Goldmine Editor Greg Loesher writes:
"John: Our upcoming Beatles issue is cover-dated Nov. 3, 2000 and is #529. It should be out in the marketplace the week of Oct. 16.
     We have a lot of articles planned for it, including a Klaus Voorman interview; a Beatles film roundup, including info on the re-release of A Hard Day's Night; Beatles book reviews and plenty of other cool things.
     - Greg Loescher,
     Editor, Goldmine Magazine"

NOTE: The Ottawa Beatles Site wishes to give special thanks to editor Greg Loescher of Goldmine for allowing us to e-publish Gillian G. Gaar's excellent interview with Cavern DJ Bob Wooler.

DISCLAIMER: By linking to Goldmine (click the logo above), the Ottawa Beatle Site does not receive any remuneration from their magazine whatsoever. We merely ask that you visit their website and possibly consider subscribing to their great magazine if you've not already done so and to keep an eye out for their "special Beatle edition" slated for October. When the publication date draws closer, I'll announce this a couple of times again on Rmb to serve notice for those who are interested in obtaining a copy.

- John Whelan, Chief Researcher for the Ottawa Beatle Site.


by Gillian G. Gaar, music reporter for GOLDMINE
Goldmine publication, November 8, 1996 in edition #425
Ottawa Beatle Site publication, August 15, 2000.

As the Beatles made their transformation from local act to national stars during the early 1960s, DJ/MC Bob Wooler was there every step of the way. Best known as the resident DJ at Liverpool's Cavern Club (that's Wooler you hear introducing the Fabs in the only known footage of the group at the legendary venue from Aug. 22, 1963, when the band was filmed performing "Some Other Guy"), Wooler was in the unique position of being able to watch not just the Beatles but the entire Liverpool scene ascend into international renown.

Now in his '60s, Wooler still resides in Liverpool. Thought not as much of a club habitué as he was in the '60s and '70s, Wooler keeps in contact with various members from Liverpool's rock past, in addition to making regular appearances at the city's annual Beatles convention. And he still enjoys spinning tales from his past for an appreciative audience, as he does in this interview -- as he said, "From the goldmine in Liverpool of yesteryear to the Goldmine of today!"

Wooler was born in Liverpool Jan. 19, 1932. By the early '50s, he'd secured a respectable job as a clerk for the railway at Garston Docks, but had aspirations to be a songwriter. "I've always been interested in songwriting," he said. "I was inspired by what I consider the really great songwriters who emanated from your country; Lawrence Hart, Johnny Mercer, Cole Porter. All pre-rock'n'roll songwriters, by the way. I was essentially a lyricist, rather than a dot merchant [a music writer]. I had written songs with lyrics and music, but it was essentially the words. And I was looking around for someone who would write the music for me."

By the mid-'50s, the skiffle craze hit Britain, largely as a result of Lonnie Donnegan's success with his single "Rock Island Line." Though not enamored of skiffle ("You just strummed away. You didn't really need the ability to play; it was do-it-yourself kind of music"), Wooler's entry into the world of showbiz came about when he managed a local skiffle outfit, the Kingstrums.

"In the railway office were two lads who told me they formed a skiffle group," Wooler explained. "And I had a tape recorder, a reel-to-reel job. We didn't have cassette players, this was '56. I brought it down to the office Christmas party and they asked me if I would tape them at one of their rehearsals. I said yes, okay, and I took it along to their house. And from that moment on, I got deeper and deeper involved with this group. They were called the Kingstrums because they were from King Street, in Garston. I didn't give them the name, by the way; they got it."

The Kingstrums' existence was short-lived, but Wooler had found his calling. "The group only lasted six months," he said. "Many groups don't last very long, and if you blink, you miss them. So I called them blink bands; they come and go, they're as fickle as the weather. But nevertheless, I'd been bitten by the rock'n'roll bug. And one of the members of the group, Reg Bernstein, was interested in country music, and he got me interested in that. I accepted that more readily than rock'n'roll, because those country songs were terribly long-suffering and suicidal, and the lyrics are very well done. So I wrote some country songs, one of which was recorded by Bill Brady & The Ranchers on an LP called Liverpool Goes Country."

