The original Cavern Club entrance in 1963.
|Location||Mathew Street, Liverpool, England|
|Owner||Alan Sytner, Bob Wooler, Ray McFall; Tommy Smith; Bill Heckle and Dave Jones|
|Opened||1957, reopened 1984 and 1991|
|Closed||1 March 1973, and 1989|
The original Cavern Club opened on 16 January 1957 as a jazz club, later becoming a centre of the rock and roll scene in Liverpool in the 1960s. The Beatles played in the club in their early years.
The original Cavern club closed in March 1973 and was filled in during construction work on the Merseyrail underground rail loop. Focus were the last band to play the original Cavern a few days before the club was shut down.
The Cavern Club re-opened on 26 April 1984 and was rebuilt using many of the original bricks to the original plans.
Alan Sytner opened The Cavern Club, having been inspired by the jazz district in Paris, where there were a number of clubs in cellars. Sytner returned to Liverpool and strove to open a club similar to the Le Caveau de la Huchette jazz club in Paris. He eventually found a fruit warehouse where people were leasing the cellar, before this it was used as an air raid shelter in WWII The club was opened on 16 January 1957. The first act to perform at the opening of the club was the Merseysippi Jazz Band. Local commercial artist Tony Booth created the poster artwork for the opening night, who shortly after became the original poster artist for The Beatles.
What started as a jazz club eventually became a hangout for skiffle groups. Whilst playing golf with Sytner's father, Dr. Joseph Sytner, Nigel Walley—who had left school at 15 to become an apprentice golf professional at the Lee Park Golf Club—asked Dr. Sytner if his son could book The Quarrymen at The Cavern, which was one of three jazz clubs he managed. Dr. Sytner suggested that the band should play at the golf club first, so as to assess their talent. After performing at the golf club Sytner phoned Walley a week later and offered the band an interlude spot playing skiffle between the performances of two jazz bands at The Cavern, on Wednesday, 7 August 1957.
Before the performance, the Quarrymen argued amongst themselves about the set list, as rock 'n roll songs were definitely not allowed at the club, but skiffle was tolerated. After opening with a skiffle song, John Lennon called for the others to start playing an Elvis Presley song, "Don't Be Cruel". Rod Davis warned Lennon that the audience would "eat you alive", but Lennon ignored this and started playing the song himself, forcing the others to join in. Halfway through, Sytner pushed his way through the audience and handed Lennon a note which read, "Cut out the bloody rock 'n roll". Paul McCartney's first appearance at The Cavern was with The Quarrymen on 24 January 1958. (George Harrison first played at The Cavern during a lunchtime session on 9 February 1961.)
Sytner sold The Cavern Club to Ray McFall in 1959 and moved to London. Blues bands and Beat groups began to appear at the club on a regular basis in the early 1960s. The first Beat night was held on 25 May 1960 and featured a performance by Rory Storm and the Hurricanes (which included Ringo Starr as drummer). By early 1961, Bob Wooler had become the full-time compère and organiser of the lunchtime sessions.
The club hosted its first performance by The Beatles on Thursday 9 February 1961. Brian Epstein, The Beatles manager who secured the groups' first recording contract, first saw the group perform at the club on 9 November 1961. Inspired by the group Epstein made moves to take over their management.
The Beatles made their first appearance at the club on 9 February 1961 after returning to Liverpool from Hamburg, Germany where they had been playing at the Indra and the Kaiserkeller clubs. Their stage show had been through a lot of changes with some in the audience thinking they were watching a German band as they were billed from Hamburg. From 1961 to 1963 The Beatles made 292 appearances at the club, with their last occurring on 3 August 1963, a month after the band recorded "She Loves You" and just six months before the Beatles' first trip to the U.S. By this time "Beatlemania" was sprouting across England, and with girls demanding to see the Beatles and screaming just to get glimpse of them the group had to hide or sneak into concerts and the small club could no longer satisfy audience demand. After the Beatles' farewell gig on 3 August 1963, Bob Wooler gave their future dates to The Mastersounds, a local R & B band, led by Mal Jefferson. The Beatles had graduated from the club and had been signed to EMI's Parlophone label by producer George Martin. The amount of musical activity in Liverpool and Manchester caused record producers who had previously never ventured very far from London to start looking to the north.
