, like a proper adult businessman, Brian Epstein arrived at the Cavern to see what all the commotion was about. He rushed down the stairs into the smoky and dark basement that was the Cavern, which that day was filled with at least two-hundred local teenagers.Bob Wooler, DJ of the Cavern, announced Brian's arrival over the microphone. Brian would have his whole life changed by what he saw that day on stage and he, in turn, would change the face of pop music forever under his direction.
Amazingly, when he saw the group on stage, he recognised the fact that the quartet had often showed up at the NEMS stores he ran in their leather jackets to kill time after lunch never buying anything.
Brian promptly cited the marketing capabilities that were possible and armed with two hundred copies of "My Bonnie", he put a huge sign in his record shop's window to announce that he had the so much-sought record all local teenagers were looking for. The idea soon sprang into Brian's head that he should become the manager of this group, whom he still considered a diamond in the rough. However, he would turn it into a valuable commodity. He had no idea of how to manage a pop group but yet there was something about them, something undefinable known as star quality that made Brian could not resist.
On December 3, 1961, Brian invited the Beatles to his office to propose the idea he had in mind about the managing contract. Brian had already formulated what changes he wanted to make and how he would market them. The sloppy stage outfits had to go, and so did the food and drink on stage. According to Brian, they were there to entertain the audience, not just crack jokes among themselves and laugh at their private puns.
The Beatles themselves realised they had achieved some sort of local success, but they also realised that they were indeed in need of something else. Perhaps Brian held the key.
The changes Brian had suggested they should overgo isn't happen overnight, but occurred pretty quickly. Lennon did resist at the beginning at the changes, but when Brian had lined up an interview with Decca Records they knew he was on the right track. The interview took place in London on January 1, 1962 (not a British holiday). Decca was to become the first of the record labels which turned down the opportunity of signing the Beatles as a recording group. Decca was followed in rapid succession by Pye, Phillips, Columbia and HMV.
While Brian was busy trying to obtain a recording contract for the Beatles, the group was booked for a third stint in wild and crazy Hamburg. This time around the gig was to be seven weeks in duration, and there were to be some dramatic changes. First of all, they were booked at a hot new club in the Reeperbahn called the Star Club. Second, they were staying at accommodations that actually had real bathroom facilities and showers -as opposed to having had to use the men's room in previous clubs they had played. Third, they arrived in Hamburg by air unlike their two previous trips, which were made by a combination of rail and sea travel.
Like their last arrival, they were met at their destination that April 10, 1962 by their dear friendAstrid. However, as soon as John laid eyes on her, he sensed something was wrong.
Astrid, choking back tears, informed John the second he got off the plane that Stuart was dead. He had been suffering from severe headaches and on that day, Astrid's mother called up an ambulance as Stuart was having one of his painful attacks. Stuart died in Astrid's arms in the ambulance on their way to the hospital and Astrid went directly from the hospital to the airport.
They were stunned, shocked and saddened by the death of their friend. Pete Best was later to recount that he had never seen the cold and flippant John Lennon break down and cry until then. There was nothing in the world that could be done so the Beatles opened at the Star Club on April 13, 1962, as planned. As a fitting memorial toStuart Sutcliffe his face is among those peering out from the cover of the most famous Beatles album ever recorded, "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart Club Band". Stuart is at the far left, third from the top.
However, to balance out the bitter news of Stu's death, Brian had succeeded in securing the Beatles their much-sought after deal. Although prestigious EMI Records had formally passed up the option on the group,George Martin, the head of A&R (artists and repertoire) of EMI -owned subsidiary Parlophone Records, was willing to give them a shot. Things started moving very fast from that point on.
