One of the reasons I love the Beatles story is that it is filled with great, larger than life characters, one of the greatest being Paddy Delaney, the doorman at the Cavern. He counted them in and he counted them out, as it were. He knew everyone – and everyone knew him: indeed, every 60s band member has an amusing story about him. He was the perfect doorman and unlike today’s variety, avoided violence as much as possible.
Patrick Delaney was born in Liverpool on 5 October 1931 and was married with four daughters and two sons. He was a regular at Beatle Conventions and he told me on several occasions that he wanted to publish his memoirs. After his wife died, I didn’t see him and thought he had moved from the area. However, he was still living in the Liverpool suburb of Netherley and he was brought into BBC Radio Merseyside in October 2007 with his neighbour, the country music songwriter Danny Guy. I recorded a long interview with him, about half of which was broadcast. This is the full text of that interview. The Cavern’s management effectively centred on three men: Ray McFall, the owner who replaced Alan Sytner in 1959, Bob Wooler, the disc jockey who booked the bands, and Paddy Delaney on the door.
Following an accident at home where he fell onto a gas fire, Paddy Delaney died in Whiston Hospital on Saturday 7 February 2009. The best memorial to him is in Mathew Street: the Cavern’s original entrance is marked with a lifesize photograph of Paddy standing in the doorway.
SPENCER LEIGH: Was the first time you saw the Beatles when they first played the Cavern early in 1961.
PADDY DELANEY: I saw George Harrison coming down Mathew Street with long hair. He came into the doorway and he said he was with the Beatles. I thought, ‘Oh god, are they all like them?’ Then John and Paul came along, they wore leather jackets and jeans and their hair was no better. I let them in. About 15 minutes later, a taxi pulled up and out got Pete Best, but you couldn’t see for drums and speakers and wires. They had chipboard for the speakers and one was partly painted midnight blue and the rest were bare. They left him to cart the stuff down and Nell, the road manager, came in a car shortly afterwards. They bought the van that day and it had a wobbly wheel – they must have bought it very cheaply – and Pete was up and down the steps with the equipment.
After the show, I was having a drink in the Grapes and they came in, all four of them – they didn’t have Stu with them and I never met him. They had two girls with them and then Paul McCartney was counting his coppers. Mrs Hobson said, ‘Well, gentlemen, have you made up your minds yet? There were people at the bar wanting drinks.’ Paul asked for two pints of bitter and they were all taking sips out of them. Mrs Hobson said to me, ‘Who are they, Pat?’ I said, ‘They are the Beatles.’ She said, ‘Oooh, they certainly look it.’ I said to Paul, ‘I’ve been going in the Grapes for a year and I am very friendly with the management and you have undone all that in ten minutes.’ Mrs Hudson thought it was my fault. He said, ‘I’m sorry about that,’ and I said, ‘You will be next time, pal.’ I resolved to hate them and I deliberately went out of my way to find fault with their music.
It’s surprising but I soon noticed their progress and improvement. John Lennon told me that they were only doing it for fun and he couldn’t care less if they packed in tomorrow. This was at a lunchtime session when he came up for some fresh air between their sets. I said, ‘Get a manager, John.’ He said, ‘We’ve already had a manager and he left us stranded in the Hook of Holland.’ He added, ‘It’s over. I can always go back to art school.’
SPENCER LEIGH: And you’ll remember Brian Epstein coming to the Cavern for the first time.
PADDY DELANEY: Yes, a lunchtime session in November 1961. The usual crowd was in, and there was this chap at the back, getting up on his toes to see them and with a briefcase under his arm. When all the kids had gone, he was left there standing. I said, ‘Can I help you?’ and that was the start of it.
On another day Gerry and the Pacemakers were down there and I thought they were rehearsing but it was Brian Epstein with a tape recorder.
I went into the Cavern one afternoon to see Mrs Judge and have a cup of tea. Cilla was still there and she should have been back at work as it was 3pm. Mrs Judge said that she was waiting for Brian Epstein and I said, ‘Good ’cause she’s a great singer.’ She had a voice and he signed her up.
Brian Epstein knew about having some discipline and order on stage. Before Brian, Bob Wooler would introduce the Beatles and they would start talking rather than go on stage. Ray McFall would come into the band room and say, ‘Bob, either they start now or they go’. If they still hesitated, Ray would switch the light off on the stage. I remember them starting once with ‘Spanish Harlem’ after a long gap. In the end, they became exceedingly professional. Brian Epstein was a brilliant manager and yet the least likely person to manage them.
SPENCER LEIGH: You were older than the performers so did you enjoy the music?
PADDY DELANEY: Oh yes, in the end, and especially the Beatles and it was great to see four ordinary lads rise to that status. The reason that the Beatles came to the Cavern in the first place was because Trad Jazz was on the wane and people were going to the Mardi Gras instead of the Cavern. Bob Wooler suggested to Ray McFall that he got some groups, and Ray was a jazz fan. Bob said that some groups had regular followings of 40 or 50, fans, so you would be guaranteed to have them anyway. At the start of 1961, the Beatles had 60 people who would religiously follow them. They were ardent fans and that was a good start.
SPENCER LEIGH: How tough was it to be a bouncer at the Cavern?
PADDY DELANEY: Well, I never called myself a bouncer, but it was tough at first. I went down there as a favour to my brother-in-law, Chris Kelly, who was 18 and one of the jazz fans. He was on the desk with some other young boys. He said, ‘We’re getting these bouncers on Friday, but can you come on Wednesday?’ I had been working in the Locarno as floor manager and I had a mohair dinner suit with buttons and studs – you had to dress properly at the Mecca ballrooms. Chris told me to please myself as to what I wore. I dolled myself up and put on my silk scarf with a navy blue mac over it. I made my way downtown and I couldn’t find Mathew Street until it was pointed out to me. I was expecting a wide street and a club with soft lights and carpets. I walked down Mathew Street and saw this dark narrow doorway. I heard this sound from underground. A young student was in the doorway and I said, ‘Is this the Cavern?’ and he said, ‘Yes, we’ve been expecting you.’ He took me downstairs. They were swinging their arms and dancing and I decided to keep my mac on as I looked like the archbishop paying a visit without it. I went back upstairs. I had another evening suit that I’d had when I was at the Grafton and I wore that from then onwards. But to answer your questions, it was tough. In 1959, I saw bicycle chains and they often kept the stuff in their caps.