Allan Williams, the Beatles‘ first manager and booking agent during the band’s time in Hamburg, Germany in 1960, died Friday at the age of 86.
Liverpool’s Jacaranda, the Williams-founded coffeehouse/music venue that was frequented by John Lennon when he was a student at the Liverpool Art College, confirmed Williams’ death on Facebook, the Guardian reports.
“His legacy has allowed us to remain at the heart of the Liverpool music scene for almost 60 years, and his memory will live on through every band that plays our famous stage,” the venue wrote. “Allan, you will be missed. All of our thoughts and wishes go to his family and his wife Beryl.”
Today our founder and the man who discovered the Beatles passed away at the age of 86
Allan Williams, you will be missed pic.twitter.com/Mh7sq5Er4q
— The Jacaranda (@jacarandalpool) December 30, 2016
From May to August 1960, the Beatles – then John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and bassist Stuart Sutcliffe – played occasional gigs at the Jacaranda and the Blue Angel, another venue owned by Williams.
“I was just glad to have been there in the 60s, at the start of it all. I’ve always been proud of the Beatles and proud and happy to have been just a small cog in the wheel of the most famous group in the world,” Williams told the Liverpool Echo in 2010. “A lot of people have told me ‘I would have loved to have been there’ and it was a lot of fun – but we didn’t know we were making history. It was such a good time, though, and I’ve got no regrets – they were exciting days. But no one knew the Beatles would go on to achieve what they did.”
It was Williams who drove the Beatles to Hamburg in August 1960 to begin what proved to be their formative residency in the German city. With the band in need of a drummer, Williams claimed to have auditioned Pete Best, the band’s first drummer.
“We probably met with the van outside Allan Williams’ club, the Jacaranda. There were the five of us and then Allan, his wife Beryl and [promoter] Lord Woodbine,” Harrison recalled of the journey to Hamburg in The Beatles Anthology. “It was cramped. The van didn’t even have seats; we had to sit on our amplifiers. We drove down to Harwich and got the boat to the Hook of Holland.”
Williams remained Beatles’ booking agent for the beginning of the Hamburg tenure; however, after the band secured their own residency at the city’s Top Ten club, they parted ways with Williams over a disagreement over his 10 percent fee.
In 1962, before Brian Epstein became manager of the Beatles, he approached Williams to see whether he had outstanding contractual links to the band. Williams didn’t, but he warned Epstein, “Don’t touch them with a fucking bargepole; they will let you down,” The Beatles Bible writes.
A frequent featured guest at worldwide Beatles conventions, Williams published his memoir The Man Who Gave The Beatles Away in the mid-Seventies. Williams was also responsible for salvaging the 1962 live recording that became Live! at the Star-Club in Hamburg, Germany; 1962 after recovering the tapes from an abandoned office building.