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Sixties City - Bob Wooler the Cavern King
Bob Wooler - Sixties City

Bob Wooler - Sixties CityBob Wooler - Sixties City
The Cavern club in Liverpool's city centre will forever be known as the spiritual home of The Beatles, but there is also another name that is equally inextricably linked with The Beatles, The Cavern and the Liverpool music scene - Bob Wooler. It was Wooler who, as DJ at The Cavern club, got The Beatles their first residency there in 1961 and also introduced the group on stage when they returned after their first hit single in August 1963. His voice was captured on the only live footage of the group ever shot at the club, performing 'Some Other Guy'. Later he was instrumental in introducing them to their future manager Brian Epstein. Just as nobody had a clue that some teenagers who were at art school together would turn into one of the most impossibly famous groups in the world, so Wooler's beginnings in a working-class Liverpool family gave no clue to a future in which his name would incessantly pop up in references to what became tagged "The Liverpool Sound".

As a teenager he worked as a railway clerk at the city's Garston docks and his earliest foray into music came in the mid-1950s when he combined his day job with a short-lived career managing 'The Kingstrums', a local skiffle group formed by a couple of his fellow railway workers. Although the group lasted only six months, Wooler began to write songs for them. One was recorded by the Merseyside country'n'western band Bill Brady and The Ranchers on the 'Liverpool Goes Country' album. In 1963 his 'I Know' provided the B-side for Billy J. Kramer and The Dakotas' hit recording of the Lennon/McCartney composition 'I'll Keep You Satisfied'.

By the start of the 1960s, Wooler was acting as compere and DJ around several Liverpool clubs and dance halls, including the Holyoake dance hall near Penny Lane - mainly, he said, because local bands were having to amble on stage without any proper introduction, which he felt was "terrible".

"Welcome to the best of cellars........"

Around the same time, he met club-owner Allan Williams who ran the 'Jacaranda' and the 'Blue Angel' and was a small-time promoter. When Williams opened a new club, 'The Top Ten', he convinced Wooler to give up his day job and become the resident DJ. Six days later the club was burned down! Wooler decided against returning to the railways and took up a residency at The Cavern, already home to Liverpool's music cognoscenti - girls like Priscilla White (Cilla Black), who worked in the cloakroom, with their miniskirts, bobbed hair and factory-worker boyfriends. Wooler had, it appears, accidentally bumped into George Harrison and Paul McCartney at a bus stop opposite the Holyoake in the mid-1950s and offered them a date at the club, which they had declined because they had no drummer. He met up with them again after their first Hamburg trip in 1960, getting them a date for £6 at Litherland town hall. In February 1961, and by now working at The Cavern, Wooler got The Beatles their first date at the club before they became the resident band and went on to play there regularly for more than two years. By 1961 he was also regularly contributing a column to the local pop newspaper 'Mersey Beat', writing of The Beatles that "I don't think anything like them will happen again"

Already friendly with other local groups like Gerry and The Pacemakers and The Swinging Blue Jeans, Wooler also knew most of the local entrepreneurs, including Brian Epstein, who had made his money from his family's furniture business. When The Beatles went to meet Epstein for the first time, with a view to him becoming their manager, Lennon asked Wooler to go along. Such informality was common at the time, although these casual friendships could be fractured as easily as they were made - some months later Lennon and Wooler had a fight at McCartney's 21st birthday party when the DJ joked about a holiday to Spain that Lennon had just taken with Epstein. By the end of the 'Beatles era' Wooler had retired from being a DJ and was booking bands for an agency. Later he joined up with Allan Williams again, this time to stage annual Beatles conventions in Liverpool. Wooler, who recovered from a heart attack in the mid-80s, was divorced from his wife Beryl Adams, Brian Epstein's secretary, whom he had married in the mid-1960s. Bob will be remembered for his encyclopaedic knowledge of Liverpool's Beat music scene, his charm, humour and politeness, but most of all for his love of Liverpool and the help that he gave to the countless number of Liverpool bands with whom he worked.  Bob Wooler - often impersonated but never bettered - God bless you! . . . . .
Bob Wooler - Sixties City

 Bob Wooler interviewed by Glenn Mitchell at the Liverpool Beatles Convention 2001

During the 2001 Beatles week I had the pleasure of talking at great length to the
one and only Mr. Bob Wooler who, sadly, died on February 8th 2002 aged 76. Bob was, as Iím sure you know, an integral part of the story of The Beatles and many other Liverpool-based Sixties bands. His encyclopaedic knowledge of the 'Merseybeat' era was often called upon by reporters and researchers all around the world. To have the chance to talk to Bob and ask some questions that have been on my mind for years was a golden opportunity for me.