As skiffle, country and R&B mixed and merged to create rock'n'roll, Wooler found himself in a curious position, torn between his desire to further his career as a songwriter, yet not particularly fond of the emerging musical style. "When I moved into rock'n'roll, I did that with misgivings," he said. "When I'd book the Kingstrums and I'd visit all these venues, I'd think, 'My God, what am I doing in these halls? They look so menacing!' Nothing happened, fortunately, but still. And these skiffle-cum-rock songs, it's just as though they had been written overnight. You hone a song by working on it."

But the music's growing commercial appeal made Wooler think he could use success in the rock'n'roll sphere to cross over into other areas. "Lionel Bart of Oliver fame got himself involved with rock'n'roll songs with Tommy Steele and Cliff Richard," he said. "And he got a foot in the doorway and this gave him fame and fortune. And thus he was able, in 1960, to write a very ambitious musical called Oliver and he never looked back. And I thought, well, why not do the same as he did? But it was a different for me. I was living 200 miles away from London, in the provinces. And nobody wanted to know Hicksville, which Liverpool was, along with all the other provincial towns.

"However, I was determined to acquire a knowledge to allow me to get involved in these rock'n'roll songs, in the hope, really, that I would meet some group who would sing my songs," Wooler continued. "But they were not at all interested in my songs. They were interested in the songs that Presley did or Buddy Holly. But I was increasingly dissatisfied with my job on the railway; it was just an ordinary clerk's job and this showbiz bug had caught me. I wanted to get my songs known."

In addition to working on his songwriting, Wooler also began to MC ("compere") and DJ at Liverpool venues. "The reason I was deejaying was there was no one else presenting these groups properly," he explained . "And I thought, 'It's terrible these groups just going on with no introduction.' No one bothered to introduce them. So I did this and I gradually went on the turntable as well." By 1960, Wooler was a fixture at halls all around Liverpool, and had met up with another key player in the Liverpool music scene, Allan Williams.

Williams was a small-time promoter who first sent Liverpool groups (including the Beatles) to Hamburg, Germany, and owned various clubs, including the Blue Angel and the Jacaranda. Williams and Wooler met when Williams was looking for local acts to add to a planned Eddie Cochran/Gene Vincent bill in May 1960. Though Cochran died in an automobile accident, Vincent managed to appear and the show was a great success. By the year's end, Williams opened his most ambitious club yet, the Top Ten, and convinced Wooler to give up his day job.

"He said, 'I'd like you very much to go full time at this club,'" Wooler remembered. "He's a great persuader, Allan is; 'You're not really cut out to be a railway clerk.' Well, it was a safe job, and I was of the old school; you don't give up your job irresponsibly. However, I did. And that was it! Little did I know that the job would only last six days because the club was torched! It was torched and I was out on a limb.

"I could've gone back and asked for my job at the railway but I felt I couldn't possibly do that," Wooler continued. "And that's when, a blessing in disguise, I got a job at the Cavern. And none of my involvement with the Beatles and all the other groups would have taken place, really, on a full-time basis, but for that, having packed in my railway job, and then having been thrown out of the club job."

December 1960 also marked the month when Wooler first became involved with the Beatles, whom he had met in the late '50s. "I was deejaying at Holyoake Dance Hall, near Penny Lane in Liverpool," he said. "And at the bus stop I met two teen-agers. I could tell they were in a group by the guitars they were carrying. They were waiting for the bus, like I was. I didn't know them from Adam and I asked them who they were; I said, 'I'm working just over the road there, at Holyoake Dance Hall, and it's possible I could fix you up with some bookings there.'

"And it was George Harrison and Paul McCartney. But they told me that they couldn't do any bookings at the moment because they hadn't any drummer. That was the first time I met them. Then I met them briefly at the Grovsner Ballroom in Liscard [June 6, 1960], when they'd just come back from that two weeks in Scotland backing Johnny Gentle. I went to the ballroom because Gerry and The Pacemakers were on; it was incidental that the Beatles were there. And I didn't see them perform; I waited for Gerry to come off and then we went to the pub. So I didn't see the Beatles perform then."

