By Bill Harry
27 August 1964
Beatles’ mums ELSIE STARKEY and LOUISE HARRISON were among the several friends and relatives of THE BEATLES who took part in a £110 transatlantic telephone call to RADIO WORD of Florida early last week.
Gathered at the Cavern for this unique occasion were Mr. & Mrs. Harrison, Mrs. Starkey, FRIEDA KELLY (Northern Area Secretary of the Beatles Fan Club), ARTHUR BALLARD (former art school tutor of JOHN LENNON), RAY McFALL (owner of the Cavern), BOB WOOLER (Cavern DJ), ALAN WILLIAMS, KATHY BALDWIN (a Liverpool fan) and myself.
When the call came through Bob picked up the phone and introduced Mrs. Starkey.
While she talked a tape recorder took down every word she said and prepared it for the broadcasts which were to be networked in the States throughout the day.
Mrs. Starkey told of the time Ringo was with the Hurricanes and had his own spot in their show called Ringo Starrtime; that he’d been singing for a long time; that he was her only son; that he didn’t have a definite girlfriend; that he was 24 – and other interesting facts.
“I’d like to go to America. I believe it’s a lovely place you have there,” she said.
Ray McFall took the phone and talked of the Cavern and the first time the Beatles appeared there. “It was a cellar which used to stock wines and spirits,” he said when describing the club’s early history from the time when ALAN SYTNER first decided on opening a cellar club. Then he described why he went over to Beat sessions in the club because of the Beatles’ success there.
When Mrs. Harrison took the line she mentioned that she first noticed George’s talent when he was 14. “I bought him a guitar then,” she said, “and later on I bought him an electric guitar. He wouldn’t put it down.”
“I’m very well thank you,” said Arthur Ballard when he was greeted by the American DJ.
“I read John’s book and the drawings are the same as those he did when he was a student – unofficially. He draws naturally, as he talks in that way. As a conventional art student he was not very good as an artist – which is very much more important, he was very talented.”
Asked if he thought John would take to art again, Arthur replied, “He’s in the happy state of being a dilettante now.”
Allan Williams – with his great sense of humour – was next in line to speak. “His name means so much on the scene – he’s the owner of the Jacaranda and Blue Angel – and once had a strip club where the Beatles played,’ said bob when he introduced him.
“How’s the weather over there?” asked Allan. “They were the golden years of Liverpool,” he said when talking of the scene here a few years ago. “It was all jazz then – but now it’s so accepted that even the debutantes are dancing to beat music now.” He described how the Beatles really became accepted with their appearance at the London Palladium and on the Royal Command Show.
He then mentioned that their closest competitors were THE ROLLING STONES and that THE DAVE CLARK FIVE didn’t mean anything in Britain.
Mr. Harrison mentioned that he was a bus driver but that he had extended leave at the moment in order to answer “the correspondence which is arriving in hundreds at the house.”
“George used to say ‘you help me when I’m famous and I’ll see you all right,” he said. “All the boys have really helped their parents and they are good boys in every sense of the word.”
He gave some details of the early career of the group. He mentioned that they were now virtually prisoners in houses, flats and theatres because fans would mob them.”
I was asked to give details of Mersey Beat and answer questions such as “Where did the Beatles get their hairstyles from?” I was also asked about Ringo’s book and the DJ told me that it had been published in the States and would be reviewed in the programme.
Frieda gave a brief history of the fan club and described the Liverpool premier of their film. She gave various details of their interests – “They watch TV a lot; spend a lot of time sleeping; Ringo reads a lot of outer-space books; they all like American groups, especially THE MIRACLES and SHIRELLES; John’s favourite record in ‘Can I get A witness.’”
Frieda also discussed the mail. “We get a lot from America,” she said, “and the girls ask what size socks they wear, what colour pajamas, request fingernail cuttings and want to know what kind of girls they like.”
Kathy Baldwin then described Beatlemania in England – “It’s been in Liverpool for four years,” she said.
Bob Wooler said: “The group have played at the Cavern 292 times between January 1961 until August last year. We are absolutely knocked out by this foursome.”
He described the stage: “It’s only three foot high and the audience sit right up to it – but it’s never invaded. There’s a homely atmosphere and when a performer goes on he is really appreciated. The club is the biggest Beat club in Britain and we look forward to the time when the Beatles can appear here again.”
Ray McFall ended with a tribute to the group. “They are very sincere, enjoy their music and one another’s company. I’ve never seen them fighting amongst themselves or having a cross word and I think they have succeeded so much because they are sincere.”