Executive Honorary Members
Sir Paul McCartney
Sir George Martin
(The Original Quarrymen):-
Rod Davis writes for Beatles Ireland
Three of the Fab Four served their apprenticeship in a skiffle group, which began as The Black Jacks and evolved into The Beatles. But when banjo player Rod Davis joined the ranks, The Black Jacks had become the Quarry Men.
Pete Brennan wrote to Rod Davis and asked him if he remembered the time he spent with the Quarrymen.
Rod Davis wrote back and he has given us an EXCLUSIVE incite as to how it all happened.
I have to tell you that together with some of the other members of the Quarrymen we are starting work on just such a book, which we hope will give a view of those early days as seen by the members of the band. However, in a few words this was the way it happened:
As with many young men in the mid fifties I was very taken by the sound of Lonnie Donegan and especially his recording of "Rock Island Line". Unfortunately I couldn’t play an instrument, and the only one at home was a violin. My Uncle George played the fiddle and saw in a dance band in North Wales, and his brother in law, who played in the same band decided to sell his guitar and banjo. By the time I heard about this the guitar had already been sold. (History might have been very different if this had not been the case!) So I eventually bought the banjo, after all Donegan himself played one!
The day after I obtained the banjo I went onto school on a Monday morning and spoke to my pal Eric Griffiths, telling him I had just bought a banjo. He asked me if I wanted to be in a skiffle group with himself, Pete Shotton, Bill Smith and John Lennon. The fact that I couldn’t play a note, never mind a chord, was no problem. Naturally I was delighted. I had known John and Pete from the age of four or five years, as we had all been in the same class at St Peters Sunday school, which of course was where I first met Geoff Rhind. Eric, Pete, John, Geoff and I were also members of Woolton House at Quarry Bank, although I was never in the same class as John or Pete.
We would practice at Eric’s house or my house in Woolton, at John’s Auntie Mimi’s or at his mother Julia’s. Bill Smith very soon faded as he wasn’t too good at turning up to practices and Len Garry took over on the tea chest bass. Colin Hanton soon joined us on drums. I had known Colin since I was very small as we played street football together, but Eric discovered he had that rare commodity, a drum kit, and nailed him down for the Quarrymen.
We played at school dances and other dance halls, as documented by Mark Lewisohn, and I appear on Geoff’s photo and those of Charles Roberts at Rosebery Street as a figure at the back of the ban hunched over a banjo. Charles has a photo us at Rosebery Street, which has not been published to my knowledge, which does actually show my face!
As you know, the Cavern started life as a jazz cellar and skiffle was the music that was played in the interval. There was a major divide between rock and roll fans and jazz fans and the way to court certain death was to play rock at the Cavern! I always preferred the skiffle to the rock, I feel that my later preference for folk music and then Bluegrass stemmed directly from this early exposure to the country roots of skiffle. John however preferred rock and roll, selling me his personal copy of Rock Island Line which I still have. The banjo did not fit at all into a rock band lineup and so for me the writing was on the wall, especially when Paul McCartney came on the scene and he eventually replaced me in the Quarrymen!
At the end of the summer of 1957 I stayed on at school to the sixth form and John left to go to Art College, Pete left to go to the police college, Eric went to English Electric to be an apprentice. The band continued but without me and that's about it. I met John for the last time in Liverpool at what must have been Easter 1962. I was a student at Cambridge at the time, in my second year, and we had made a record on Decca with a jazz band for which I played the banjo. I joked with John that I had just beated him to making a record, although in fact they had made their recordings in Hamburg some months before me. He asked me if I was interested in going to play in Hamburg and could I play the drums! Obviously there was no question of my giving up my university course and I couldn’t play the drums anyway, but there was my second chance gone of being a Beatle!
In the last few years I have got together with John Duff Lowe and we have a band called the "Quarrymen" and we have a CD out. Last year John Lowe and I were invited to Los Angeles and Chicago Beatlefests where we were very pleasantly surprised that people knew who we were and were very keen to hear us ramble on about what it was like with the Quarrymen and we answered hundreds of questions and had a great time.
I hope this gives you some idea of what it was all about for me, although the old memory is starting to rust up!
Rod Davis - Quarrymen 1957
On behalf of Beatles Ireland we thank Rod for this Exclusive story and he is delighted to accept an invitation to become an honorary member of Beatles Ireland.