Leave your memories of Tony Sheridan, the man who taught The Beatles to rock
11:20 18 February 2013
The Norwich man who taught The Beatles how to rock ’n’ roll, Tony Sheridan, has died in Germany at the age of 72.
He took The Beatles under his wing when they arrived in Germany in the early 1960s and they made their first recordings with him before becoming the biggest band in the world.
It was the record My Bonnie which first caused Brian Epstein to take an interest in the young lads from Liverpool, who were making a name for themselves in Europe.
“You could always tell there was something special about them,” said Tony, looking back on some crazy days in Hamburg when The Beatles were his backing band.
At the time Tony was a star attraction in Germany – a pioneering rock ‘n’ roll rebel –and the leather-clad boys from Liverpool learned their craft watching and listening to the man from Norwich they called “The Teacher.”
They were his “Beat Brothers.”
In those days few people could make an electric guitar sound the way Tony could and he played session guitar on whole host of hit records in the 1960s.
But while so many of the bands and artists went on to becoming world famous Sheridan stayed in the background.
A highly intelligent man, he always went his own way in life. No-one told him what to do.
Anthony Esmond Sheridan McGinnity was born in 1940 during the Second World War and grew up in Thorpe St Andrew.
He went on to the City of Norwich School where he was taught to play the violin before changing it for a guitar.
During the 1950s he was one of the first skiffle kids – playing first at Thorpe with his group The Cygnets and The Saints.
From the moment Tony picked up a guitar he attracted the crowds and queues would form outside the Red Lion in St George’s where people were desperate to hear him play.
But there was only way for up and coming rockers to be in England of the late 1950s and that was the Two I’s coffee bar in London’s Soho.
“I hitch-hiked from Norwich to London. That was where the action was,” said Tony.
In 1958 he and another young rocker from Norwich, Kenny Packwood, were playing live on the Oh Boy television show and it was said that Tony was the first musician to play electric guitar live on TV.
Kenny went on to play lead guitar with Marty Wilde & The Wildcats while Tony joined the infamous Eddie Cochran/Gene Vincent tour in 1960.
He turned down their offer of a lift after one concert and escaped the road accident with killed Eddie and badly injured Gene.
Despite offers to join to British bands, Tony packed his guitar and headed for Germany where he soon became a big name at the clubs in Hamburg.
Ringo Starr was his drummer for a time and among the young lads coming over from England, attracted by the bright lights, were John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Pete Best.
They were hooked on Tony – especially young George, who spent ages learning how to play the guitar with Tony and never forgot how much he helped him.
The single My Bonnie featuring Tony and The Beatles became a minor hit and when it started to sell in Liverpool Brian Epstein took an interest in The Beatles.
They returned to England and Tony stayed in Germany.
His career has been a rollercoaster ride through the world of rock, blues, jazz and classical.
He went to Vietnam where it was reported that he had died. He survived and was made an honorary Captain of the United States Army.
He described himself as a “wandering minstrel” travelling the world playing all kinds of music and in the 1990s he came home to play in the Golden Years charity gigs at the UEA – bring the house down.
He also returned to Norwich for CNS reunions.
He leaves a large family.