The Beatles: “more country and western”
The Beatles at the BBC Manchester – 8th February 1962
The Beatles first appearance on BBC Radio was in March 1962. Brian Epstein arranged an audition for them with Peter Pilbeam at the Playhouse Theatre and, though Brian had requested the opportunity for all three vocalists to be heard, Pilbeam only wanted to listen to John and Paul. He decided to assess them both to see if they would be suitable, and gave them the opportunity to perform four songs.
The Beatles performed two of their own songs, “Like Dreamers Do” and “Hello Little Girl”, plus “Memphis Tennessee” and “Till There Was You”. They had played all of these songs at Decca just a few weeks earlier, and it was surprising that they included “Till There Was You”, which was a disaster for McCartney at the audition.
Paul showed his nerves again. However, this time the boys passed the audition, making Pilbeam the first BBC producer to book The Beatles. He remembered that they stood out among the many other groups that had auditioned, recalling that there was a “load of rubbish – masses of rubbish – and then out of the blue this group turned up at the Playhouse at one of our audition sessions – called The Beatles.” As with most places The Beatles went, their name was perceived as slightly odd. It was a “weird name and everybody said ‘Yuk!’”, Pilbeam said, “but I was impressed with them at the time.”
However, what was interesting was the comments Pilbeam made on their audition report form:
“More Country and Western”
“I wrote that they were ‘an unusual group not as rocky as most, more country and western with a tendency to play music’. This probably sounds awfully crude, but it was praise indeed,” he said. “Many groups just relied on noise to get them through the audition.”
Excerpt from The Country of Liverpool. Get your copy now
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The Country of Liverpool: Nashville of the North by David Bedford. The Untold Story of the Country Roots of The Beatles and Liverpool