Early Beatles collaborator, Tony Sheridan, who fronted the Beatles' first professional recording sessions in 1961 in Hamburg, Germany, died on February 16th from an undisclosed illness at age 72, according to Beatles Examiner. It was Sheridan's single -- in which the Beatles were billed as the Beat Brothers -- which spurred future manager Brian Epstein to seek out the "Fab Four," then playing at Liverpool's Cavern Club, and eventually manage them. Over the years, the eight songs the Beatles recorded for Polydor -- with then-drummer Pete Best -- have been reissued literally dozens of times, and earlier this year the recent release The Beatles With Tony Sheridan - First Recordings: 50th Anniversary Edition lost out in the "Best Album Notes" category to the Ray Charles box set, Singular Genius: The Complete ABC Singles.
Paul McCartney, who first performed with Sheridan at Hamburg's legendary Top Ten Club said in a statement: "Tony was a good guy who we knew and worked with from early days in Hamburg. We regularly watched his late night performances and admired his style. He will be missed."
Pete Best posted on his Facebook page: "It is with the greatest of regrets I heard that my friend and a man I spent many hours with on stage, recorded with and regarded as a very special musician passed away this morning. I will miss him, but he will always live in my memories. Rest in peace Mr. Tony Sheridan (The Teacher), Pete."
Noted Beatles author, Mark Lewisohn told Beatles Examiner: "It's really very sad to see Tony go. I went to Germany in 2006 to interview him for my new books, and he had a young wife, Anna, who was clearly taking loving care of him. She then died of cancer in 2011, age 33, and it hit Tony very hard. He went downhill fast after that. I've always sensed Tony's frustration that he was famous only for his connection to the Beatles, but such is the immensity of their shadow, anyone with an association tends to be remembered for that and only that. It can be a cross to bear.
Lewisohn went on to add: "So it's worth remembering that when the Beatles first met Tony, in Hamburg in 1960, they were the excited ones. He'd been a regular performer on Oh! Boy, Jack Good's weekly (UK) TV show, which they always watched. He was a star in their eyes, known for being the first man simultaneously to play electric guitar and sing on British television, an important first. Tony's career had several highs and many lows, but his part in the Beatles' rise was significant, and he earned his place in a great history."
The Beatles' sessions backing Tony Sheridan took place on June 22nd to 23rd, 1961 in Hamburg, with the band backing taping the tracks "My Bonnie (Lies Over the Ocean)," "The Saints (When The Saints Go Marching In)," "Why," "Take Out Some Insurance On Me Baby," and "Nobody's Child" -- along with two tracks without Sheridan, the John Lennon-George Harrison instrumental, "Cry For A Shadow" and Lennon taking the lead vocal on a rocked up take of the standard, "Ain't She Sweet," after Gene Vincent's version. On May 24th, 1962 the Beatles recorded one last tune backing Sheridan -- "Sweet Georgia Brown."
Over the years, John Lennon and George Harrison said that the Beatles were at the top of their game as performers during their Hamburg era, which spanned from 1960 to 1962. Pete Best told us that the long hours the band played made them a top attraction: "I mean, we didn't realize how long we were going to be playing. And what we played in Liverpool was an hour, possibly two hours maximum, something like that which was par for the course. But when we got out to Germany we got told we were playing six, seven hours a night -- possibly 15, 20 minutes off, y'know on the hour. There's nothing you can do about it. You're there, you're not gonna contest it. It's just like, 'Okay, we've got a job to do, let's just get on with it.'"