Wooler met up with the Beatles again after they'd returned from their first season at Hamburg, "rather in disgrace, because they were rather booted out, " he said. "I was then working for a North End Liverpool promoter who had a string of dances, and they had no work, and I fixed them up with what turns out to be a memorable date. And it's not just me saying that. In Who's Who the British edition, in McCartney's entry, of all the bookings and appearances they made around the world, like Shea Stadium or the Cavern dates, it singles out as the most significant date that the Beatles performed the one I got them on Tuesday, the 27th of December, 1960.

"For six pounds, by the way, that's all the promoter would pay them. Not six pounds per person, but for the whole group. I'd said, 'Look, I'm doing the show, I'll put you on just for half-an-hour, at a very good spot in the middle of the night. Please do it.' And they had no other work, so they did it. And that's the date listed in Who's Who as being the most significant date. A turning-point date. A landmark date."

What made this date significant was that the Beatles were an entirely different group compared to the one Liverpool audiences had seen before. During their tenure in Hamburg, they'd played more hours than they had in their entire career to date, and they were now a powerhouse act. "They just wowed everybody," Wooler remembered. "And it was so bewildering what they were doing. Because they were doing nothing special, except there was a certain energy that no other group radiated. I have a word for the occasion, if you'll pardon me: I was flabbergasted!

"Because fab was the word, of course, it was the word around Liverpool long before you people acquired it," Wooler added. "But you were the ones who called them the Fab Four, not us over here. The Beatles started as five, but when Stuart Sutcliffe stayed behind in Hamburg [after the groups second trip to the city], they returned as a foursome. An awesome foursome, but they were still not known as the Fab Four. When they conquered the States in '64, someone over there called them the Fab Four because they were saying 'fab.' All the groups were saying fab; it was not just the Beatles who devised that, it just came about. Because all the groups said, 'Oh, we did a fabulous show,' and it was contracted to 'fab show.'"

Under Wooler's auspices, the Beatles quickly became the resident band at the Cavern. "I got them their first booking at the Cavern, a lunchtime date, in February '61," Wooler said, for the sum of six pounds (as the Quarry Men, the group played the venue twice before, in August '57 and January '58). "And from that moment on, they did lunchtimes and evenings, all-nighters. Their last appearance at the Cavern was Saturday, Aug. 3, it sticks in my memory, in '63. So they had about two and a half years there. They did a hell of a lot of bookings at the Cavern. They preferred that kind of music. Real, down to earth rock'n'roll music, on the raw side, on the raucous side. Not this pretty-boy music that Cliff Richard did. The Cavern was ideal for the Beatles. Because it was a down to earth place, very basic, and their music was very basic."

Over the course of the next three years, Wooler got to know the Beatles well. "Pete Best was quite different from the others," he said. "And Paul was quite different. He always imagined himself as the leader. Although it was apparently John Lennon, because the Beatles sprang from the Quarry Men, and John was the leader of that group. George was the quiet one. But you could always have a conversation with him. He was always into guitars, and I brought my LP of Les Paul and Mary Ford, which I lent him, with this multi-tracking, and he was knocked out by it because he'd never heard that. And we always talked about these things. I always made it my business to try and read up on these things so I could talk with them, so the groups didn't think I was a total misfit. Because I was at least 10 years older than them.

"John, I was always disappointed with," Wooler continued. "This is just one example of him. He expressed an interest in a song called 'I Only Have Eyes For You.' It from a Hollywood musical in the '30s, when Dick Powell sang it. And I said 'Oh, I've got the record.' It was sung by Cleo Laine. So I lent him the record to learn the song. And I kept saying, 'Have you learned the song yet? I'd love to hear how you do it,' And he said, 'No, I'm working on it, though.' And events overtook them and he never got round to it. And I always feel bad about that, because I really think he would've done a nice job. Apparently it was for his Aunt Mimi; the song's of that era and she used to like it. So he was doing it for her."

The early '60s was a period of growth and discovery for Liverpool groups. Not believing they had any chance of real success, they were free to please themselves and make the music they wanted to. "They were very exciting times," Wooler said. "I was mainly doing one-night stands, and I was meeting new groups; I got to know all the groups. And it was not boring. Those evenings were not in any way boring. I learned how these groups are; they didn't resort to tears, but they certainly resorted to tantrums. Like, 'We're not going on first, Bob! What's your idea of putting us on first?' 'Well, someone's got to go on first. I'm putting you on first, but next you'll go on in a different spot.' Things like that.

