The Silver Beetles (John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Stuart Sutcliffe) failed an audition as Billy Fury‘s backing group but drew a consolation prize in playing behind Johnny Gentle (in reality John Askew, a 20-year-old apprentice joiner and former merchant seaman) for a Scottish tour.
The band’s lack of expertise and talent precluded The SIlver Beetles from attracting a regular drummer. Their manager Alan Williams resolved this quandary by hiring Tommy Moore, a bottle factory forklift driver. At 36, Moore’s attitude and style differed fundamentally from those of his teenage co-musicians.
The eight-day Scottish tour ran from 20 – 28 May 1960 and was far the biggest event in their impressionable careers to date.
George became Carl Harrison in homage to his idol Carl Perkins. Sutcliffe became Stuart de Stael after a Russian artist, and McCartney adopted the Latino stage name Paul Ramon.
The Silver Beetles and their instruments set off on the trail of rock ‘n’ roll fame in an Austin van, and their odyssey was to take them to such high-profile venues as Alloa Town Hall (four bob admission before 10 pm); Inverness; Forres Town Hall (five bob admission); St Thomas Hall, Keith; Fraserburgh’s Dalrymple Hall; the Regal Ballroom in Nairn and the Rescue Hall in Peterhead.
As Gentle was a minor-hit attraction in the first place, his tour was never going to set the heather on fire.
At one venue they were relegated to playing a small upstairs room, whilst the main attraction downstairs was an old-time Scottish country band.
Each musician earned £18 for the entire tour and ran out of money way before the end with requests for subs being sent ineffectually to Gentle’s manager Larry Parnes.
Reduced to surviving on a daily bowl of soup, in digs without running hot water, they booked into the Royal Hotel in Forres but did a moonlight flit without paying the bill.
Johnny Gentle remembers the Silver Beetles as “about the roughest looking bunch I had ever seen in my life” and tour promoter Duncan MacKinnon wanted to sack them.
To add injury to insult, their van was involved in a collision at a Banff crossroads when Gentle crashed into a car occupied by two old people. The others were merely shaken but a flying guitar case smacked Moore in the mouth, smashing his front teeth.
When the group showed up at Fraserburgh’s Dalrymple Hall without him, the Broch promoter refused to pay for a drummerless act so the band unsympathetically hauled Moore out of his bed in the cottage hospital near Banff to play the gig.
By the time The Silver Beetles returned to Liverpool, Larry Parnes had already received reports of their performances and he did not offer them further employment. Instead, they dropped back into Merseyside’s youth club and coffee bar circuit.