John Lennon would have turned 70 next Saturday. The Quarrymen, his
first band, is still at it.
By REED TUCKER
October 3, 2010
Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome John, Paul, George . . . and Colin?
Ah, what could have been for the now-71-year-old upholsterer from
Liverpool. Colin Hanton was the original drummer for the Quarrymen, a
little skiffle band you may not have heard of that would ultimately
become a band you have: The Beatles.
As a boy, Hanton liked drumming along to jazz records, and because he
was one of the few boys in town with a kit, he was asked to join the
John Lennon-fronted band in 1956.
The group shuffled members over the years, eventually expanding to
include 17-year-old Paul McCartney and 15-year-old George Harrison,
and in 1960, the group permanently changed its name.
In 1997, the founding members reformed (minus Lennon, McCartney and
Harrison), and three of those musicians Hanton, bassist Len Garry
and banjo player Rod Davis continue to tour. They play New York
this week to mark John Lennon's 70th birthday and promote Friday's
"Nowhere Boy," a biopic about Lennon's early years.
Hanton, who quit the Quarrymen in 1959 because he got tired of riding
the city bus to gigs, says he has no regrets.
"You do think sometimes that the money might have been nice, but no,"
he says. "And if I would have gone off to Hamburg, I could have ended
up like [drummer] Pete Best, going almost all the way and dumped at
the last minute [for Ringo Starr]."
Instead, he decided to stay in Liverpool and take an apprenticeship
as an upholsterer. He didn't touch the drums for nearly 40 years.
"Music wasn't my life," Hanton says. "I never had any dreams of
becoming Elvis Presley. That was Paul and John. They wanted to be
And they would each become someone a turn of events that surprised
the other Quarrymen.
"That was impossible to see," he says. "John didn't seem more
talented than the rest of us. His mum, Julia, taught him to play the
guitar because she could play banjo. He tuned his guitar like a
banjo. Paul joined, and he taught John [how to tune] and to play a
couple guitar chords."
Lennon first met McCartney after a 1957 Quarrymen gig at a church
garden party. Paul played rockabilly star Eddie Cochran's "Twenty
Flight Rock" for John.
"Paul knew all the chords and the words," Hanton says. "That was
quite impressive, and that's why he was invited to join the group."
"Paul was a better guitarist in the early days than John."
The band began scoring paying gigs around Liverpool, including dates
at the Cavern Club, which at the time was known for jazz and skiffle
a raucous offshoot of blues and folk music played on homemade
instruments such as jugs, washboards and tea-chest basses.
"One time when we were playing in the Cavern, and we'd stopped
playing so much skiffle and started doing rock 'n' roll," Hanton
recalls. "And John got a note handed to him onstage, and I think he
was quite impressed. He thought someone was making a request. Then he
opened the paper, and it said, 'Don't play any more rock 'n' roll,'
signed the management."
Throughout its entire career, the Quarrymen made just one record. In
1958, Lennon, McCartney, Harrison, Hanton and piano player Duff Lowe
went into a Liverpool studio and recorded a cover of Buddy Holly's
"That'll Be the Day," as well as an original song by McCartney and
Harrison called "In Spite of All the Danger."
A single acetate record was pressed. The band members passed it
around, each keeping it for a week, until it was believed lost. It
resurfaced in 1981 in Lowe's possession, and McCartney bought it from him.
It's estimated to be the most valuable record in existence, at more
Hanton says he lost touch with McCartney shortly after leaving the
band, but the Beatle did send the Quarrymen an e-mail last week
before the premiere of "Nowhere Boy." It read, "Keep on rockin', lads."
Celebrating John's 70th
Yoko Ono will light the "Imagine Peace Tower" in Iceland on Saturday.
NYC will pay tribute its own way.
* "LENNONYC" Central Park Summerstage hosts a free showing of a
documentary that chronicles the singer's life in New York during the
late '70s. Saturday at 7 p.m.
* 30th Annual Lennon Tribute Jackson Browne, Patti Smith, Cyndi
Lauper and a host of others gather at the Beacon Theatre to honor the
former Beatle, with proceeds benefiting charity. Nov. 12 at 8 p.m.
* The Quarrymen Lennon's original band plays before special
screenings of the biopic "Nowhere Boy" at the Paley Center for Media
on Monday and the Society for Ethical Culture on Saturday.
* "Box of Vision" This $125 collection of Lennon's complete solo
catalog includes a book with the LP art, vintage ads, essays and his
handwritten notes for "Double Fantasy." Meanwhile his eight solo
albums and a greatest hits collection will be issued separately.
* Ozzy Osbourne's "How?" The metal legend covers a song from Lennon's
"Imagine" to benefit Amnesty International. Available Tuesday on iTunes.
* Screenings at the Paley Center for Media Films include: "Imagine:
John Lennon," "What's Happening! The Beatles in the USA," "The US vs.
John Lennon" and "Gimme Some Truth: The Making of John Lennon's