Coventry & Warwickshire

Forgotten Nuneaton Beatles gig and memories of 'cake throwing'

The Mighty Avengers
Image caption Tickets to see The Beatles, The Avengers (pictured) and the other two acts in Nuneaton cost five shillings

Friday, 5 October 1962 sticks in the minds of many Beatles fans as the date their debut single was released.

However, for a group of Warwickshire musicians, it is the day they shared a stage with an up-and-coming band from Liverpool.

On the day Love Me Do was released, The Beatles played at the Co-operative Ballroom in Nuneaton.

There has been much discussion over the years as to whether the show actually took place, partly because it has rarely appeared in books about the band.

Image caption The Beatles record for Saturday Club on New Year's Day 1963, three months after playing Nuneaton

However, those who remember it talk of The Beatles being a "tight team", while others recall stories of cake being thrown at the Fab Four.

Tony Campbell was the guitarist with Rugby band The Avengers, later to become The Mighty Avengers, which were the first of the support bands of the night.

He remembers that the venue was "not a plush place" and "the stairs were horrible".

His first encounter with The Beatles, a band he had never heard of at the time, came while off-loading instruments and equipment on to the main stage.

'Scruffy Liverpudlian group'

He said: "They'd [The Beatles] already set up and there was a jam session going on when we walked in.

"Ringo and Barney [of Buddy Britten and the Regents] were playing two sets of drums together and John Lennon was playing guitar."

Image caption Reg and Dorothy Calvert brought many bands to Nuneaton, including The Rolling Stones

Mr Campbell remembers saying hello to George Harrison, who was sitting upstairs playing his Gibson guitar, but to him The Beatles were just another band on the bill.

The shows at the art deco venue, which no-longer exists, were managed by Reg Calvert, who ran other venues, including the Benn Hall, Rugby and Matrix Ballroom, Coventry.

He also managed a stable of singers and bands and even sent some of them to play at the clubs in Hamburg.

On 5 October 1962, the headliner at the Nuneaton co-op hall was Buddy Brittain and the Regents [one of the in-house bands] and also appearing was Tanya Day and the Vampires.

Both acts, managed by Mr Calvert, had also performed in Hamburg with The Beatles as their backing band.

Mr Calvert decided against managing The Beatles as he did not want to look after a "scruffy Liverpudlian group", according to his daughter.

Astounded at professionalism

Susan Moore, daughter of Reg and Dorothy Calvert, said that Brian Epstein asked her mother if The Beatles could be booked into some of the dance halls to "give them some experience".

She said The Beatles did two sessions at the co-op hall in Nuneaton on 5 October, one of which was a dance for under-13s, and that it was a "lovely dancehall" with "quite a large floor and a balcony above."

Ms Moore, who has written plays about her father, remembers being told that the younger audience did not like them and that, legend has it, they even threw cakes at them.

She added that the older audience were more interested, but The Beatles "weren't terribly well received" and that the audience "really didn't appreciate them" as they were used to smart bands in suits.

However, as a musician, Tony Campbell remembers The Beatles being "a tight team" and "was astounded about the professionalism."

He said: "They were the first band I saw that bowed at the end of every song. The stars did it on TV shows, but on the halls they didn't.

"They didn't do a lot of their own stuff, but covers of stuff that wasn't normally known, but we knew it [the music] because we were were a rock and roll band.

"They made it different somehow, they were very very good and even in those days they were head and shoulders above the rest.

"It wasn't a modern venue [the co-op hall]…. But it had an atmosphere, once it was full it was great, which is when the Beatles came it really stood out. "

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