It Was Fifty Years Ago Today ... That Anthony McGinnity Taught The Beatles To Play ...
And The Era Of Village Music Was Over !
The very first vinyl record to be issued by The Beatles in Canada was released on or close to Monday, April 23rd, 1962 ... that was fifty years and a half a century ago this month. A real time of celebration for all Beatles fans in Canada and elsewhere !
The story of The Beatles from their earliest beginnings has been well documented and today we cannot separate the original artifacts from The Beatles Story, as both are now intertwined. Their very first record and its story are now fifty years old and this is the story of the first Beatles record to be issued in Canada. The record did not sell AT ALL upon it's release in Canada in April 1962 and it has now become a holy grail for Beatles collectors.
Cast your mind back to a cool early spring evening in the middle of the week after Easter Monday April 16th, 1962. A worker at the Compo record pressing plant in Lachine, Québec was listening to the shift supervisor go over the list of items for that evening's production shift. The metal masters sat ready waiting to be used with the warm liquid vinyl to create new batches of 45 RPM records for that week's new releases for the Decca label. The metal masters for the week's new Canadian Decca label pressings had arrived from the Decca USA parent company earlier that week. The round black Decca paper labels with silver print had also been printed and were in a separate bundle with each master.
Some of the new Decca 45 RPM releases that month included:￼￼
Decca 31379 Brenda Lee - Here Comes That Feelin' / Everybody Loves Me But You (April 16 1962)
Decca 31380 Webb Pierce - Take Time / Crazy Wild Desire
Decca 31381 Grady Martin - Twist And Turn / Good Good Good
Decca 31382 Tony Sheridan And The Beat Brothers - My Bonnie / The Saints (April 23 1962)
Decca 31383 Kip Walton - La Plume De Ma Tante-Cha Cha / Mi Guantanamera
Decca 31384 Loretta Lynn - Success / A Hundred Proof Heartache
Decca 31385 Eloise Trio - Calypso Twist/Mama Look A Boo Boo Twist
The labels to be used had been prepared with the following information printed on them:￼￼
That same evening, approximately 200 copies of Decca 31382 were duly pressed up with the black and silver paper labels. Once the batch was completed, each disc was then inserted inside a brown paper stock Decca/Compo 45 RPM record sleeve. These stock sleeves had been stamped with blue ink with the block text " SAMPLE COPY NOT FOR SALE".
These 200 records would then have been sent out on Monday, April 23rd, 1962 for distribution to the various radio stations across Canada as a new release. Usually such promotional records would be accompanied by a small sheet of paper from the issuing company such as Compo/Decca that would mention something notable about the artist and perhaps a line or two about the record itself. Each radio station from coast to coast that received the sample disc would determine the category the new disc would fall under... examples being Pop, Country & Western, Personality, Comedy, Orchestra, Male Vocal, Female Vocal. The record librarian would note that it was a new release and determine where it could or could not fit on the station's roster of programming. The record librarian would normally have attached a catalogue sticker to the record's label to allow the record to be filed and re-filed.
By all accounts, no radio station in Canada at the time of release determined that the record was worthy of broadcast which would have resulted in a new listing on the station's weekly chart. Without this push from any of the radio stations, and without any other form of print or television advertising, the record sank without trace without even one chart listing or newspaper mention in Canada. There are also indications that most of the sample copies of the Tony Sheridan 45 were in fact disposed of and these copies may have been recycled into newer vinyl records by different artists.
The irony of having this 45 released on the Decca label in Canada was that The Beatles had failed the Decca (UK) recording audition test just a few months earlier on New Year's Day January 1st, 1962.
Of course, Canadian (and US) Decca had not been associated with British Decca since World War Two. In October, 1962, Decca would become basically a name; that was when they were purchased by MCA. Since US Decca had owned Compo since 1951, Compo became part of MCA, eventually (1970) changing their name. (Source: Frank Daniels)
Another interesting fact is that the Decca 45 was issued in Canada just a few weeks before Brian Epstein had his initial meeting with EMI producer George Martin in London on Wednesday, May 9th, 1962. George Martin would take The Beatles into the charts.
Lastly, original Beatle Stu Sutcliffe had died tragically on April 10, 1962, less than two weeks before the Decca record was released in Canada.
So you can see that the record was issued at a very interesting time in the Beatles development.
The title song My Bonnie was written circa 1881 by Charles E. Pratt and “was first recorded as a rock ‘n’ roll song by Ray Charles in 1958,” and “This New Orleans parade song probably dates from the late 19th century… Bill Haley And His Comets recorded it, and it was later recorded by Jerry Lee Lewis and Fats Domino, among others.” as stated in "The Beatles with Tony Sheridan - Beatles Bop—Hamburg Days" by Hans-Olof Gottfridsson.
