Origin of the Beatles Name

The Beatles is the best-selling band of all time and consistently ranks in the top ten rock bands of all time. But this legendary band did not start out with the misspelled name of an insect. As the group evolved so did the band’s name, undergoing several colorful name changes (including creating an alter-ego, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in 1967). In 1957, the band debuted as the Blackjacks. The band consisted of John Lennon (guitar and vocals), Pete Shotten (washboard), Rod Davis (banjo), Eric Griffiths (guitar) and Colin Hanton (drums); bass guitar was played by a variety of people: Len Garry, Bill Smith, Ivan Vaughan, and Nigel Whalley. When John Lennon realized the name was already being used by an established band, he changed the group’s name to The Quarry Men. It was an appropriate appellation, since all the lads lived in the Quarry Bank area and attended Quarry Bank High School.

In early 1958, Paul McCartney joined the band, replacing Pete Shotten. Shortly after, George Harrison joined the band, replacing Eric Griffiths. The band performed as The Quarry Men until the end of 1959. Starting in November, the band performed several gigs as Johnny and the Moondogs. By then the band consisted of Lennon, McCartney, Harrison, Hanton, and John Lowe. On April 23 and 24, 1960, Lennon and McCartney performed as the Nerk Twins at the Fox and Hounds Bar. In early 1960, the band consisted of Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Stu Sutcliffe. According to Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn, in January 1960, Sutcliffe began a discussion of naming the band the Beatals as a tribute to another insect-theme band: Buddy Holly and The Crickets. The misspelling was intentional: “beat” rather than “beet” because the band was a beat band. Another Beatles biographer presents a slightly different inspiration for the name. According to Hunter Davies who wrote The Beatles (2009), the band’s publicist, Derek Taylor, explained that the name of the band was inspired by a rival bike gang in the film The Wild One (1953), starring Marlon Brando. Regardless of the real inspiration, the spirited discussion led to the band’s next name: Long John & the Silver Beetles, followed by several variations: The Silver Beetles, The Silver Beats, The Silver Beatles. Finally, in August the band, perhaps exhausted by all the name changes, settled once and for all on a final name: The Beatles — a name that would usher in decades of rampant Beatlemania.

For further reading: The Beatles (revised edition) by Hunter Davies, W.W. Norton (2009). The Complete Beatles Chronicle: The Definitive Day-By-Day Guide To The Beatles’ Entire Career by Mark Lewisohn, Chicago Review Press (2010). The Band Name Book by Noel Hudson, Boston Mills Press (2008). http://www.wikipedia.com. http://www.iamthebeatles.com/article1409.html

 

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