Tuesday, May 21, 2013

May 21: “Original” Beatle, Tony Sheridan, was born on this date in 1940...

... he died on February 16, 2013 at the age of 72.
Born Anthony Esmond Sheridan McGinnity in in Norwich, Norfolk in the U.K., Tony Sheridan was an English rock and roll singer-songwriter and guitarist. He was best known as an early collaborator of The Beatles, (though the record was labelled as being with "The Beat Brothers"), one of two non-Beatles (the other being Billy Preston) to receive label performance credit on a record with the group, and the only non-Beatle to appear as lead singer on a Beatles recording which charted as a single.

Sheridan’s first musical influence came from his parents' interest in classical music, and by age seven, he had learned to play the violin. He eventually learned to play guitar, and in 1956, formed his first band. He showed enough talent that he soon found himself playing in London's "Two I's" club for some six months straight, while sleeping in doorways.

Sheridan was soon viewed as a very promising guitarist and backed a number of singers, including Gene Vincent and Conway Twitty while they were in England. Early in 1960, Sheridan performed in a tour of the United Kingdom which also included Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran. On April 17 of that year, he barely escaped the road accident which would leave Cochran dead and Vincent badly injured.

Despite his success, his penchant for being late, showing up without his guitar, etc., cost Sheridan much of his professional standing in England. His band was offered a gig in Bruno Koschmider's "Kaiserkeller" club in Hamburg, Germany, but his bandmates soon packed up and left Germany, leaving Sheridan behind.

A young Liverpool rock group was then booked by Liverpool club-owner/manager Allan Williams to play in Koschmieder's second club "The Indra", and thus the young, raw Beatles had the chance to play with Sheridan and his now makeshift band. This face to face contact rapidly grew into mutual great admiration, particularly on the part of young George Harrison, who, as lead guitarist for the Beatles, never missed a chance to corner fellow lead guitarist Sheridan and practice with him.

In 1961, the Beatles, which then included Pete Best, recorded together after German Polydor producer/A and R man Bert Kaempfert saw the pairing on stage. Of the seven songs recorded during Sheridan's two day-long sessions for Polydor in June 1961, at times the band behind Sheridan would be down to only two Beatles, and on their two solo songs did all four Beatles play (minus Sheridan.) These sessions produced Sheridan's "My Bonnie" and "The Saints", and the Beatles' "Ain't She Sweet" and "Cry for a Shadow" (formerly titled "Beatle Bop"), plus three other songs. Polydor's beliefs in Sheridan's coming stardom were so strong that they buried the two solo Beatle tracks until much later.

Both John Lennon and Tony Sheridan have said there were several other Beatle tracks that were recorded during the two-day session, but they have not resurfaced. In 1962, after a series of singles (the first of which, "My Bonnie"/"The Saints" made it to number 5 in the UK singles chart), the record was released in America on Decca with a black label and also in a pink label for demo play. The record has the distinction of being one of the most expensive collectible 45 rpm with the black label in mint condition selling for $15,000 in 2007 and the pink label selling for $3000.

Ringo Starr also very briefly played in Sheridan's backing band during very early 1962, before returning to Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. Starr was reportedly unhappy with Sheridan performing songs he had not rehearsed with his band.

After the Beatles gained fame, the album was re-released in the United Kingdom, with the credit altered to "Tony Sheridan and The Beatles". In the mid-Sixties Sheridan's musical style underwent a transformation, away from his rock and roll roots and towards a more blues- and jazz-oriented sound. Though these recordings were praised by some, many fans of his earlier work felt disappointed.

Sheridan continued performing in Hamburg at the same club for a number of years, but eventually Polydor dropped him as a recording artist. In the early 1970s, Sheridan managed a West German radio programme of blues music, which was well received. In 1978, the Star Club was reopened, and Sheridan performed there along with Elvis Presley's TCB Band In 1991 Joe Sunseri, Sheridan biographer and then-manager, completed Nobody's Child: The Tony Sheridan Story. However, due to a falling-out, the biography remained unpublished.


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