The actual genesis of The Beatles is a bit nebulous and could be argued. However, most Beatles historians cite the date of July 6, 1957 as the official beginning of The Beatles.
John Lennon, a Liverpool guitar player (and local troublemaker, part-time shoplifter and full-time egomaniac) had been playing a few local gigs in the area for a year or so. John's initial band was called The Blackjacks, consisting of a few of his mates from school. Soon thereafter, the band's name was changed to The Quarrymen, in honor of their present school, Quarry Bank High School.
It was on July 6, 1957 that John and his ragtag band were playing twice at the St. Peter's Church fete in the Woolton parish. This date is significant as possibly the single most important seminal date in the history of rock music. Why? It was on this day that John Lennon and Paul McCartney first met.
The Quarrymen, led by John, played on the back of a coal truck, giving one performance in the afternoon and another in the early evening. Several cameras were out that day, and the very brash Lennon took the lead vocals on a few of the popular rock'n'roll songs of the day. Lennon was decked out in a checked shirt, tight pants ("drainies'), and his hair was slicked-up in the fashion of his supreme idol, Elvis Presley.
The event was a bit bittersweet, too, although Lennon didn't know it at the time. John's beloved mother, Julia, was there in the crowd, rabidly cheering her teenage son on. As a sad sidebar, Julia was to be killed tragically, a little over a year later, in a car accident. Julia was killed by a drunken off-duty policeman as she was walking across the street to catch a bus. John was never to really get over the loss of his mother, and called it "the worst thing that ever happened to me."
Paul had been invited to watch The Quarrymen by a mutual friend, and he watched with curious interest as John sang. John and his Quarrymen were actually scheduled to play twice that day, once in the afternoon and later in the evening. After the band's first concert Paul was introduced to John, who, Paul later recalled, had breath smelling of illegally-obtained beer.
The two budding musicians were introduced by Paul's pal, Ivan Vaughn. Interestingly, Ivan was born on the exact same day as Paul (June 18, 1942). After a brief introduction, Paul played John the song "Twenty Flight Rock" by Eddie Cochrane. John carefully noticed Paul's talent, even at that young age (Paul was 18 months younger than John -almost an eternity for teenagers). Paul also impressed the older Lennon with a few chords John was unfamiliar with.
John was suitably impressed. "I dug him," John was to recall. John remembered asking Paul to join his fledgling band the next day. Paul recalls a longer time lag and recalls bicycling around when Ivan rode up to him and relayed John's message, asking him if he wanted to join The Quarrymen.
John recalled that he had to make the momentous decision by weighing in two factors. "I was the kingpin," he was to recall. John knew he was, by far, more talented than his fellow bandmates. But he also knew how talented Paul was from their initial meeting. He instinctively knew that with Paul's obvious talent and personality, his agreed-upon and unquestioned position as the group's leader would be in jeopardy, or at least lessened to a degree. "I had to decide whether to make myself stronger or make the group stronger," John recalled. Fortunately, for the sake of music fans the world over, John decided to "make the group stronger" and asked Paul to join.
Although Paul was invited and he accepted sometime in July of 1957, he did not join the Quarrymen right away. Paul and his kid brother Michael were scheduled to go away on a summer Boy Scout jamboree in the following weeks. It was at this Boy Scout jamboree that the young Paul made his public singing debut, getting up and singing in front of his fellow Scouts and Scoutmasters, along with brother Mike. On October 18, 1957, Paul McCartney made his actual singing debut with John Lennon and their now-mutual band, The Quarrymen. The historic occasion took place at the local dance joint called The Conservative Club.
Paul was extremely nervous, and during his first-ever solo number, his voice kept cracking, much to the gleeful delight of John, who kept breaking up every time Paul's voice cracked. Ridicule aside, John and Paul were soon to become inseparable "best mates." The two would often play hookey from school together, sneak into Paul's empty house, and play records, chat, and fill Paul's dad's pipe with tea leaves and "have a smoke."
Paul was soon to show John the first song he ever composed, "I Lost My Little Girl." This spurred John into composing, too, and soon John came up with his first composition, the similarly titled "Hello Little Girl." Soon the two boys started composing songs together. Paul kept the songs neatly arranged in a notebook and each new tune was listed as "another Lennon-McCartney original."
The two soon made a lifelong pact and earnestly shook on it. This handshake was the only actual bond the two had; they never signed a written contract as co-composers. Although both John and Paul continued to compose songs on their own, too, they never broke their pact and every song, whether solo or co-written, was given the Lennon-McCartney label.
Strangely, on the Beatles' first album, 1963's Please Please Me, the songs were credited as "McCartney-Lennon." But this was to be the exception to the rule, a John's slightly stronger personality made sure the "Lennon-McCartney" handle stuck forever after. Even when Paul composed a motion picture score completely alone for a 1966 film called The Family Way, he still made sure his partner Lennon received half of all royalties. With over 200 Lennon-McCartney songs composed over the next decade, John and Paul were to become the most beloved and successful songwriting team in the history of popular music.