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Who backed The Beatles? (5) PDF Print E-mail

Elvis Presley: If the Beatles have remained the greatest ever group in the hearts of millions of people, then Elvis Presley is the greatest singer and king of rock ‘n' roll to the very same millions! Elvis Aaron Presley was born on 8 January 1935 in East Topelo, Mississippi. His extraordinary musical career began in 1954, two years before John formed his own group The Quarry Men. There is no doubt that Elvis, who in the latter years of the 1950s and early 1960s dominated number one position in all the charts in Great Britain, played a major role in the emergence of the Beatles as great musicians. The Beatles themselves would often mention this. They adored Elvis's songs, starting with this 1956 hit "Heartbreak Hotel", which reached number one on both sides of the Atlantic. John once said that had it not been for Elvis Presley the Beatles would never have existed.

George Harrison idolised him too, saying in particular that Elvis was great as was his bluesy voice, and that he was a genuine American guy - in the very best sense ... Paul McCartney admitted that when still very young he was given the opportunity to listen to Elvis, he was forever smitten and that he couldn't tear himself away from the record-player radio, when Elvis songs were played. According to Paul, he was quite simply "All Shook Up!" The Beatles conveyed this love of Elvis Presley to their own repertoire when, in their Quarry Men incarnation, they often played songs from Elvis's repertoire such as "All Shook Up!", "Blue Moon of Kentucky", "Hound Dog", "Jailhouse Rock", "Mean Woman Blues", "Forgot To Remember To Forget", "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down And Cry Over You", "It's Now Or Never", "That's All Right (Mama)", as well as "Love Me Tender" (performed by Stu Sutcliffe).

When the Beatles flew to the USA for the first time and appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, and received a telegram signed by Elvis Presley congratulating them on this, the boys' joy knew no bounds: it showed that the Great Elvis knew of them and listened to them!

During the Beatles' first American tour Paul McCartney telephoned Elvis in Memphis. He'd obtained his number from the journalist Chris Hutchins of the New Musical Express, who in turn had obtained it from Elvis's promoter, Colonel Parker. This took place on 30 August 1964, in Atlantic City. Paul spent a long time exchanging compliments with Presley. He invited him to Great Britain, asked him what he was up to and which new films he was shooting. Elvis also asked him some interesting questions, and then said to Paul: "Tell the other Beatles that I think they're doing a great job". He also said that he liked both of the Beatles' first albums and that the "With The Beatles" album (1963) had a great cover.

At the end of the conversation Paul and Elvis expressed a mutual desire to meet soon. And this happened during the Beatles' second American tour, in August 1965. Then, on 27 August 1965, this was a rest day between gruelling performances, the Beatles, accompanied by Brian Epstein, Neil Aspinall, Mal Evans and Tony Barrow, arrived at 10 o'clock at night at Elvis Presley's house at 565 Perugia Way, Bel Air, Beverly Hills from nearby 2850 Benedict Canyon where they were staying. The legendary king of rock ‘n' roll meet them at the door of his house, accompanied by his wife Priscilla and his promoter, Colonel Parker. It wasn't long before they all fell into a lively conversation covering all manner of subjects. As those who took part in this meeting later recalled, Elvis turned out to be such a straightforward man that neither the Beatles nor anyone else had any communication difficulties.

Colonel Parker also proved easy to talk to and Brian Epstein spent some unforgettable minutes with him. The Beatles and Elvis Presley then got together for a small jam session. By the way, Elvis played the bass guitar, Paul - the piano, John - rhythm guitar, and George - solo guitar on this occasion. - "Now here's how I play bass", Elvis told Paul. And said himself: "It's not too good but I'm practising! During the session Elvis turned to Ringo and said: "Too bad we left the drums in Memphis". They played together for around an hour. Together they sang "You're My World" during which John suddenly said: "This beats talking, doesn't it?"

They all joked about various things, jammed a bit more and sang a bit more. Those present at the meeting remember that Elvis didn't smoke and drank only 7-Up. The Beatles, though, drank their favourite Scotch and coke. Paul later recalled that Elvis recorded their jam session. But George said that he doesn't remember it like this and that Paul is mistaken when he refers to a recording. Whatever the case may be, to date nothing is known of the fate of this, by all accounts, great recording ...

After the jam session was over Elvis and the Beatles continued to laugh and joke and returned to the others waiting for them, and resumed their conversations. Elvis and John discussed their Rolls-Royces. Also, John, knowing that Elvis loved the popular British Peter Sellars, constantly imitated the latter's voice, dispensing Peter Sellars-style jokes left and right to  Presley's great pleasure.

They left his hospitable house at 2am. John, again mimicking Peter Sellars, when saying goodbye to Elvis, said "Tanks for de music, Elvis. Long live ze King."

