Contract sale a reminder of Tony and the Fab Four
09:36 30 September 2015
A recording contract signed by young musicians in Germany at the start of the swinging 60s to back a Norwich rock‘n’roll rebel has just been sold at auction in New York for $75,000, that’s around £48,000.
There are four signatures on the contract – J W Lennon, James Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Peter Best – four lads who were walking into a recording studio for the first time with a man they called The Teacher – Tony Sheridan.
The year was 1961, the place Hamburg, and the backing band were the Beat Brothers who later asked Tony’s drummer Ringo Star to join them, changed their name to The Beatles and became the biggest band the world has ever seen.
The single they made was My Bonnie, a great rock‘n’roll version of the children’s song.
It was only released in Germany but the story goes that a customer walked into a shop in Liverpool, asked if they had a copy of the record, Brian Epstein got to hear about it and the rest, as they say, is history.
At the time the boys were learning the ropes with the Norwich singer at Hamburg’s Top Ten Club where wildcat Tony Sheridan (real name McGinnity) ruled the roost and they regarded it as an honour to share the stage with him.
Consignment director at Heritage Auctions in New York where the document came under the hammer, Dean Harmeyer, said that The Beatles’ time in Germany was the reason they were recognised by Epstein, who went on to steer them through their most famous years.
“Had they not spent this time in Hamburg, they may have not become the musical force they did and had they not recorded My Bonnie they made have never come to the attention of Brian Epstein,” he added.
The Beatles went on to record their first hit single Love Me Do the following year under his management, arrived in Norwich the following year to play the old Grosvenor Ballroom on Prince of Wales Road, splashed out on a fish and chip supper, and headed off into the night... to become international superstars.
But they never forgot their days in Hamburg where all the budding stars from England wanted to play with the legendary Tony Sheridan. If they had the nerve or were up to it.
Young George Harrison spent many hours learning to handle the guitar with Tony and said later: “The people of Liverpool always credited us with the Mersey Beat sound but it should have been Tony Sheridan.”
After Tony’s death in 2013, Sir Paul McCartney said: “Tony was a good guy who we knew and worked with in the early days in Hamburg. We regularly watched his late-night performances and admired his style. He will be missed.”
Ringo Starr added: “Goodbye to Tony Sheridan. I had a great time 1960-61. Playing with him was great.”
Gerry Marsden of Gerry and the Pacemakers said: “He was a genius, a great guitar player. I used to watch Tony every night and he influenced me a great deal.”
Tony also toured this country with the likes of Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent, and guitarist and future Led Zeppelin legend Jimmy Page said after seeing him play: “The only guitarist worth watching in England is Tony Sheridan.”
A book all about Tony, one of the best rockers never to become a household name, has been written by his friend Alan Mann who went to Bignold School (formerly Crook’s Place) and CNS with Tony. He formed his first skiffle group in Norwich, The Saints.
Tony went to Norwich Art College before heading off to London and then Germany where he lived for most of his life. He returned to play in Norwich once, at the Evening News Golden Years charity gigs.
“I’m not surprised at all that the My Bonnie contract made money and actually Tony could have made far more money out of his connection with the boys if he’d (perhaps) sought advice and done things in a coherent and professional way,” said Alan.
“But that wasn’t Tony’s thing. He was a maverick, a one-off, a troubadour so did it all in his half-baked Sheridan way!” he added.
The Teacher: The Tony Sheridan Story is available from Alan Mann at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him on 01603 812331.