"But all the time, I still had misgivings," Wooler admitted. "Another side of me would say, 'Why are you doing this? This is not what you really want!' I wrote some rock'n'roll songs, and I'd think, 'My God, you're writing rock'n'roll songs now!' Which I regarded as being not upwardly mobile but downwardly mobile! I thought this is the lower common denominator, writing these rock'n'roll songs. Because quite honestly, you know, these rock'n'roll films, like Rock Around The Clock and Don't Knock The Rock, they were really terrible! They were just junk pictures really."

Nonetheless, Wooler kept up his involvement with the music scene, which now extended to writing for "Merseyside's Own Entertainment Paper," Mersey Beat, launched by one of John Lennon's fellow students at Liverpool Art College, Bill Harry. In the issue of August 31-September 14 1961, Wooler, in his regular column "The Roving 1," wrote what turned out to be a highly prophetic piece about the Beatles. "I think The Beatles are No. 1 because they resurrected original-style rock'n'roll music," the article read in part. "They hit the scene when it had been emasculated by figures like Cliff Richard...This was the real thing. Here they were, first of five and then four human dynamos generating a beat which was irresistible...An act from beginning to end is a succession of climaxes...Such are the fantastic Beatles. I don't think anything like them will happen again."

"It was just an attempt to analyze the Beatles," Wooler said. "It's all in that article really, that they were this, that they were the other, and so on, and the other groups didn't have those vital ingredients. But what I found in the Beatles would not have really been sufficiently strong to have communicated throughout this country or throughout the world. It was in their songs. There was that magical ingredient about them, but it was the songs that were a clincher. If you nail it, boil it down, it's the songwriting that has made the Beatles such a monumental group. Not the mop-top look.

"But they didn't do many of their songs at the Cavern. I have a list of all the songs that they sang there. It was given to me by an avid Beatles fan of that era. And she typed it all out, this is way back, and she gave it to me, and she gave me who sang the song. And she listed 93 songs and only six of them were Beatle songs, their own compositions."

The songwriting ambitions of Wooler and the Lennon-McCartney team provided a rich topic of conversation. "I used to discuss this chiefly with Paul," said Wooler. "I did discuss songs with John, but he wasn't interested in my kind of songs. Whereas Paul McCartney was interested in what I had to say about songs, and Noel Coward, for instance. I talked to him about Noel Coward and how clever and how witty he was. And this is what I miss about rock'n'roll songs, the absence of wit. There's so very few of them have any wit about them. Which is very sad. They're all rather long-suffering, these songs. And all this pall rather appalled me. 'When I'm Sixty-Four' is really, I think, the only witty Beatles song, which is essentially a McCartney number. When I used to announce Paul at the Cavern, occasionally I'd say, 'Now Paul's going to sing a song of his own he's written; he's the Noel Coward of rock'n'roll!' I think he liked that appellation, that description."

Wooler also considered managing the group for a time. "I was virtually managing the Beatles in '61," he said. "They had no one. Allan Williams had relinquished the reins because he was busy opening another club and that was taking up full time. So I was working with the Beatles; getting them work, advising them, etc. And they were such a handful, I realized I could not possibly devote myself to them, because I had to make a living doing these gigs around these halls. And they wouldn't necessarily be on the same bill at the hall when I was gigging. Another thing they really wanted was someone who had money. And this is where Brian Epstein came in. He was from a well-off family. He had a car, I didn't. And he had a charm and sophistication I certainly didn't.

"When I got to know Brian, I asked him what were his impressions of the Cavern and the Beatles," Wooler continued. "And he said, 'Well, I thought the Cavern was a terrible place. I didn't really like the playing in such a fearful surrounding.' But he got used to it. After all, he was a person whose favorite composer was Sibelius. He like all the sophistications which went with the philharmonic hall and symphony concert. He moved and grooved with the theatrical set. He spent a time in RADA. And so the playhouse Theatre and the Royal Court Theatre in Liverpool were his stomping grounds. So Brian wasn't smitten by the Cavern, but he was certainly smitten by those four leather-clad lads on stage. He came, he saw, and he was conquered by them. And from that moment on they became an obsession. They could do no wrong as far as he was concerned.

