The Beatles in Liverpool- In association with Merseyguide
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Cavern story
'A basement at number 10 Matthew Street, Liverpool 2 on the 16th January 1957'. That's day and the location when alternative live music was born, that is the day the 'Cavern Club' opened its doors for the first time. On the bill that night was a Sciffle group and three Jazz bands. Little did the bands know, but they were playing the opening night of the 20th century's most famous nightclub.

The man who created the Cavern Club was called Alan Sytner. Prior to the Cavern, Alan owned two other nightclubs in Liverpool - the West Coast Jazz Club and the 21 Jazz Club. These were fairly successful, but Alan wanted to open a new and much more innovative club. He needed ideas for the new club and on a holiday in France he found some.

While visiting Paris's Jazz district, on the West Bank, where many clubs were actually built into caves, Alan decided on a design for a new club. It would be based on one of the Paris clubs he particularly liked, it was called 'Le Caveau'. The club resembled a series of caves (a Cavern), each small and damp, but amazingly atmospheric. Sound travelled around the club beautifully, especially the sound of a Jazz trumpet, which Alan was obviously was a fan of.

Back in Liverpool the search began for a similar venue in the city centre. Due to the fact that there are no caves in the city centre (though there are further along the river), Alan set his sights on a group of cellars in the Mathew Street. Used in the war as an air raid shelter, the cellars were perfect. With their small archways and lengthy vaults, the cellars hugely resembled the caves of Paris, Alan had found his venue.

The Doors Open
The opening act at the club was band called 'The Merseysippi Jazz Band', a band still heard today! They played to a bulging 600 people, with double that amount locked out in the cold. The Cavern was an instant success. Within 3 years membership totalled an unparalleled 20,000 people, bands came to play there from all over the world, and the club became a national focal point in the UK Jazz scene. History was in 1959 already being made.

The Skiffle Era
While mainstream Jazz played centre stage at the Cavern in its early days, another musical genre called 'Skiffle' was forcing its way on to Cavern's play list - "A type of folk music with Jazz and Blues influence" (Oxford Concise 1996 Ed). Though well established in the US since the 1940's, Skiffle only really became popular in the UK during the late 50's. The first notable band to play Skiffle at the Cavern was the 'Gin Mill Skiffle Group', a local band whom was formed by Tony Davis and Mick Groves (later of the Spinners).

Skiffle grew and grew at the club, until it was decided to use the Skiffle bands as launching pad for a new lunchtime opening. The lunchtime sessions were created to target city centre workers who would during the night time prefer to socialise in their own respective areas outside the city centre. The sessions proved a huge success, which even attracted school children due its daytime opening and no-alcohol policies (some say that alcohol was smuggled in regardless though).

 


11th January 1957
Opening Night Line Up


Coney Island Sciffle Group
Merseysippi Jazz Band
Walt City Jazzmen
Ralph Watmough Jazz Band




Stage at the 'new' Cavern


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