Jazz at the Cavern
The Cavern Club is a rock and roll club in Liverpool, England. Opened on Wednesday 16 January
1957, the club had their first performance by The Beatles on 9 February 1961, and where Brian
Epstein first saw The Beatles performing on 9 November 1961.
Alan Sytner opened the club having been inspired by the Jazz district in Paris, where there were a
number of clubs in cellars. Sytner returned to Liverpool and wanted to open a club similar to Le
Caveau in Paris. He eventually found a perfect cellar for his club — which had been used as an air
raid shelter during the war — and opened it on 16 January 1957. The first act to open the club was
the Merseysippi Jazz Band
What started as a jazz club eventually became a hangout for skiffle groups. Whilst playing golf with
Sytner's father, Dr. Joseph Sytner, Nigel Walley — who had left school at 15 to become an
apprentice golf professional at the Lee Park Golf Club — asked Dr. Sytner if his son could book The
Quarrymen at The Cavern, which was one of three jazz clubs he managed. Dr. Sytner suggested that
the band should play at the golf club first, so as to assess their talent, which they did.Sytner phoned
Walley a week later and offered the band an interlude spot playing skiffle between the performances
of two jazz bands at The Cavern, on Wednesday, 7 August 1957.
Before the performance, the Quarrymen argued amongst themselves about the set list, as rock 'n roll
songs were definitely not allowed at the club, but skiffle was tolerated. After beginning with a skiffle
song, John Lennon called for the others to start playing "Don't Be Cruel". Davis warned Lennon that
the audience would "eat you alive", but Lennon ignored this and started playing the song himself,
forcing the others to join in. Halfway through, Sytner pushed his way through the audience and
handed Lennon a note which read, "Cut out the bloody rock 'n roll". The Quarrymen played at The
Cavern again on 24 January 1958, which was Paul McCartney's first appearance there.(George
Harrison first played there at a lunchtime session on 9 February 1961).
Sytner ended up selling the Cavern Club to Ray McFall in 1959, after moving to London. Blues bands
and Beat groups began to appear at the club on a regular basis in the early 1960s. The first Beat night
was held on 25 May 1960 and featured a performance by Rory Storm and the Hurricanes (which
included Ringo Starr as drummer). By early 1961, Bob Wooler had become the full-time compère and
organiser of the lunchtime sessions.