"When they turned up late for a booking, I played hell with them," Wooler remembered. "One time Brian was present; he was sitting in the band room waiting for them. And I'd go in the band room and say, 'Where the hell are they, Brian? They should have been on this middle spot, the best spot. I've had to put the other group on and that means they'll have to be the last spot.' I didn't like them doing the last spot because people are going home, they had to catch their bus. And I said, 'Wait until I see them!' And he was astonished. He told me afterwards, 'You certainly tore into them about their punctuality.' And I said, 'I've got to Brian, Beatles or no Beatles.' Brian couldn't do a thing like that, you see. To him, they were so precious. They were more than a very special music act. There were in his mind, in his thoughts all the time. They obsessed him. And this was apparent."

Within a year of Epstein's arrival on the scene, the Beatles would have a recording contract. But even before a contract was secured, both Epstein and Wooler realized the Beatles were destined to reach audiences beyond Merseyside. "Brian had never been a manager before," Wooler pointed out. "He was tackling something new entirely. So you have to learn by trial and error. I was only too pleased that I was able to advise him. For instance, once he said, 'I've got the Beatles a booking in Manchester, Bob, at the Oasis club [Feb 2, 1962]. The fee hasn't been agreed. What do you pay Manchester groups when you have them at the Cavern, which will be a guide for me to what I will charge this club in Manchester.' I told him and I said, 'There's no reason you shouldn't add a fiver to it, because no one can equal the Beatles, Brian.' God knows what he asked for them, but I'm sure his charm, over the telephone would've worked wonders. He later said, 'Oh my God, they just won the audience over!' and I said, 'There's no question about it, is there, Brian? They're spreading their tentacles. First Liverpool, then Merseyside, now Manchester, next London, then America, then the world!'"

But before the world would learn of the Beatles, one further change would be made; drummer Pete Best was dismissed on the verge of the group recording their first single ("Love Me Do") and Ringo Starr brought in. "It was terrible," Wooler remembered. "I was there at the Cavern, and I didn't know that was going to be his last drumming appearance with them (Aug. 15, 1962). Brian said would I please stay behind at a pub, a late pub they went to because they wanted to talk to me about something. And I said okay. I finished the session about 11:30, I went along to this pub and knocked three times and was admitted in one of the back rooms.

"There was Brian and a couple of Beatles, and they announced that Pete Best was going." Wooler continued. "And I blew my top. I said 'Why?' Because he had been with the Beatles for two years. And you don't carry a passenger for two years. 'Because,' they said, 'he wasn't such a brilliant drummer.' And I said, 'If he wasn't a brilliant drummer, it must've been apparent from the word go.' He went to Hamburg a couple of times with the Beatles and they did all these shows in Liverpool and now you want to give him the boot. There was some outcry at the Cavern. 'Ringo Never, Pete Forever' -- that came from the crowd, chanting. But they soon reconciled themselves. And Ringo was a known drummer, he wasn't a complete stranger. He'd been drumming with Rory Storm and the Hurricanes for a long time, so they knew him.

"The ironic thing is that when they did make 'Love Me Do,' Ringo was replaced by a session drummer. So when I learned of this, I said, 'My God, what's going on? I can't understand it; what's so special about these session drummers?' Because there's nothing particular about the drumming of 'Love Me Do'; it didn't call for any drumnastics! So there you are.'"

Of course, it was not "Love Me Do" that kick started Beatlemania in Britain, but the Beatles' second single, "Please Please Me," which was released Jan. 11, 1963, and reached number one (on some charts at least) by March. "This is what caused the stirring in London," Wooler agreed. "'What the hell is happening up in Liverpool, 200 miles away? You'd better get up there and find out! What's happening? We should know about this!' And of course, that was our year. Because it was not just the Beatles. It was Gerry, it was the Searchers, it was Cilla Black, it was Billy J. Kramer, it was the Blue Jeans -- my God, we dominated the charts that year. We never dreamed this could happen. If anyone was taking bets they'd all have betted that 'It won't happen.' I called it the Scouse Sound Sixties. But only for a while, because the limelight swung back onto London. They got it back it again. They were determined not to let us hicks have it."

