Among Donegan’s appearances in 1956 was a concert at the Empire Theatre, Liverpool. Paul McCartney was in the audience and he became inspired. Also, during a school lunchtime Paul had gone down to the theatre to glimpse his idol and noticed that Donegan was writing notes to the employers of factory girls, explaining why they were late – they’d spent time in their dinner hour waiting for him. Paul was very impressed by the gesture and felt that this was the way that stars should behave.
Donegan’s Liverpool appearance sparked Paul’s desire for a guitar and his father, Jim, bought him one for £15.
A 14-year-old George Harrison, who’d originally met Paul on the bus on the way to the school they both attended, went round to Paul’s house to look at his teach-yourself-to-play book. George recalled: “We learned a couple of chords from it and managed to play ‘Don’t You Rock Me Daddy’O’”.
The Donegan appearance also sparked off George’s desire for a guitar and he bought a second-hand one from a boy in school for £3, which his mum had lent him.
George’s brother Harry was to say: “Lonnie Donegan was appearing at the Empire and of course George just had to go. In fact, he borrowed the money from our parents so that he could see every single show! Anyway, he found out where Lonnie was staying, which happened to be in a house in Speke, so George went round and hammered on the door until he came out and gave George his autograph. Of course, he immediately raced home to show everyone.”
In an interview with the music paper Disc, George Harrison was to comment: “Lonnie and skiffle seemed made for me…it was easy music to play if you knew two or three chords, and you’d have a tea-chest as bass and washboard and you were on your way.”
They were similar to the comments he made to Hunter Davies in the official biography of the Beatles, when he told them that Lonnie Donegan was the first person to make an impression on him musically: “I’d been aware of pop singers before him, like Frankie Laine and Johnny Ray, but never really taken much interest in them. I don’t think I thought I was old enough for them. But Lonnie Donegan and skiffle just seemed made for me.”