Tony Sheridan hailed from Norwich, Norfolk and found his way to the famous "Two I's" coffee bar on Old Compton Street in London's Soho district in the late 1950s. He had the moody good looks of the time and was by all accounts was a brilliant guitarist. But in performance, Sheridan quickly developed a reputation for being unreliable and inconsistent. By June 1960, Sheridan was 21 and with his backing group The Jets had accepted an offer to play rock and roll in the roughest part of Hamburg... the Reeperbahn area was a police-patrolled home for sailors and prostitutes. Now here was a true rock and roll pioneer. When The Beatles found themselves playing in Hamburg just a few months later, they saw Sheridan as somewhat of a role model as he was so popular. In fact, George Harrison has stated that he learned much of his own craft by carefully watching Tony Sheridan's playing in their early days in Hamburg.
The five Beatles started out at the bottom-rung clubs in Hamburg but quickly became good friends with the charismatic Englishman Sheridan whose real name was Anthony McGinnity ! Singer Sheridan would later joke that his father was from West Derby and that made him an "automatic Scouser" and that is perhaps why he got on so well with The Beatles in their early days. All five Beatles were backing Sheridan at The Top Ten Club during their second stint in Hamburg in the spring of 1961 when Polydor producer Bert Kaempfert dropped by with his friend Alrfed Schacht to check out Tony Sheridan and his backing group. One version of events holds that German pop singer Tommy Kent had recommended Sheridan and The Beatles to Kaempfert. Either way, producer Bert Kaempfert had final say on The Beatles as the backing group for Tony Sheridan and he recorded all of them at Friedrich Ebert Halle in Harburg ( a Hamburg suburb) beginning on the morning of Thursday, June 22nd, 1961 and continuing again on Friday, June 23rd, 1961. The recording engineer for these sessions was Karl Hinze.
One good reason for the switch of the group name "The Beatles" to "The Beat Brothers" was that the German pronunciation of "Beatles" sounded too much like "Peedles" which was then popular German slang for "penis". Nuff said. For the recording session, the newly named Beat Brothers consisted of Pete Best (drums), George Harrison (lead guitar), Paul McCartney (bass), and John Lennon (rhythm guitar). Stu Sutcliffe was the bass player for The Beatles at this time (although he left the group in early July 1961) but he did not play at the Polydor recording session and was instead replaced by Paul McCartney on bass. The movie "Back Beat' from 1994 is a good film recreation of the period in which Pete Best and Stu Sutcliffe were themselves Beatles.
The My Bonnie single was quite popular in Germany at the time it was issued by German Polydor in 1961. Original German copies featured a picture cover showing singer Tony Sheridan... but alas no picture of the backing Beat Brothers.
At the very same time that this record was being pressed and issued by Compo in Canada, The Beatles were back in Hamburg.
According to Mark Lewisohn's magnum opus book "The Beatles Chronicles", The Beatles were playing a residency at The Star Club in Hamburg, Germany from Friday, April 13th, 1962 through Thursday, May 31st, 1962. Upon arrival in Hamburg for this residency, The Beatles were told of Stu Sutcliffe's death... he had died just a few days earlier on April 10th, 1962. At this time, The Beatles were being managed by Brian Epstein who had negotiated the opening Star Club dates with Star Club owner Manfred Weissleder. Epstein had taken on the role of Beatles manager in December 1961.
The Star Club opened on Friday, April 13th, 1962 and many bright red posters were plastered around the streets of Hamburg for the launch of this new club highlighted the artists that would be performing there over the next few weeks under the banner of ROCK N' TWIST-PARADE 1962. The artists included The Beatles, Tex Roberg, Roy Young, The Graduates, The Bachelors, Tony Sheridan Quartet, and Gerry And The Pacemakers. The posters boldly declared in German "Die Not hat ein Ende ! Die Zeit Der Dorfmusik ist vorbei !" ... in English this meant "The misery is ending! The era of village music is over!￼
In his Chronicles book, Mark Lewisohn also states that The Beatles may have completed a second recording session for Polydor producer Bert Kaempfert during the week of Monday, April 23rd, 1962 through Friday, April 27th, 1962 but there are no official records of these recording dates to go by. If the Beatles did not record for Polydor in April 1962, they did enter the studio on May 24, 1962 to play the backing track for "Sweet Georgia Brown." Sheridan recorded the first set of vocals by himself on June 7th, 1962. (Source: Frank Daniels). There can be little doubt that The Beatles themselves did not know that the Tony Sheridan And The Beat Brothers 45 they had recorded almost one year before would see a release in the USA and Canada on the Decca label.
Quite simply, the collector's value of the original April 1962 disc is based on the fact that so few copies have survived to this day. There are only 5 or 6 copies of this record known to exist.
Original copies can be identified by the stamping marks in the run-out areas on either side of the vinyl disc. As stated above, the original 1962 Canadian Decca 45 was pressed from metal masters sent up from the U.S. Matrix numbers are machine-stamped into the vinyl (using the same matrix numbers that are printed on the Decca label). Machine-stamped matrix numbers on run-out area of A-side is “DGG-66833 A4” and machine-stamped matrix number on run-out area of the B-side is “DGG-24673 (backwards B)4”.