Bob was a man whom I have admired since I first became a fan and researcher on the Fab Four. IĎve always been interested in the 'inner circle' of The Beatles' career - would have loved to have interviewed Brian Epstein if he was still with us today and Mal Evans would also have been great to have had a pint and a chat with.

So, it was with great pleasure that I sat next to Bob at the Adelphi and had a fascinating two hours of conversation with the great man himself. I was writing down what he told me onto a note pad, and it was quite amusing when he asked me if he was talking too quickly! I wish now that I had taken a tape recorder.... but never mind. From the many things we talked about I started by asking him what records he played the most at the Cavern....

Glenn Mitchell with Bob Wooler, Liverpool 2001    Bob Wooler - Sixties City

Bob Wooler - Sixties City BW: Oh, well I could not get any of the rock'n'roll records at the start - I was interested in the lyrics more so than the music, lyrically.
Later I could order records from local suppliers.

GM: Did you ever get any records from the sailors in dock at Liverpool?

BW: No, and no again, this is another of those myths about the 'Cunard Yanks', as they said - I never received any records from sailors at all! My collection was bought. Besides, you could order any obscure records in those days - you never had to ask any sailors!

GM: Did the Beatles bring you any records from Germany?

BW: Mmm... I seem to remember a few times that Paul brought in records that belonged to his father. I had their Hamburg releases and, of course, played them at the Cavern, but they were only the backing band on them - the Tony Sheridan recordings as The Beat Brothers. John played me some tapes of them at the club, poor quality recordings.

GM: What do you remember most about The Beatles at the Cavern?

Well, many memories! You must remember that, at the beginning, there was Stuart Sutcliffe as well and, of course, Peter Best. The Beatles, I knew, would be very big and, of course, they had an 'aura' around them - I mean that in a nice way. They were confident and boyish, they rocked the place with their stomping and the kids loved it and so did I.

They would come down in the mornings and rehearse, at times sitting in the empty club, eating sandwiches and drinking tea. I used to play them records and they would learn them. They were always looking for new records to learn before any of the others (other groups) could get their hands on them. They liked the obscure numbers.

What would you describe your relationship was like with The Beatles?

BW: Well, I was older than them - I donít know, you should ask Paul. I helped them and encouraged them as much as I could. I, of course, did go with them to meet Brian Epstein at his office - I know John told Brian that I was his father!

GM: The Cavern is now regarded as a Mecca for fans. What memories do you have of it?

BW: Well, it was the best of cellars! No, I have memories of it that are personal as well as those that have been recorded - dark, smelly but wonderful!

GM: What do you think of the Cavern today?

Oh dear! You must remember that it is not the same today as it was. I have, of course, been asked this question for many years. Ray here (Ray McFall, the original Cavern club owner, was seated next to Bob at this time) will give you, maybe, a different impression.

GM: Do you think that it lives up to its predecessor?

BW: The Cavern was The Cavern and cannot be the same - it canít be. No matter what people say, itís not The Cavern.

GM: What is the difference in the Cavern today and the one in the 1960ís?

BW: People ask this so many times... I really think that itís a bit of a problem - the memories of the Cavern are here, it's in the same place more or less, it's deeper in the ground now and the stage was to the front as you went down the stairs, now it's to the left. But it's there in Mathew Street, more or less, you know?

GM: Were you consulted on the rebuilding of the new Cavern?

BW: No, I was not approached over this. I went down at the opening and I was shocked at what I saw but, in reality, what could they have done? The old Cavern was no more so, in a way, what you have now is better than having nothing at all.

GM: People have mentioned that the stage is not the same size as the original - do you have any comments on this?

BW: Well, I canít comment on that - as far as I know itís the same size. I know that we had a removable stage at the club and we used to bring that out when we had larger groups on. It's hard to remember and a lot of this is unimportant now - why do people always go on about it? It's silly....

GM: I always remember your famous opening line on the microphone from the Cavern......

BW: Well, it was a little saying I had, you know? The boys and girls would like me to say things, pass out requests and messages, and that introduction was recorded on tape. I think Granada TV, who came to record The Beatles, captured it. I used to think of different ways to introduce the bands and that was how it came about. It wasnít just The Beatles - I used to introduce many others in different ways.

It was then that Bob had to go, but he left saying that 'people should remember places as they are now, not how they used to be' which is, I suppose, very true.
But one thing is for sure - we will always remember you, Bob, and your major contribution to the story of The Beatles.

Bob Wooler - Sixties City
Glenn Mitchell 2012

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