Found this coverage of the Beatles Scottish Tour in May 1960. It's from Bob Spitz's book, which is not known for its reliaibility. Unfortunately there's no mention of any instruments used. Still a nice enough read. The last sentence on Ringo's interest seems plain nonsense to me by the way!
*NB: Subsequent research has shown that the famous Larry Parnes audition was not May 20 but May 10, 1960.
As we pick up from our last blog story, the "Silver Beetles" won the Larry Parnes Audition, beating out the four other top Liverpool bands in the process. The lads were understandably ecstatic. They were to be paid an astounding 90 Pounds/week on an actual tour. The whole thing was simply unprecedented for a Liverpudlian band.
Arrangements were hastily made among the band members. Paul somehow sweet talked his father into allowing him a vacation before final exams while John and Stuart just cut classes. As for equipment, the issue was solved when John decided to "borrow" the house PA system from the Liverpool Art College. The boys were finally hitting the road on a for real tour!! It was a journey from which they would never look back.
John, Paul, George, Stuart and Tommy also talked of stage names. After all, big stars all used fake stage names didn't they? No one remembers who started up this conversation but an educated guess would suggest it was Stuart Sutcliffe since he was the most affected by image and stage looks. Stuart Sutcliffe became Stuart de Stael, after his painting idol, the Russian abstract classicist. John and Tommy Moore opted not to have stage names. Paul had great fun becoming Paul Ramone for the tour while George became Carl Harrison, named after his guitar idol Carl Perkins.
>Trivia: As we have blogged before, the proto-punk star band, The Ramones, got their name from this episode. As Beatlemaniacs all, the Ramones became the Ramones directly from this story in Beatle history. They dug how McCartney just came up with that radical stage name and how it sounded. >
The train ride was horrible but the boys disembarked in Glasgow 10 hours later. This was followed by hours and hours of lorrey driving along the rural, two lane, serpentine Scottish road network. Larry Parnes always started out his new bands on the Scottish dance-hall circuit, where there were more than 6000 small venues for bands to play in, literally. The Scottish tour circuit provided steady work for many bands and an opportunity for each to develope their routines and repetoir away from the unforgiving lights and scrutiny of London.
The band and singer Johnny Gentle finally stopped in the town of Alloa. They were forced to go right to work. They unloaded at the town hall where they were scheduled to go on within the hour. Gentle (born John Askew) was a handsome man with black hair, high cheekbones and velvety voice; the very model of a Larry Parnes artist. Gentle and the pre-Fabs hit it off immediately and spent the 30 minutes before the first show trying to hammer out a decent set of songs. They were required to do two, one hour performances. Even though the boys had learned much of Gentle's repetoir, they still needed to work on tempos, starts, stops etc.
As it turned out, the first set went extremely well. Especially so for an act that had just met. Said Gentle, "The Beatles sounded as good as any group that was thrown at me by Parnes." At first however, the Silver Beetles were not going over so well due to their flippant personalities that wasn't going down well with local fans and promoters. It was Johnny Gentle himself that intervened on behalf of the fledgling group and begged Larry Parnes NOT to pull the Silver Beetles from the tour. Gentle guaranteed they would get better. He was right. In no time at all, the Silver Beetles and Gentle found their groove and artistic balance. As well, a few words from Johnny himself no doubt straightened the boys out.
>Trivia: Johnny Gentle remains the only artist in history who can claim the Beatles were HIS backing band.
As the Silver Beetles and singer Johnny Gentle found their balance and honed their act in the Scottish highlands, it became clear that the pre-Fabs were already moving forward in both material and, most importantly, confidence. The way it worked basically was this; Johnny Gentle would conclude around 20 minutes of singing with the Silver Beetles backing him, then the band would take over and do a 40 minute set. Once Gentle had finished, it was usually Paul who rushed to the microphone screeching out the opening vocals to Little Richard's "Long Tall Sally" and that was it: all pretense was over with - Johnny Gentle entertained the audience, the Silver Beetles rocked them into oblivion.
John, Paul, George, Stuart and Tommy pummeled the unsuspecting Scottish audiances with 40 minutes of unbridled rock & roll, the likes of which none of the paid ticketeers had been prepared for. The boys wouldn't let up for the full 40- minutes and the affect was mesmerizing. The Scottish kids were completely undone by this music and the manic energy of the pre-Fabs and would wind up rushing the stage trying to fling themselves upon the stage.
Johnny Gentle recalls the time, "Those two boys operated on a different frequency," he said of John and Paul. "I used to watch them work the crowd as though they'd been doing it all their lives - and without any effort other than their amazing talent. I'd never seen anything like it. They were so tapped into what the other was doing and could sense their partner's next move, they just read each other like a book. It was always Lennon & McCartney, even then. Lennon and McCartney. They wouldn't even look at George or Stu to determine where things were going. Everything was designed around the two of them - and the others had to catch up on their own."
Interestingly, George, Stuart and Tommy did keep pace. George Harrison especially. He worked his interesting patterns by embroidering his strumming with a textured riffs and intonations that served to string the songs along with glorious coloring. This, forshadowing his underated work when the Beatles became superstars. George's guitar embroidering on songs is perhaps the most underated effort by any Beatle in their entire history.
The Silver Beetles were slowly stealing the show from Gentle. The stronger they played, the more girls they attracted; the more girls they got, the stronger they played. They learned a dirty little secret about the business along the way too: beyond the lights, applause, hotels and girls- no one ever made money on the road. They were broke after four days. Gentle wired Parnes for an advance and the day was saved. All in all, the tour was a fantastic experience for the future Beatles. Gentle was a fellow Scouser from Liverpool and was refreshingly normal and down to earth with the boys, which they loved.
>Trivia: The van driver for this little tour was a chap named Gerry Scott. Johnny Gentle was dabbling at writing songs during the tour and John Lennon heard one of them, a tune called "I've Just Fallen." Lennon suggeted to Gentle to change the middle 8 part to a better middle 8 that Lennon had composed. Gentle did and liked the change. A year goes by, and Britain's next big star Adam Faith used the song on his then new album. As for Johnny Gentle, his career went nowhere. So, he changed his name again to Darren Young and re-recorded "I've Just Fallen" again and released it as a B side single. Thus, the middle 8 to "I've Just Fallen" remains the very first Lennon partial composition recorded and released. Oddly, that single was released on Parlophone records, the same label that would be spouting Beatles' hits like the Old Faithful geyser by 1963.
Conclusion: Johnny Gentle sang the Silver Beetles' praises long and hard to Larry Parnes despite the fact that the pre-Fabs had virtually stolen the tour from him. Gentle said he would go out with them again any time and meant it. Parnes was impressed but opted not to resign them for another tour. Gigs were left to Allan Williams back in Liverpool. But the pre-Fabs had served notice to every band in the area that they were a force to be reckoned with. Even Williams relented a bit and recognized that they had talent. Tommy Moore would quit the Silver Beetles by June 11 after having sustained a concussion in a van accident in Scotland. Very interestingly, the drummer from Rory Storm and the Hurricanes took a detached interest in the Silver Beetles and promised himself that he would keep track of that ourtrageous, hard working pure rock & roll outfit precisely because they were so raw, relentless and good. That drummer was named Ringo Starr.