When they were leaving Colonel Parker gave everyone present at the meeting a box of Elvis Presley records, and Brian, in response to this, promised to send Parker a Shetland pony, a favourite animal of his. The colonel said he would be indebted to them and promised to send Epstein a cocktail cabinet. The Beatles invited Elvis and his friends to spend the next evening with them at Benedict Canyon, but, running ahead, we can say that for various reasons Elvis didn't make it to see the Beatles. Commenting on this meeting with Elvis Presley, Ringo said: "Fantastic? He's just like one of us, none of the old Hollywood show-off thing". As a group the Beatles never met Elvis again.

But none of them forgot this encounter. When, in 1967, Brian Epstein died tragically, Elvis sent a telegram to the Beatles: "Deepest sympathy on the loss of your friend and a friend of all us". In June 1972 George appeared with Presley on stage at New York's Madison Square Garden, and at some point Ringo went up on stage with Elvis during one of his shows - Presley in Las Vegas. It's worth adding that Elvis Presley had several Beatles numbers in his repertoire, namely "Yesterday", "Something" and "Hey Jude".

Billy Preston: A black American musician/keyboard player, whose main musical influence was Gospel Rock, he was born on 9 September 1946 in Houston, Texas. Preston first met the Beatles in 1962, at Hamburg's Star Club, where he was touring with Little Richard. Billy was just 15 years old at the time, and became particularly good friends with George Harrison. Billy also played with Sam Cooke and played the keyboards in a series of the Shindig TV show.

His next meeting with the Beatles took place during a Ray Charles tour of Great Britain, when Harrison personally introduced him to the rest of the Beatles, who were happy to remain friends with him. They admired him as a musician. The Beatles "bought up" his contract with the Chicago record company Vee Jay and moved him to their company Apple. During the recording of "Let It Be" and "Abbey Road" Billy Preston was on a virtually equal footing with the other members of the Beatles.

His playing on the electric piano can be heard in the songs "Get Back" and "Don't Let Me Down". By the way, as a sign of respect and merit the cover of the single "Get Back" bears the inscription "The Beatles with Billy Preston". Preston can also be heard in the songs "I Me Mine", "Let It Be", "I've Got A Feeling", "Dig A Pony", "One after 909". Billy was even given the title the "Fifth Beatle". The Beatles themselves sang two of his songs; sadly, though, they were never recorded. This is also an acknowledgement of his merit as a song-writer.

And when the Beatles themselves acknowledge this, you'll agree it's no small thing! During the three years he worked at Apple, Preston recorded two albums the first of which "That's The Way God Planned It" was "made" with the help of and jointly with George Harrison (Doris Troy and Madeleine Bell can be heard providing backing vocals in several songs), and the second "Encouraging Words", also co-produced by George, had Klaus Voormann, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards and Ginger Baker helping to record it. On 4 September 1970, in Great Britain, Preston performed a version of George Harrison's song "My Sweet Lord" (Cat. No.: UK : Apple 29).

On 3 December 1970 the same version was published in the USA (Cat. No.: US : Apple 1826). In addition, in August 1971 Billy Preston was invited by George Harrison to take part in the Concert For Bangladesh, and in his Dark Horse tour in 1974. Preston also took part in the recording of George's albums "All Things Must Pass" (197 ), "Extra Texture" (197 ), "Dark Horse" (197 ), and "13 1/3" (197 ).

John Lennon didn't forget Billy either, inviting him to take part in the recording of the "Some Time In New York City" album (197 ). Ringo Starr invited Preston to the recording of his single "Good Night, Vienna" (197 ). He can be heard playing the piano in Lennon's number "God" from the (John Lennon) "Plastic Ono Band" album (197 ). In 1978 Billy Preston was invited by the famous Australian Robert Stigwood (who at one time, albeit unsuccessfully, had tried to acquire N.E.M.S. Enterprises) to perform a role in his film inspired by the Beatles "Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band".

Ronnie The Hood: This was an almost comic episode: On 11 June 1960, and this was a time when the Beatles were in dire need of a drummer, the boys had a gig at the Grosvenor Ballroom, in Cheshire. Having set up the obligatory drum kit on stage, the Beatles turned to the audience and asked if there was anyone out there who could help them resolve their drummer problem. Ronnie, a local thug (hood), who was in the audience, got up on stage. Having muddled up all the "beats", he was, of course, met with a barrage of threats and frenzied shrieks; he paid no heed whatsoever to this, being so distracted by his drumming that he refused to get up from behind the drums when urged by all to do so. In the end, Allan Williams was obliged to use force to remove Ronnie from the stage.