In the decade that followed, a wide variety of popular acts appeared at the club, including The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds, The Hollies, The Kinks, Elton John, Black Sabbath, Queen, The Who and John Lee Hooker.
Future star Cilla Black worked as the hat-check girl there. A recording studio, "Cavern Sound" opened in the basement of an adjoining building, run by Nigel Greenberg and Peter Hepworth. The club closed in March 1973, and was filled in during construction work on the Merseyrail underground rail loop. Dutch group Focus were the last to play The Cavern, a few days before the club was shut down in May 1973.
In April 1984, the club was taken over by Liverpool F.C. player Tommy Smith in association with Royal Life. It was re-built with many of the original bricks. The new design was to resemble the original as closely as possible. This was a difficult period of massive economic and political change in and around Liverpool and the club only survived until 1989, when it came under financial pressures and closed for 18 months. In 1991, two friends—schoolteacher Bill Heckle and taxi driver Dave Jones—reopened The Cavern. They still run the club today and are now the longest-running owners in its history. Despite being a world-famous tourist spot, the club continues to function primarily as a live music venue. The music policy varies from 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s classic pop music to indie, rock and modern chart music.
On 14 December 1999, former Beatle Paul McCartney returned to the New Cavern Club stage to play his last gig of 1999 publicising his new album, Run Devil Run. It has around 40 live bands performing every week; both tribute and original bands, although most perform their own material. The back room of the Cavern is the most frequently used location for touring acts and ticketed events, in more recent times playing host to The Wanted, Adele and Jessie J. The Cavern is also used as a tour warm-up venue with semi-secret gigs announced at the last moment. The Arctic Monkeys did this in October 2005, Jake Bugg in November 2013, as well as many others before them, such as Travis and Oasis.
The front room is the main tourist attraction, where people come to have their photograph taken on the famous stage, with the names of the bands who played there written on the back wall. This room hosts live music from 12pm to midnight Monday to Thursday, and 12pm to close on Fridays and weekend. Between November 2005 and September 2007, the front room played host to the Cavern Showcase, an organisation and event started by 1960s star Kingsize Taylor, his wife Marga, and best friend Wes Paul. The night took place every Sunday and featured original 1960s bands such as The Mojos and The Undertakers.
In November 2008, a campaign to have Gary Glitter's brick removed from the wall of fame was successful but a brass plaque near where it was notes that the bricks of two former Cavern Club performers (Glitter and Jonathan King) have been removed.
2017 marked the Cavern’s 60th anniversary and celebrations were held all throughout the year. The Cavern even commissioned Tony Booth, the artist who designed all the original posters & signage back when it opened, to produce the 60th anniversary artwork which portrays all the bands & musicians that have performed at the club throughout the years.
Tribute clubs exist in Dallas, Buenos Aires, Tokyo, Adelaide, Wellington, Exeter and Costa Teguise in Lanzarote. A similar looking club was also featured in the opening sequence of the film Across the Universe, in homage to The Beatles' beginnings, though the club's name was never mentioned. The footage for this scene was actually shot in The Cavern Club itself. The Cavern Club is the first playable location in The Beatles: Rock Band.
The Hard Rock Cafe restaurant and hotel chain owns the trademark to the "Cavern Club" name in the US. When the Hard Rock Cafe was built in Boston in 1991, it included a brick Cavern Club cellar that was a reproduction of the Liverpool club, including a stage for local bands. In 2006, the Boston restaurant moved to a new location, and although the new restaurant still has a "Cavern Club" performing area, it bears no resemblance to the Liverpool cellar. In 2014, a lawsuit was filed to revoke Hard Rock's trademark on the Cavern Club name.
11 July 1991 Cavern City Tours re-opened the Cavern Club and continued to provide the disco music which had been so successful under the previous owner. / Within a month the Cavern was open six days and three nights to cater for the growing visitor market. / The new owner’s aim to bring back live music to the Cavern didn’t happen immediately.
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