The Founders' Story

Bill & Virginia Harry  

Mersey Beat Founders, Bill and Virginia Harry (1961)Born in Liverpool, Bill Harry was given a sense-of-wonder by science fiction, joined the Liverpool Science Fiction Society and produced his own fanzine, 'Biped.' His pen pal was Mike Moorcock.

After winning a scholarship to the Junior School of Art in Gambier Terrace, he started their first magazine, 'Premier'.

At the age of 16 he entered Liverpool College of Art where he produced a magazine simply called 'Jazz.' He was asked to work on the Liverpool University charity magazine Pantosphinx and also for a magazine produced by the local music store, Frank Hessy's. The magazine was called 'Frank Comments' and Bill began to get an inkling of the local music scene.

At art college he met another student, Stuart Sutcliffe and the two became firm friends. Bill then introduced him to another friend, John Lennon.

Rare portrait of Bill Harry by Stu SutcliffBill and Stu used to spend endless hours together discussing subjects ranging from mysticism to what the future held and once proposed working on a book together. Stu painted a portrait of Bill, one of the very few portraits he ever worked on.

Bill and John often sat together in Ye Cracke, a local pub, and one of the points of discussion was poetry. When Bill persuaded John to show him his poetry, he was impressed by the humour and 'Englishness' of it.

Both Bill and Stuart were members of the college Student's Union and Bill also ran the film society booking movies such as Jean Cocteau's 'Orphee' and Salvador Dali and Louis Bunel's 'L'age D'or.'

Paul McCartney and George Harrison attended Liverpool Institute, part of the same building as the art college and would frequent the college canteen and rehearse in the life rooms.

Referred to as the 'college band' (they were still undecided on a name), they were booked to appear on Saturday night college dances on Bill's with jazz outfits such as the Merseysippi Jazz Band.

Since the group didn't have much money at the time, Bill and Stuart proposed and seconded the motion that the Students Union use funds to buy amplification equipment which the group could use. They actually took the equipment to Germany with them and the college never saw it again.

One evening Bill, John, Stuart and Rod Murray went to Liverpool University to listen to poet Royston Ellis. Back at Ye Cracke they began to discuss the fact that Ellis was basically copying the American Beat Generation poets.

Bill suggested that creative people should express their own surroundings, environment and experience rather than copy someone else's. He proposed that they call themselves the Dissenters and make a vow to make Liverpool famous - John with his music, Stuart and Rod with their painting and Bill with his writing.

They all began to spend more time together at a coffee bar called the Jacaranda. It was here, early in 1960 that Bill met his girlfriend Virginia, who was 16 at the time. The Beatles (they still hadn't confirmed their name) were playing in the Jacaranda cellar. The impecunious group had no mic stands and their girl friends held up broom handles to which their mics were attached. Stu and Rod had also painted murals on the Jacaranda walls.

Virginia Harry and Linda McCartneyBill had been planning to produce a jazz magazine called Storyville/52nd Street, but decided instead to cover the local music scene. He'd been filling pocket notebooks with details of the various groups and venues and was surprised at just how extensive the local scene was. He began writing to national newspapers pointing out that what was happening in Liverpool was similar to New Orleans at the turn of the century, but with rock 'n' roll groups instead of jazz.

There was no response, so Bill and Virginia decided to go ahead with planning their own newspaper.

They'd often be chatting for hour after hour at the Gambier Terrace flat shared by John, Stu and Rod and one night when Virginia had missed the last bus home, John put them up in the bath!

Remembering the uniqueness of John's poetry, prior to the Beatles second visit to Germany, Bill commissioned him to write a biography of the group, which Bill decided to call 'Being A Short Diversion On The Dubious Origins Of Beatles, Translated From The John Lennon.'

A local civil servant, Jim Anderson, lend Bill and Virginia £50 and the new publication was born.

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