Childhood friend of The Beatles: “I carried their guitars into venues for free”

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One of the last people alive to have worked with legendary English rock band, The Beatles, has lifted the lid on his time spent with the group.

Famously quoted by Paul McCartney back in 2004 as “being better to ask about it [information on The Beatles]” than McCartney himself, Tony Bramwell grew up in Liverpool with George Harrison, Paul McCartney and John Lennon.

Mr Bramwell, said: “Me and George lived about half a mile apart. He was about seven and I was five, and we would play Robin Hood – I’ve still got the scar on my neck.”

However, it wasn’t long after when Bramwell began noticing Harrison (the youngest of The Beatles), becoming musically orientated before his eyes.

By the age of 11, Harrison was having guitar lessons and would regularly visit Bramwell’s home to trade records, between his job delivering meat on a bicycle.

Recalling the early years, Bramwell, added: “I would lend him my Buddy Holly’s [records], he would lend me his Chuck Berry’s. He used to come round and he would be playing his guitar along to the records.”

Bramwell said that he didn’t see Harrison for some years after, as they attended different schools.

At this time, Bramwell discovered that one of his neighbours was Gerry Marsden (who later became singer of Merseybeat band Gerry and the Pacemakers), who he went with to local ballrooms and clubs.

Tony Bramwell

Tony Bramwell

To get into the venues for free, Bramwell would carry his guitar for him – something he would later do for Harrison, Lennon and McCartney.

News of a group forming called The Silver Beatles (a name they originally coined whilst on their first tour) found Tony from Hamburg, where they often toured to improve their skills and to build their fan base.

Upon hearing the news, Bramwell (unaware childhood friend Harrison was a

Beatle) went to see them for their first UK gig when they came back.

Talking about how he accidentally became their tour manager, Bramwell, added: “There was the number 61 bus coming through and George was there with his guitar.

“I asked him where he was going and he said he was playing tonight, so I carried his guitar in for him. Soon enough John [Lennon] and Paul [McCartney] were turning round and saying ‘you can carry our guitars too’.

“I became what you call a ‘roadie’ nowadays.”

In 1962, when Brian Epstein became The Beatles manager, he offered Bramwell the chance to become full-time in his work with the Liverpudlian group, to which he accepted.

Bramwell’s roles would include going through offers of gigs for The Beatles – deciding which ones were worthwhile for them, whilst also making hotel and travel arrangements for them.

The Beatles were not the only band Bramwell was working for alongside Epstein.

Gerry and the Pacemakers and Billy J. Kramer (originally Billy Kramer before Lennon told him the ‘J’ made him sound cooler), were also used on tour packages that Bramwell had to organise.

What made The Beatles different then?

Bramwell explained: “They [other bands at the time]didn’t have that same work ethic. The Beatles had an unbelievable work ethic, they just never stopped.

“From this they became the biggest thing in the world. There was only Charley Chaplin and Mickey Mouse that were better known at that time than The Beatles.”

Bramwell started Apple Films as part of The Beatles Apple Corps after Brian Epstein’s death.

As part of this, Bramwell made all of The Beatles’ promo films, including their psychedelic bus ‘Rockumentary’ musical, Magical Mystery Tours, which featured all four Beatles and their hits ‘Penny Lane’, ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ and ‘Fool on the Hill’.

Even after the band’s eventual break-up, Bramwell continued to connect with each of The Beatles and made films with them individually.

Photographs provided by Tony Bramwell. 

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