The Royal Philharmonic and London Symphony Orchestras: In February 1967 the members of these two world-famous orchestras took part in the recording of one of the Beatles' most famous songs - "A Day In The Life". There were forty musicians in all. They were: Violins: Erich Gruenberg, Granville Jones, Bill Monro, Jurgen Hess, Hans Geiger, D. Bradley, Lionel Bentley,  Donald Weekes, Henry Datyner, Sidney Sax, Ernest ? [sic];

Violas: John Underwood, Gwynne Edwards, Bernard Davis;
Cellos: Francisco Gabarro, Dennis Vigay, Alan Dalziel, Alex Nifosi;
Double bass: Cyril MacArthur and Gordon Pearce;
Oboe: Roger Lord;
Flutes: Clifford Saville and David Sandeman;
Trumpets: David Mason, Monty Montgomery, Harold Jackson;
Trombones: Raymond Brown, Raymond Premru, T. Moore;
Tuba: Michael Barnes;
Clarinets: Basil Chaikov and Jack Brymer;
Bassoons: N. Fawcett and Alfread Waters;
Percussion: Tristan Fry.

Tony Sheridan: His full name is Anthony Esmond Sheridan McGinnity. He was born in 1940. A native of London, this musician, singer, guitarist and sometime arranger and song-writer, had a big influence on several groups from Liverpool. He was the first British singer to perform in Hamburg. Having dropped out of Norwich Grammar School Tony joined the skiffle group The Saints, going on to play in Marty Wild's group. Later, in the summer of 1958, he joined Vince Taylor's group The Playboys. Together with future members of The Shadows - the drummer Brian Bennett and bass guitarist Brian Locking - he formed a trio.

The 19-year old Sheridan also appeared on several TV shows and at other concerts, singing and playing the guitar. A month before he left for Hamburg, Tony played at the 21's Coffee Bar in Soho. By chance (or maybe not) Bruno Koschmider called in at the bar in the hope of spotting a British group for his club. One of Tony's friends, the keyboard player Iain Hines, knew Koschmider and, realising why he had come to the bar, told him he had a group. Koschmider agreed to invite the group to Hamburg and sign a contract. Iain quickly organised a group which would include him, Tony Sheridan (guitar, vocals) and three other friends of theirs.

They called themselves The Jets, and in June 1960 they arrived in Hamburg to perform at Bruno Koschmider's club the Kaiserkeller. Incidentally, The Jets were the first British rock group to reach Hamburg. Within a month The Jets had moved to another, in their eyes, superior club, the Top Ten. Whilst in Hamburg the Beatles spent some of their spare time going to watch The Jets and Tony Sheridan in particular, whose spontaneity and attitude on stage made a real impression on them. Over the following two years many Liverpool groups were inspired by Sheridan's successes in Hamburg, and many musicians referred to Tony as The Teacher, as a mark of respect. The Beatles did occasionally join The Jets and Tony Sheridan on stage at the club and played with them.

During their second trip to Hamburg the Beatles performed as a backing group for Tony Sheridan on stage at the Top Ten: on 1 May 1961 the Beatles signed a one-year contract with the well-known German composer and conductor (German Orchestra) and producer, Bert Kaempfert of the company Polydor (a subsidiary of the huge German gramophone company Deutsche Gramofon) to record several songs including the famous English folk song arranged by Tony Sheridan "My Bonnie (Lies Over The Ocean)", "When The Saints Go Marching In", "Why" ("Can't You Love Me Again") - and another song ? [sic] by Tony Sheridan in collaboration with Compton; there were several other compositions too. That was when the vastly experienced Bert Kaempfert saw the outstanding qualities of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Pete Best and offered them the opportunity to show what they were made of.

John then performed a quick version of two 1920s songs - "Ain't She Sweet (Ager - Yellen)", and after that the Beatles played their own instrumental song "Cry For A Shadow" (Harrison - Lennon) - a parody of Cliff Richard's group The Shadows, then very popular in Great Britain, whom the Beatles took every opportunity to mock back then. Afterwards, at Kaempfert's suggestion, for the duration of the contract the Beatles changed their name to The Beat Brothers because it turned out that the word "Beatles" sounded very much like the German-Hamburg word "peedles", which in local jargon means "penis".

Then, as Tony Sheridan confirmed, he and Paul McCartney wrote the song "Tell Me If You Can" together. This song too would never see the light of day. It remains to be added that this recording contract was the Beatles' first official contract. And it is thanks to it that the Beatles became famous throughout the world because the single containing the songs "My Bonnie (Lies Over The Ocean)"/"The Saints", which became a hit in West Germany, ended up in the hands of Brian Epstein.

Also, Tony Sheridan continued to record in West Germany until the end of 1967 when he moved to Vietnam for two years to play there for American soldiers. Matters reached a head when a British newspaper put out the rumour that Tony had been killed by local partisans. In 1969 Sheridan returned to Germany and a few years later, together with George Harrison and Ringo Starr, who had made a special trip to Hamburg, took part in the re-opening ceremony for the Top Ten club.

We note that the club's new manager, Horst Fascher, joined them at this ceremony. In the 1970s Tony Sheridan became involved in anti-British campaigns aimed at the release of Northern Irish activists fighting for the independence of Northern Ireland. He then went to the USA to try to record some discs there, but this turned out to be a fruitless visit for Sheridan. That said, as many British musicians recall, with all his talents Tony Sheridan should have been a great artist.

 
 
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