Counterfeits do exist so it is best to consult an expert if you are thinking of buying one of these original pressings and want to be sure that it is indeed an April 1962 Canadian copy.<1p>
As The Beatles began to crack the American market in early 1964, and even before their appearances on Ed Sullivan in February 1964, MGM Records entered into a 5-year leasing agreement with Deutsche Grammophon, the German company that owned the rights to the 1962 Polydor recordings with Tony Sheridan. The ink was not even dry on this agreement when both sides of the 1962 Decca single were re-issued by MGM in both the USA and Canada. This time the My Bonnie single was pressed in the thousands. The MGM single was pressed by Quality Records of Canada in Toronto and this time the record was credited to "The Beatles With Tony Sheridan". This new MGM single was issued in Canada on, or within a few days of, Wednesday, January 27th, 1964. The MGM recording lacks the slow introduction in English that is found on the original Decca release.￼
There were no known pictures taken of the vocalist and his backup band at the Polydor recording session in June of 1961, however, the three black and white photos below were taken shortly after.￼ ￼
In the world before The Beatles and of course the Internet, radio was "king" for new music. Television was still a new medium with few shows dedicated purely to pop music. In Canada in 1962, the CBC operated 39 affiliate radio stations and 14 affiliate TV stations. At the same time, there were 242 privately owned and run radio stations and 39 privately owned and run TV stations. CHUM in Toronto was one of Canada's largest "pop" radio stations serving the predominantly English market of Toronto. CHUM had moved to a "rock and roll" format in 1957 and began to publish weekly pop charts.
The CHUM Toronto Chart for the week of April 23, 1963 featured American singer Ernie Maresca at number 1 with "Shout, Shout, Knock Yourself Out". The top 10 for that week included singles by two British acts .. Cliff Richard and Acker Bilk. The chart for this particular week was a good example of the period between the first wave of rock and roll pioneers of the 1950s and the arrival of The Beatles at the end of 1963. There were songs by Elvis, Ricky Nelson, Brenda Lee, Bobby Vee, Paul Anka etc. Tory John Diefenbaker was the Prime Minister of Canada and North America was under a constant threat of nuclear war with Russia as Kennedy and Kruschev faced off.
The clarinet instrumental Stranger On The Shore was a huge seller worldwide while Cliff's subsequent hits Bachelor Boy and Summer Holiday were released as singles by Capitol Records Of Canada in early 1963 just around the same time that Capitol's British-born A&R (Artists and Repertoire) Manager was issuing the first two or three Capitol 45 RPM singles by The Beatles.￼
In fact, Paul White would be the first record executive in North America to release a record under the proper name of The Beatles in early 1963... Love Me Do on the Canadian Capitol label (catalogue number 72076). According to Paul "It sold about 140 copies after 6 months". USA Capitol's Dave Dexter refused to issue that 45 in the USA. Canada led the way for Capitol's Beatles output in the 1960s. Nuff said. The honour of being the first person to play a Beatles record on a radio station in North America falls to the late Ray Sonin of radio station CFRB in Toronto. Ray played a British Parlophone copy of Love Me Do on his weekly Saturday afternoon show "Calling All Britons" in late 1962.
John King (Toronto Star) recalls his weekly routine as a newspaper carrier for the Ottawa Citizen daily newspaper in the early nineteen sixties. “Every Saturday morning I would ride my bike from my home in Alta Vista to Billings Bridge Plaza to drop off the Citizen collection money at the “shack”. I would continue on my bike down Bank Street to spend some time and carrier earnings downtown. The Zellers department store at the corner of O’Connor Street and Queen Street had a “record bar” and this was a favourite place to purchase a 45. I vividly recall purchasing an orange swirl Capitol copy of “My Boomerang Won’t Come Back” at Zellers in April 1962.” Now that Charlie Drake 45 was issued on the same orange and yellow Capitol swirl label that would be used for the Love Me Do 45 in Canada almost a year later.
Bert Kaempfert would go on to arrange Strangers In The Night for Frank Sinatra and Spanish Eyes for Al Martino. Pete Best carried on after being expelled from The Beatles on August 16th, 1962. Although Pete Best was replaced by Ringo Starr, Pete's drumming on My Bonnie is still pretty damn great and typifies the real Mersey Beat of 1961 and 1962.
Paul White of Capitol Records Of Canada would decide to release all of the Beatles 1963 Parlophone singles on the Capitol label in Canada during 1963. As such he was a true pioneer for The Beatles in North America.
Tony Sheridan... continues to reside in a village just north of Hamburg in Germany and performed My Bonnie at an outdoor concert last year (2011) in Liverpool. He has maintained a scholarly interest in coats of arms.
Sir Paul McCartney... has just released a new album called "Kisses On The Bottom"... and will headline the Diamond Jubilee concert for Queen Elizabeth.
Pete Best... The Pete Best Band is one of the few true Mersey Beat bands performing today and will perform in Liverpool on August 25th, 2012 along with the Roy Young Band. He is still a great drummer and will always be able to proudly say that he was the "Best of The Beatles" !
The Canadian Decca record... an original April 1962 Canadian Decca My Bonnie vinyl 45 sold on Saturday, February 25th, 2012 to one lucky Beatles collector for $2,999.99 US.
And the beat will go on...￼