As the Beatles continued to top the charts, both in the U.K. and then America, the media scrutiny intensified. "We were inundated," said Wooler. "I was doing the lunchtime sessions, deejaying, getting the groups on and booking groups for all the sessions. And I'd say to Ray MacFall, who was the owner of the Cavern, 'I can't cope with them. I can't do the sessions, book all the groups, place all the ads, do all the posters and have all these press people from London commuting up here and the TV people -- 'Better get up there with a camera and find out what's happening in Liverpool, struck gold, it's another gold rush!' -- I can't cope with them!' Because Ray wasn't always around. So then he did attend a lot of sessions himself to deal with them. And I used to get someone in to do some of the lunchtime sessions to allow me to talk with them, because they wanted to talk with me as well. 'Tell me what's special about the Beatles!' Because after all, an outsider doesn't know the Beatles from Gerry and the Pacemakers or the Big Three or whatever. They'd see these groups performing, and apart from the squeals of delight from the audience toward the Beatles, they all seemed the same to an outsider. So they wanted to know what the magical ingredients were. And I tried to convey all this. It was a very trying and very intense time."

As the Beatles' touring schedule increased, their appearances at the Cavern naturally began to drop off. "Everyone wanted the Beatles," said Wooler. "They played umpteen dates in big ballrooms." Even so, after the Beatles' final appearance at the Cavern in August '63, Wooler couldn't resist asking Epstein about the possibility of future dates. "I asked him on that night, 'When is the next one likely to be, Brian?' "Soon, we'll work it out, Robert.' And I took Ray at the end of the session, and we went to the Press Club, we got away from everything. And we played a game of snooker there in the quietness of the Press Club. And I said, 'You know, I asked Brian when the next date would be, and he came out with all this "Soon, I'm working on it." Ray, I think we've said goodbye. I don't think we'll ever get them back at the Cavern.'

"They were paid 300 pounds for their last Cavern date, which seems a ridiculously low fee. At the time it was quite a lot of money for a place like the Cavern, with no capacity. Once they came home from a Hamburg do and they played a date at the Cavern, and 900 people went in [June 9, 1962]. It was an absolute sweatbox. And Brian said, 'I don't want anything like that again. 500 at the most.' Well, you work it out. We only charged 10 and six; 10 shillings. And they were costing 300 and we had the other groups to pay and we had the ads to pay for and the staff to pay. And so we did it for the prestige, not the money. We made no money out of it. And he wasn't going to allow them to play for that money again. It was clear that the writing was on the wall, that we'd never have the Beatles again. Even if we could afford them. So that was it.

"Brian kept saying, 'Bob, I know you won't stand in their way,'" Wooler continued. "I'd like them out of the Cavern. They can't be doing a lunchtime session or an evening session. They've got to go to London. I know you won't stand in the boys' way.' He used to put it in such a way that you'd be a heel, a king-size heel, if you'd say 'No, Brian, they must fulfill their booking. We've advertised and all the rest of it, and I've had to go on stage and say, "No, I'm afraid the Beatles won't be doing that date, but I've been assured it will be replaced."' Well, they were never replaced. Brian owes the Cavern, by the way. He owes the Cavern about six dates!"

Wooler himself enjoyed a measure of success in 1963, when one of his songs was recorded by Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas. Wooler had given a number of his lyrics to the Dakotas, to be passed on to Epstein, in the hope that they'd be passed on to Dick James, who was handling the Beatles song publishing. "They chose this particular song, 'Now I Know,' which they altered to 'I Know,'" explained Wooler. "It had no music. And Brian said, "We're going to set your song to music, and guess who's going to do the dots?' I said, 'I've no idea.' He said, 'George Martin.' So I thought, oh my God! This could be something big! Rogers & Hammerstein, Lerner & Loewe, Martin & Wooler! But I'm afraid it was the only song he ever dotted for me."

