The Traducing of Stuart Sutcliffe

By Bill Harry  

Stuart Sutcliffe, sketch by Bill HarryI was consultant on the Planet Wild television production but expressed some disappointment when the programme was aired to discover Allan Williams continued to trot out his incorrect anecdotes.

I was talking to Frieda Kelly, the Beatles former fan club secretary when she had been asked to appear at her first convention. She told me that Allan had suggested that she tell people what they wanted to hear, intimating that she could make up stories to satisfy audiences eager for anecdotes.

Then I received a call from Fred O'Brien, a former art school chum, who had produced a plaque to be placed at the site of John's former birthplace in Oxford Street, Liverpool.

He told me that Allan had suggested he include on the plaque words to the effect that John was born in Ward No. 9. There was no evidence to support this, he just suggested it to fit in with the fact that No. 9 was so important in John's life and was associated with a number of his addresses.

I told Fred that if he placed this fiction on the plaque, it would be found out. Perhaps a former midwife would turn up and say there was no Ward 9 in the hospital. It turns out wards are generally named after consultants or sponsors, not numbers.

I mention this to indicate that Allan, although an amusing character, doesn't care a hoot for the true facts and has, indeed, been responsible for a number of apocryphal stories in the Beatles history.

In 'The Real John Lennon' he came out with the story that Stuart Sutcliffe played with his back to Larry Parnes at the Wyvern Club audition because he couldn't play the bass, and that Parnes said that he would take the group as Billy Fury's backing group if they got rid of Stuart.

This story first appeared in Williams' book 'The Man Who Gave The Beatles Away.' 

In regard to the Wyvern audition, Williams' allegation is untrue. Parnes was to say that he had no problem with Stuart, that his objection was to drummer Tommy Moore, who turned up late for the audition, was dressed differently from the other members and was a lot older than them.

Cheniston Roland took photographs of that particular session and in the main picture, which has been reproduced on a number of occasions, Stuart can be seen performing, with his hands on the bass guitar plainly visible to the audience. All other shots I have seen of Stuart onstage generally have him facing the audience. On one of Roland's shots we see him with his back towards us, but this is during the tuning up session and doesn't look as if he's actually performing.

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