Mersey Venues: The Cavern

By Bill Harry  

A group of Cavernites (Decca publicity picture)Originally, the premises comprised a small group of cellars below seven-story warehouses which, during the Second World War, had been used as air-raid shelters.

For a while wines and spirits were stored there and in 1958, Alan Sytner, son of Doctor Joe Sytner, noticed that the premises were empty.

Alan had a passion for jazz music and was running two Liverpool clubs, the 21 Club in Toxteth and the West Coast Jazz Club at the Temple in Dale Street.

It was while he was on holiday in Paris that he became fascinated by the jazz clubs on the Left Bank of the Seine, particularly one called Le Caveau Francais. On his return to Liverpool he decided to use the inheritance of £400 he'd received on his twenty-first birthday to open a similar jazz club on Merseyside.

He immediately took over the lease of the basement in Mathew Street and the club officially opened as the Cavern on January 16 1957, with a local jazz band, the Merseysippi, topping the bill. Over 1,000 people queued to get in, but only 600 were allowed entrance. The other bands on the bill that night were the Wall City Jazzmen, the Ralph Watmough Jazz Band and the Coney Island Skiffle Group.

Incidentally, the Merseysippi were a band we booked regularly at our art college dances - with John, Paul, George and Stuart as support.

The club was reached by walking down eighteen stone steps. At the bottom of the steps was a table where admission was paid.

There were three long arches with a stage at the end of the centre aisle, where rows of wooden seats were placed. Patrons danced in the outer aisles.

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