Not only did The Beatles’ community lose record producer, George Martin, in 2016, but also two businessmen that helped The Beatles in the early days of their career. Allan Williams, The Beatles’ first manager, died on December 30 at the age of 86 and Sam Leach, Liverpool concert promoter, died on December 21 at the age of 81. Both local Liverpool businessmen were involved in The Beatles career in the early 1960s just before Brian Epstein came onto the scene.
In the early days of The Beatles in Liverpool, John, Paul, George and Stuart Sutcliffe used to hang out at the Jacaranda club owned by Allan Williams. Stuart had painted murals for the basement of the club. Of all the lads, Stuart was closest with Williams, and as a result, he let the group perform and rehearse at the club.
In August 1960, Allan Williams got the Beatles their initial gig in Hamburg, Germany. Many groups from Liverpool were finding success in Hamburg, so the Beatles jumped at the chance.
“If it hadn’t been for Hamburg, there would be no Beatles,” Williams declared in a 1980s interview. “The work there was so fantastically hard. They would work 7 nights a week. Sometimes they would open at 7:00 (pm) and 3:00 in the morning, they’d still be on stage. And people say to me, ‘Alan, tell us the secret of how to be a Beatle.’ I say, ‘Go to Germany for 6 months, work 7 nights a week, 8 hours a night, and then come back and ask me the same question.”
However, during the time of The Beatles’ second trip to Hamburg in the Spring of 1961, their relationship with Allan Williams fell apart. Williams claimed that The Beatles never paid him his commission for booking them in Hamburg.
“The second time I sent them to Hamburg I got a phone call from Stu Sutcliffe,” Williams recalled. “He said ‘John has decided we shouldn’t pay you a commission because we got the job second time round’.
Since they had been able to arrange the gig at The Top Ten Club on their own, they told Williams they no longer needed his services. Williams was furious. He threatened to take legal action against them, but in the end, he let them go.
Enter Sam Leach. Leach was a Liverpool concert promoter. He would book over 40 gigs for The Beatles starting in early 1961 at clubs like The Cassanova Club and The Tower Ballroom. (Leach is pictured in the front with George and John)
“The first time I saw them, I realized how good they were,” Sam Leach recalled. “They were the best rock band on the planet at that time and I told them so. I said ‘One day you’ll be as big as Elvis’. John Lennon laughed and said ‘We’ve got a right nutter here, Paul’.”
Leach also sponsored “Operation Big Beat”, a mega-show that featured up to 5 rock and roll bands in one night. The Beatles first performed at Operation Big Beat in November 1961 as the headliner.
Sam Leach says he had a verbal agreement to be The Beatles manager, solidified with a handshake. But when Brian Epstein came into the picture, The Beatles decided to go with Brian instead.
“1961 was their [The Beatles] best year for rock and roll,” Sam Leach said, “because Brian sort of smoothed them up and changed their image a little bit and became more pop, but as a rock band they were supreme.”
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