It was on may 4, 1962, that the deal was officially lined-up, and on June 4 a demo deal was signed at EMI, and two days later they were in the Abbey Road recording studios. There had been a dispute as to whether they should play cover versions of other people's songs or Lennon-McCartney compositions. It was to be a combination of both that they performed for George Martin in studio 3 that day, including "Love Me Do", "Besame Mucho", etc. Final contracts were yet to be signed, and the whole thing could indeed fall through if George Martin decided to pass on his option, so it was back to playing the waiting game . While they waited for martin's decision, they returned to their Liverpool engagements at the Casbah and the Cavern until the verdict was announced.
The answer was finally delivered in late July. The Beatles had a recording deal, as long as they didn't record with Pete Best. They were free to tour with him but Martin didn't care for him on record. That was all the encouragement they needed to fire him on August 16, 1962. Ringo Starr was still working with Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, but they knew he was looking for another gig. Everyone, especially George Harrison, liked Ringo a lot and knew that he shared their same fun-loving sense of humour too. On August 18 Ringo was officially one of the Beatles, and he immediately had his hair cut in the distinctive style that Astrid had given to them.
Ringo Starr was born Richard Starkey on July 7, 1940 to Elsie and Richard Starkey, Sr., in Liverpool. He had a very difficult childhood marred by a series of illnesses and a series of visits to hospital. The family ,lived in the rough area of town called "Dingle".
Ringo had also been born at the height of the German bombings of Liverpool during World War II. His father walked out on his mother and his parents divorced when he was three years old. He only saw his father on a handful of occasions after that -three timed to be exact.
When he was five years old he started at St. Silas' Junior School. A year later he developed a stomachache that wouldn't go away. After an ambulance ride to the hospital, it was diagnosed as appendicitis, but it had been attended to too late. His appendix had already burst, and peritonitis had set in. He went into a coma and didn't come round for ten weeks. It was a horrible year for him. He even fell put of bed on his seventh birthday. His hospital stay lasted over twelve months!
When he returned to school, he was so far behind the class that an 11-year-old neighbourhood girl named Mary Maguire tutored him so that his reading and writing ability would be up to that of his classmates His next school was Dingle Vale Secondary Modern School.
in April 1963, Elsie Starkey married a man named Harry Graves, a house painter and decorator, who was to be more of a father to him than his won had ever been. When Ringo was thirteen years old, he became ill again when a simple cold that he couldn't seem to shake developed into pleurisy and seriously endangered the functioning of his lungs. He was to remain in Hweswell Children's Hospital in Wirral for the next years, and recalls the constant attention that his stepfather showered on him. While in hospital, he learnt to play drums in the hospital ward band.
At the age of fifteen, Ringo didn't return to school, but instead he received a work reference. He couldn't seem to get the hang of any particular trade, and a series of six-months-or-less jobs were to follow in rapid succession, including that of messenger boy for the British Railways, barman on a boat and joiner's apprentice at an engineering firm.
In 1956, when skiffle music was sweeping England, Ringo joined forces with a fellow worker to form a band. They called Eddie Clayton Skiffle. When the skiffle craze went out, Ringo found himself playing drums with Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. It was while he was with Storm that Richard Starkey II became christened Ringo Starr. "Ringo" came from his penchant for wearing several rings on both hands, and "Starr" was developed so that when his drum solo was announced on stage, he could be introduced with an intro heralding "Starr time"! And the name has stuck ever since.
Ringo's first set of drums was a second hand set that Harry had pierced up for him in London for 10 pounds. But it wasn't long before he was ready for a flasher set that cost 100 pounds and required a 50 pound deposit. He had to come up with the money somehow and he asked his grandpa. Well, little "Ritchie" got what he wanted, and he paid it all back -a pound a week out of his pay.
According to John Lennon, whether or not Ringo had joined the Beatles, he would have probably emerged as an entertainment celebrity in another area.
In August 1962, Ringo Starr, John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison were about to embark on their own Magical Mystery Tour up the ladder of success at the rate of a guided missile. When Brian Epstein was pitching the Beatles to record companies he would represent them by saying that he as handling a group that was going to be "bigger than Elvis!". He was never to be more correct in his entire life.
To be continued...
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