Allan Richard Williams (born 17 March 1930) – (December 30, 2016) is a former businessman and promoter and the original booking agent and first manager of The Beatles. He personally drove the van to take the young band to Hamburg, Germany in 1960, where they gained the vital show business experience that led to their emergence on the world stage.
In 1958 Williams leased a former watch-repair shop at 21 Slater Street, Liverpool, which he converted into a coffee bar. He named the venue the Jacaranda, after an exotic species of ornamental flowering tree, jacaranda mimosifolia. The Jac (as it became known) opened in September 1958. The Beatles were frequent customers, with John Lennon and Stuart Sutcliffe attending Liverpool Art College nearby and Paul McCartney being at Liverpool Institute adjacent to the college. Asking for the chance to play the club, Williams instead put them to work redecorating, with Lennon and Sutcliffe painting a mural for the Ladies room. Finally, the Beatles began playing at the Jac on occasions. Between May and August 1960, Williams secured a number of bookings for the group at other places. One was backing a local stripper, named Janice; when she discovered the Beatles were not familiar with the “Gypsy Fire Dance”, they instead backed her with a rendition of the Harry Lime theme tune.
Williams gives an excellent and extended interview in the 1980 documentary, “The Compleat Beatles”, in which he tells the story of preparing the group for their Hamburg venture. He recounts having to reassure Howie Casey, leader of The Seniors who were already established in Hamburg, who had cautioned Allan: “Listen, we’ve got a good thing going here in Hamburg. But if you send that bum group, the Beatles, you’re going to louse it up for all of us.” He also recalls auditioning drummer Pete Best, asking him to do a drum roll, which he did “Not too cleverly”…but good enough.
In August 1960, with Pete Best joining as the group’s new drummer, Williams and The Beatles left Liverpool in a small, crowded van which took them to Hamburg for the first time. He continued to get them bookings, until he fell out with The Beatles in 1961 over the payment of his ten per cent commission in a later trip to Hamburg. Williams had no further business dealings with the group and was especially disappointed that Sutcliffe, of whom he was especially fond, was the one who told him the band would not pay. In 1962, before Brian Epstein became the band’s manager, he contacted Williams to make sure there were no remaining contractual ties. There were none, but Williams forthrightly told Epstein: ‘Don’t touch them with a fucking bargepole, they will let you down.’
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