Peter Takes on History
February 9, 1964
The Fab Four Are Formed
In 1956 John Lennon was enrolled in Quarry Bank High School in Liverpool. Bored with his studies, he formed a band called The Quarrymen. John invited 15 year-old buddy Paul to join and Paul invited George but at only 14 years old, 16 year old John thought George was too young. But Paul persisted and arranged for George to ambush the pair on the top of a double decker bus where George played the lead guitar solo from a popular tune called “Raunchy” and earned his position as the third of the Fab Four. The Fab fourth was a guy named Pete Best whose mother owned the Cavern Club. He had his own band but agreed to split his time.
Brian Epstein was a Liverpool music entrepreneur who frequented the Cavern Club, saw the Quarrymen play, and told a friend, “They’re going to be bigger than Elvis!” He signed them to a contract and immediately introduced them to the burlesque circuit in Hamburg, Germany. Between 1960 and 1962 The Quarrymen, now the Beatles, made five trips to Germany where they played 4 to 8 hour shifts 7 days a week. That worked out to 1200 shows before live, rowdy, strip club audiences. By the time the band returned to Liverpool, they were the tightest rock and roll band in the world! Epstein did some final polishing, adding the matching suits and mop-top haircuts and subtracting a drummer. At the request of John, Paul and George, their “mean and moody” drummer had to be replaced.
Richard Starky, who earned the nickname “Rings” for his jewelry choices, later revised Rings to Ringo when he got a gig with a Cowboy band, was tapped for the position. Epstein fired Best and brought Ringo in to keep the beat.
Epstein then talked George Martin of EMI records into recording and releasing a few singles. By the spring of 1963, the Beatles were the next big thing in England.
Now, the Beatles had talent for sure and well honed performance skills but they were also lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time.
See, the oldest boomers were just pre-teen, the vanguard of a generation. The long haired rockers were pointing the way; bridging 50s R&B and Rockabilly to the 60s hard and highly produced rock and roll. They sang about love but also sang about peace, refused to play segregated venues, gave irreverent interviews and seeme to be living the sex, drugs, rock and roll lifestyle young rebels admired.
So the American public was more than ready when on this day, in 1964, the Beatles first appeared on the Ed Sullivan show. 73 Million people tuned in and Beatlemania infected America. By April 4th they’d rocketed to the top of the Billboard charts. Their 21 consecutive hits kept them on top for 132 weeks, more than twice as long as anyone before or since. They toured constantly, selling out every show. There was Beatles-themed merchandise everywhere; shirts, wigs, hats, instruments, board games, bed sheets, even wallpaper! Though the Beatles were only together as a band from 1960 until 1970, many music historians have called them the most influential band in history.
Now on that night, February 9th, 1964 in the wings of the Ed Sullivan theater, a 19 year old Brit, recently nominated for a Tony award as Best Supporting Actor for playing the Artful Dodger in the London cast of the musical Oliver! watched in wonder. Later he would say, "I watched the Beatles from the side of the stage, I saw the girls going crazy, and I said to myself, this is it, I want a piece of that."
Within a year that young man answered an ad in the Hollywood reporter looking for “four insane boys” to act in a television series. He got the part and young Davy Jones was teamed with Michael Nesmith, Mickey Dolenz and Peter Tork to become The Monkees and, as he wished, he got some crazed teen-age girls of his own.