Sixty years ago, in April 1962, The Royal Showband performed in Liverpool with The Beatles as their support band. Lead singer Brendan Bowyer recalled that night, his life in music and his battle with alcoholism in a series of interviews with the late author, Colm Keane.
Liverpool’s ageing and dusty Pavilion Theatre, known as ‘The Pivvy’, was located in Lodge Lane, just over two miles from the city centre. It was there on the night of 2 April, 1962, that The Royal Showband performed to an enthusiastic, largely Irish-born audience. The band had been looking forward to the performance, which took place in the middle of a record-breaking tour of England.
That night, the band’s support act had an unusual name – The Beatles. They were on a paltry £20 for the night, negotiated by their manager Brian Epstein. It seemed to be fair recompense for an up-and-coming group – billed as ‘Merseyside’s Joy’ – who were playing distant second fiddle to a showband described as ‘Ireland’s Pride’. To outside observers, it must have seemed like a strange double act.
“The Beatles were put on the bill to give them exposure because we were going to draw a big crowd,” Brendan Bowyer recalled. “I remember a lot of their performance. Their first song was Hey! Baby, which was Bruce Channel’s No. 1 hit at that time. They did Twist and Shout. They also performed If You Gotta Make a Fool of Somebody, which was later recorded by Freddie and the Dreamers.
“Afterwards, I remember being at the stage door chatting with Paul McCartney, who must have been only 19 years old. I can recall his baby face and how he sang the high notes in the show. He had a bag of chips in his hand. He was looking at our Mercedes bus and our roadies, and he was very impressed.
“I know I gave him some encouraging words and said that if they stuck together they would do very well. And, of course, they did do very well – six months later, they were riding high in the British charts. As our manager T. J. Byrne said later, ‘We walked out the door that night to become the biggest thing in Ireland. The Beatles walked out to become the biggest thing in the world.’”