At the time when the local council ordered the destruction of the original Cavern to make way for the air vent, Liverpool bureaucrats spurned any effort to promote the image of the Beatles in Liverpool, turning down requests for a statue and to name Liverpool streets in honour of the Beatles.
However, after the death of John Lennon, all that changed. Eventually even a series of streets were named after the group and further accolades were given to the Cavern.
In April 1984 EMI issued their special sixteen-track album 'Tribute to the Cavern', to be sold exclusively at the club. All the tracks were recorded during the 1963/4 period, although none of them was actually recorded at the club.
Abbey Road Studios also produced a 45-minute film 'Cavern Beat', which was screened at the newly opened venue twice a day during the summer of 1984. The film was narrated by Terry Sylvester, former member of the Escorts, Swinging Bluejeans and the Hollies, and included film of the Cavern's history and the groups who appeared there, with a soundtrack which included various Mersey groups and the Beatles tracks: 'Penny Lane', 'Strawberry Fields Forever', 'A Hard Day's Night', 'I Feel Fine', 'Twist And Shout', 'She Loves You', 'Please Please Me', 'Love Me Do' and 'Some Other Guy.'
The current Cavern Club is run by a triumvirate of enterprising businessmen—Bill Heckle, Dave Jones and George Guinness. The premises comprise four bars, three stages, three dance floors, a VIP lounge and has conference and catering facilities - much different from the squalid, sweaty cellar which we all loved, with its only catering facility being a small corner of the club next to the toilets where coke and cheese rolls were served!
The Cavern has also launched Cavern City Tours, runs a Magical Mystery Tour bus,
organizes the annual Mersey Beatle conventions and the Mathew Street Festival and is opening a Beatles-themed hotel, A Hard Day's Night.
The three have also opened a Cavern pub opposite the club site.
To celebrate the 40th Anniversary, a year of festivities began with a celebratory party on January 16 1997, with the same line-up of jazz bands performing as on its original 1957 opening night. Throughout the day there were other performances on the three stages with artists such as Karl Terry, Johnny 'Guitar' Byrne and his Hurricanes and the Hideaways, who had re-formed especially for the occasion. Also performing were the original members of John Lennon's Quarry Men skiffle group. It was the first time that Eric Griffiths, John Lowe, Colin Hanton, Rod Davies, Pete Shotton and Len Garry had been together in 30 years!
Also unveiled above the site of the Cavern bar was a Wall of Fame listing 1801 artists who had appeared at the club, together with a statue of John Lennon in a pose based on the cover of his 'Rock 'n' Roll' album.
It's a long way since the time in 1961 when Brian Epstein phoned me and asked if I could arrange for him to visit the Cavern for the first time, so that he could see the Beatles. I contacted Ray McFall and arranged for Brian's name to be left at the door, then phoned Brian and told him he could visit the club during the lunchtime session on November 9. Accompanied by his personal assistant Alistair Taylor, Brian walked down those eighteen steps - and the rest is history!
Cast of Characters
Some background regarding a number of the characters mentioned in the above account.
RAY McFALL After the original bankruptcy, Ray, his wife Shirley and family moved down South and settled near London where he re-established a career in accountancy. He is now retired, but enjoyed his visit to the Cavern anniversary celebrations.
PADDY DELANEY After working in the Cavern for 15 years, Paddy became warden at the Netherley Centre in Liverpool.
THE MERSEYSIPPI JAZZ BAND They are still active and four of the original members were with the band when they performed at the anniversary celebrations.
BOB WOOLER The famous Cavern compere who announced the Beatles on stage more times than anyone else. Sadly, he passed away in 2002.
JOHNNY SANDON The original singer with the Searchers and the Remo Four whose real name was Bill Beck. He hung himself at Christmas 1996.
MERSEYBEATS With original lead singers Tony Crane and Billy Kinsley, they are still actively performing.
THE SWINGING BLUEJEANS The longest-running Mersey band, which also formed in 1957. They continue to tour the world and are still led by Ray Ennis and Les Braid (although Les had to leave the band recently as he was diagnosed with cancer).
THE BIG THREE A group who were once bigger than the Beatles in Liverpool. Johnny Hutchinson is now a successful building contractor, Adrian Barber became a record producer for bands such as the Allman Brothers Band and Aerosmith and now lives in Hawaii. Brian Griffith, who replaced him, has settled in Canada. Johnny Gustafson appeared on record with many bands, including Roxy Music and now lives near London. Faron retired in 1966 due to ill health, but couldn't keep away from the music scene and has returned to perform at Merseycats functions.
BERYL MARSDEN Regarded as the best female singer of the Mersey Sound era, she moved to London where she became a Buddhist. She also recorded for the 'Class Of '64' Cavern CD and in 2004 has produced and distributed her own CD album ‘One Dream.’
THE QUARRY MEN John Lennon's special friend Pete Shotton sold his string of restaurants and retired. He now lives abroad. Sadly, Eric Griffiths died in 2005. Beatles biographer Hunter Davis has immortalized the band in his book ‘The Quarry Men’ and they reformed to record and perform internationally
ROY ADAMS The last owner of the Cavern has penned his autobiography, reviewed on the site under the title ‘The Bouncer Who Bought the Cavern.’