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Interview: Author on 'The Fab One Hundred and Four' who helped shape the Beatles

The cover of "The Fab One Hundred and Four."
The cover of "The Fab One Hundred and Four."
Dalton Watson Fine Books

Introduction: Author David Bedford has followed up his amazing book “Liddypool: The Birthplace of the Beatles” with an incredible new book, “The Fab One Hundred and Four,” that goes even deeper into Beatles history. It profiles a dazzling range of people who had an impact of the Beatles' career with many of their stories told for the first time. Just some of who is featured in the 400-page book (and their connections to the Beatles) are Steve Calrow, who was backed by the Beatles at the Cavern, Lord Woodbine, poet Royston Ellis, Janice the Stripper, who the Silver Beetles backed on stage, and the Les Stuart Quartet, a George Harrison band before the Beatles. Mersey Beat founder and editor Bill Harry wrote the book's foreward.

Beatles Examiner asked Bedford a few questions about his book.

Q: What was the inspiration for the book?
David Bedford: When I was researching my first book, “Liddypool"," I was fascinated by the story of how The Quarrymen evolved into The Fab Four. In a chapter titled 'The Fab 27,' I tracked the band members and performers who appeared in the story from 1956 to 1962. When I told that story in the book, and illustrated it with a grid displaying every member and the different group names, there was so much interest in it that I felt there might be more to the story, another layer, for me to delve even deeper into the evolution of The Beatles. I remembered learning to play the guitar as a youngster and how important two of my friends were in helping me to learn and develop my playing. we played in a couple of groups together, and one friend, Derek, is still playing guitar with me today, over 30 years later!

“That made me think about the importance of those friends, family and performers who played a part in the lives of The Beatles, but have maybe never been mentioned before. There are obvious examples, like Julia Lennon who taught John to play, and Jim McCartney who helped Paul, but when I came across the story of Ian James, who taught Paul to play guitar, I knew I had to find out more. Who inspired them? Who gave them lessons? Who played and performed with them during those early years? I was just amazed at how many people there were.”

Q: How long did this book take to put together?
David Bedford: “I used some of the research I had gathered over the nine years it took to research and write 'Liddypool,' but I then spent the next three and half years researching, interviewing people and writing the book. From 'The Fab 27' in 'Liddypool,' it grew to The Fab 35, 46, 76, 98 and then to 104, the number relating to the number of people who feature in the story. I couldn't believe it when it reached 104, and I thought of the title of 'FAB one hundred and FOUR' -- so similar to the Fab Four. I also wanted to clarify in the title that it is the 'Evolution of The Beatles from The Quarrymen to the Fab Four, from 1956-1962.' It is about the family, friends and performers who helped shape The Beatles, each one playing their part.”

Q: What was the most surprising discovery?
David Bedford: “The most surprising and exciting discovery was that the very beginning of The Quarrymen, John's first group, was not the way we had always understood it to be -- the starting point of The Beatles changed. In 'Liddypool,' when I had interviewed Eric Griffiths, one of the founding members of The Quarrymen, he told me that a school friend called George Lee had suggested starting a group, but nobody knows what happened to him, and he was never in the group.

“In the summer of 2013, I received an email from someone who had read 'Liddypool' and was interested in that interview with Eric, because George Lee was his dad! Imagine my excitement! I was quickly put in touch with "George" Lee -- it turned out his real name was Geoff Lee, and the "George" was a nickname from school. He confirmed that he had suggested to John that he should start a skiffle group, and even gave John his first guitar, which changes Beatles history. This last bit of information also shows that the first guitar John owned was not the one purchased for him by his mother, but the one Geoff had given him, so we can prove that The Quarrymen started earlier than had first been thought. I then found a quote from John where he says the first guitar he played was borrowed from a school friend. Geoff had never been interviewed before and his story is told in "The Fab one hundred and Four" for the first time. I think that probably sums up the book for me: giving credit to the people who have never received it, for their part in the story of The Beatles. Each of the 104 is a small piece of the jigsaw, but without them, we wouldn't have the Fab Four.

“I am also delighted to reveal for the first time, photographs of Silver Beatles drummer Norman Chapman, who was possibly the unluckiest man in the Beatles' story. I managed to track down his daughter who kindly shared with me, exclusively, family photographs and his story, which had never been done before. There have never been any photos of him in a book, on the web, and only one short radio interview many years ago, so to find this much information about him, together with around a dozen photos, was one of the most thrilling moments in putting the book together.”

Q: How much more of the Beatles' story is there to discover?
David Bedford: “I think my book shows that, no matter how many years we spend researching, there will always be more to discover, and that there is no such thing as a 'definitive' book. Especially when it comes to the early history, there is always the chance of somebody coming forward, like Geoff's son did, and giving us a new perspective on the story. Maybe it won't be a game-changer like Geoff's story, but it will give us another angle to gain a better understanding of the history of The Beatles. And, living in Liverpool, I am in the ideal place to meet more and more people who were around at the time.”

Q: How do you interpret Paul McCartney's song "Early Days" as an author?
David Bedford: “Another great song from Paul, and he has returned again to the telling of his early life, and I think this is fair comment from him. At no stage would I ever say that I know more than him, or that he was wrong, and I can't even imagine how it must feel to have so many authors, bloggers, historians and 'experts' writing about your life! It must be frustrating, maybe, but that is the price of fame. I would never go down the route of looking for scandal, gossip or that type of story, and only want to find out more for myself as a fan, and then to share it with other fans. I would love the chance to interview him myself, but maybe I will have to settle for the job I do, and talk to the people who were there with him at the time. I only want to celebrate the lives and contributions of The Beatles, though I can't say the same for all authors, but that is how like to write.”

Stick with Beatles Examiner for the best and most complete coverage of the Beatles 50th and don't miss our special roundup: Beatles 101: Read all about it: Our fab stories on the Beatles' 50th anniversary.

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