Allan Williams, best known as the Beatles’ first manager, died at the age of 86. The news was announced by The Jacaranda Club, one of the Liverpool music clubs Williams owned. Graham Stanley, the manager of the Jacaranda, wrote that Williams died Friday night. But did not give further details.
“His legacy has allowed us to remain at the heart of the Liverpool music scene for almost 60 years and his memory will live on through every band that plays our famous stage,” the Jacaranda said on its website.
“We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Allan Williams,” Martin King, of The Beatles Story museum in Liverpool, posted on the museum’s website. “Our thoughts go out to his family at this sad time. Allan played a significant role in the story of the Beatles. His involvement in the Beatles’ early years in Liverpool and onto Hamburg helped shape the band in to what we see and know today. He personally drove the van to take the young band to Hamburg, Germany in 1960, where they gained the vital show business experience that led to their emergence on the world stage.”
“I was with Allan just a few weeks ago and he was in good spirits,” David Bedford, author of The Fab One Hundred and Four, Liddypool, told Billboard. “We were talking over those days in 1960 when he got the Beatles a drummer and drove them to Hamburg. I said to him; do you realize that without you we wouldn’t have The Beatles? He smiled and said, ‘I never thought of it like that.’ I told him it was true, because Allan took John, Paul, George and Stuart, gave them somewhere to play, got them a drummer in Tommy Moore, plus Norman Chapman and then Pete Best, and, with his business partner Lord Woodbine, drove them to Hamburg. As every Beatles historian will tell you it was Hamburg that made The Beatles. That, for me, will be Allan’s legacy. Without him, we wouldn’t have The Beatles. He was a larger than life character whose contribution is often overlooked in Beatles history.”
“We have just heard the very sad news about the passing of Allan Williams,” Liverpool’s Cavern Club tweeted. “Sincere condolences to his family at this difficult time.”
Williams told the Liverpool Echo in 2010 that he was “proud and happy to have been just a small cog in the wheel of the most famous group in the world.”
McCartney described Williams as “a great guy, a really good motivator,” in the Beatles Anthology.
Williams was born in Bootle, England. Williams was a fixture on the Liverpool music scene. The Jacaranda was where many of the Liverpool musicians who would lead the first wave of the British Invasion faced their first audiences.
The Jacaranda Club opened as a coffee bar on Slater Street in 1957 and booked its first acts in September 1958. When Williams met the young musicians, the band consisted of guitarist John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and the Lennon’s Liverpool Art College pal Stuart Sutcliffe, who had just plunked down the money he won at an art competition to buy a bass.
Williams worked with the Beatles from 1960 to 1961, booking the band in local clubs and getting them their famous run of shows in Hamburg, Germany, where they learned their stage craft by “making show.”
Williams told all about it in his memoir The Man Who Gave The Beatles Away, which was published in 1976. He met the Beatles in 1960 and let them practice at the Jacaranda if they put in some elbow grease. Lennon and Sutcliffe paint a mural for the ladies room.
“You and (Larry) Parnes were talking the other night about using groups. How about us?,” Williams quoted Lennon as saying in his book. The Beatles first shows at the Jac were between May and August 1960.
“Allan Williams ran the Blue Angel and the Jacaranda. He was the little local manager. Little in height, that is – a little Welshman with a little high voice – a smashing bloke and a great motivator, though we used to take the mickey out of him,” McCartney wrote in The Anthology.
The Beatles added drummer Tommy Moore, changed their name to the Silver Beatles, at the suggestion of Brian Casser of the Cassanovas, and made their stage debut at Grosvenor Ballroom, which Williams booked. The band got paid about ten pounds, which is about $12 in American money, and Williams received a pound in commission.
Williams booked the band on a short tour of Scotland with Johnny Gentle and the Top Ten Club in Hamburg. He drove the van to take the Beatles away.
“We probably met with the van outside Allan Williams’ club, the Jacaranda,” Harrison added. “There were the five of us and then Allan, his wife Beryl and Lord Woodbine. “It was cramped. The van didn’t even have seats; we had to sit on our amplifiers. We drove down to Harwich and got the boat to the Hook of Holland.”
The band extended their stay in Germany and stiffed Williams of his commission, so he dumped them.
“I am very distressed to hear you are contemplating not paying my commission out of your pay, as we agreed in your Contract for your engagement at the Top Ten Club,” reads a letter Williams wrote the band on April 20, 1961. “May I remind you you are all appearing to get more than a little swollen-headed, that you would not even have smelled Hamburg if I had not made the contacts, and by Law it is illegal for any person under contract to make a contact through the first contract.”
“I don’t want to fall out with you, but I can’t abide anybody who does not honour their word or bond, and I could have sworn you were all decent lads, that is why I pushed you when nobody wanted to hear you.”
The band returned to Liverpool with Pete Best as the drummer.
Brian Epstein, who ran the North End Music Stores wanted to manage the Beatles and Williams filled him in on the commission dispute and warned they might be a bad risk.
“Yes, yes, Allan you’re right, but I feel here (tapping his chest) that together the Beatles and I could make something really big,” Williams remembered Epstein telling him.
“Brian, as far as I’m concerned, they’re all yours. I’ve finished. And bloody good luck with the Beatles.”
Williams released tapes the Beatles recorded at the Star-Club in Hamburg, but the band made him take it off the market. He was given the Citizen of Honour award by the City of Liverpool earlier this year.
Mr. Williams is survived by his wife, Beryl, and children Justin and Leah.