Wooler's song ended up as the B-side of "I'll Keep You Satisfied," released in November 1963, though Wooler's name was misspelled as "Wooller." "My name often has an extra L in my life!" And though his song was not the hit, he still receives the occasional royalty. "I've always been intrigued as to who, after all this time, still plays the song," he said. "Not 'I'll Keep You Satisfied,' the A-side. I'm sure that's played quite often, being a Beatles number [the song was written by Lennon-McCartney]. But who on earth plays an unknown B-side? And I found from the royalty statements that it's Spain where they played the record. Which is rather intriguing. How on earth? Because it isn't a Latin-American number."

Wooler also had the chance to try and further his career in London. "When Brian set up NEMS Enterprises in London, he asked me to go down there, because I'd done his shows up here in Liverpool. So I had that opportunity. But I didn't. I stayed at the Cavern and went full time there. Now whether that was a good thing, you could say well, it wasn't, because the Cavern went bankrupt early in '66 and I was virtually out of a job. But I'm not the type of person who likes changes, really. I often say to myself, 'Should I have gone to London?' But I don't really fit into this showbiz world of rock'n'roll. At the heart of it, it wasn't me."

As a result, Wooler saw less of the Beatles as the decade went on. A degree of friction had already come to the surface, when John Lennon punched Wooler at Paul McCartney's 21st birthday party in June 1963, after he had teased Lennon about his trip to Spain with Brian Epstein the previous spring. Wooler was given a quick settlement of 200 pounds and an apology. But he continued see the group when they appeared in Liverpool. "I went to the Liverpool Empire; they did a Juke Box Jury show which was televised [Dec. 7. 1963]," he said. "I went to that one. And I went to the Town Hall for that triumphal coming home for A Hard Day's Night [July 10, 1964]. And I did attend one or two other shows. But I didn't go around the country on their tour dates. You see, I was working. I had to make ends meet doing jobs." The last time Wooler saw all four Beatles together was at the memorial service for Brian Epstein, held in London Oct. 17, 1967 (the group had not attended Epstein's funeral because of fears their presence would turn the occasion into a media circus). "It was not an occasion to exchange any real banter or comment," Wooler said. "It was a very low-profile occasion. But that was the last time I saw all four."

By that time, the Cavern had closed, in February 1966 and reopened in July 1966. "They asked me to go back and I did," said Wooler. "I did some DJ work, but it was a different scene. The disco sessions were coming. And I was more interested in the group sessions, the live-music sessions. However, I did stay until '67, when I called it a day in the summer of '67, [the Cavern closed again in 1973, then reopened as part of the "Cavern Walks" complex in 1984]. I then went to a club in Southport, which was a rest. I was absolutely a burned-out case, I suppose, to quote Graham Greene. I was totally exhausted. Because we'd had a very hectic two years, in '63 and '64, and even '65. And I just wanted to get away from it all."

By the end of the '60s, Wooler retired as DJ, but he continued to work in the entertainment field, booking and managing groups for a theatrical agency. "But I gave that up after a while because the group scene was fading," he said. "At least provincially. And there was not a great deal of money in it. So I packed it in. And I went freelance with Allan Williams and Beatles conventions and doing one or two other promotions."

Wooler and Williams produced Liverpool's first Beatles convention, held in October 1977 at a club called Mr. Pickwick's. "And we did the second one there. Then we did the Beatles Christmas party at another big club in that year. Then in August '79 at Zhivago's club. And in 1980 we did it at a club in Sheffield. The reason we were moving around is we couldn't get these clubs for a weekend. Because they were doing their own business. Private events were available during the week, but not weekends. And we wanted the Saturday and the Sunday, but quite honestly, there wasn't a great deal of interest in the Beatles."

Attitudes quickly changed after the events of December 1980. "There was a renewal of interest, a kind of renaissance took place in the wake of John Lennon's murder," Wooler said. "But unfortunately we had abandoned conventions by then. So we didn't cash in on that. You may say, 'Well, why on earth didn't you?' But we just didn't. That was it. And local tourism got their act together and it's a very big thing now. But I do feel very annoyed that it took John's death to stimulate it. Just as when the Cavern closed [in 1973], and they bulldozed all that block of warehouses, they flattened them and it became a parking lot. Where was the outcry? There wasn't any outcry. I thought, where's the City Council? Where is the Lord Mayor protesting about all this? Where's the tourist office, who had the money?

"But you see, it was so lukewarm, the interest in the Beatles. The '60s had come and gone. We'd move into the '70s, and things were not at all the same, really. In fact, there was a hiatus time in the '70s when people just didn't want to know about the Beatles. This was the attitude. They were of the '60s. They'd come and gone, the Beatles have split up, John Lennon moved to New York, and that's it, Bob, you're living in the past. And of course, various people from the tourist place would come to our conventions and see that they were not absolutely swinging affairs! And they'd say to themselves, 'Well, we were right.' Until John Lennon's death and then suddenly there was a total resurgence. They all came out of the woodwork as it were. I call them Deathwatch Beatle People. Because the deathwatch beetle, he's mostly in the woodwork. And since that time, things have been totally different.

Though he no longer produces conventions, Wooler has been a guest at virtually every Liverpool Beatles convention. "I try not to be bored with it," he said, "but I'm afraid 'Yeah Yeah Yeah' has become 'Yawn Yawn Yawn' in our time! Still, I try to be vigorous. I try to put in my voice an alertness as though it's happening now, as though it's happen just yesterday. I identify with the early Beatles. Because that was when I was concerned with them in '61, '62, '63. So it's really records of that time I identify with. But later, and beyond the '60s, I'm not really into their music. Although a song that John Lennon wrote, 'Jealous Guy,' I really liked that. I really liked the tune; not so much the lyric. In fact, I set a new lyric to it, I liked the tune so much." As for his favorite Beatles song, Wooler leaned toward "Here, There And Everywhere." "My God, that way that it's constructed and polished, honed, I'm sure Paul McCartney must've honed it," Wooler said. "He didn't write that one overnight. It's too good."

The Beatles Anthology project has caused another renaissance of interest in the Fabs. Though Wooler had only seen the TV series when this interview took place, areas he felt were skimped on in the show were not fleshed out in the video set either. "I thought they could have dwelled more on Liverpool," he said. "There's a number of people in Liverpool who helped the Beatles a great deal. For instance, Ray McFall; he gave them work. They were very cursory about the Cavern, which gave them a hell of a lot of work. When they came back from Hamburg the second time, Paul announced, 'We're not interested in that seven pounds, eight pounds fee. We want fifteen pounds.' And it was unheard-of fee. I said, 'Oh God, you'll never get it, Paul.' And he said, 'Well, that's it.' Well, they struck it out, and it was Ray who paid them it. So Ray was important. In fact, at one time, Ray even thought of managing them. That would've been interesting. Because they were not very punctual and Ray was a particular person. However, that's another story. That's a big might-have-been.

"And there were other people helping them immeasurably in Liverpool, and they were not even mentioned," Wooler continued. "They left Liverpool, well, they really left the beginning of '64. So they were in Liverpool for quite some time. And that surely should be dealt with. And Mona Best, she was not mentioned. And she gave them a hell of a lot of work at the Casbah Club. But I wonder if this is because of Pete Best. And of course it was never really explored why they got rid of him." As a result, Wooler feels that instead of cutting through the myths that have grown up around the Beatles' story, the Anthology "rather enhanced it. I now call Mathew Street, where the Cavern is, Mythew Street. Because of all the myths that surround it."

Over the years, there have many people who have suggested that Wooler tell his own story. "People have asked me this constantly," he said. "I was on a radio program and this DJ, who was actually in one of the groups, Billy Butler and the Tuxedos, he's doing a program on Radio Merseyside, and he got me reminiscing now. And he said, 'For Christ's sake, why don't you write a book?' And I said, 'Bill, I'm afraid I do like to tell the truth.' I have another expression: If you want the horse's mouth, you know where to come. If you want the other end of the horse, you know where to go. This is all to do with the people who make things up or exaggerate or embellish. I'd have to tell the truth in the book. And then I'd have to leave town! Because I know I'd be telling the truth on lots of people. So there you are."

A heart attack and stroke in the early '80s, coupled with arthritis in the knees, has slowed Wooler down somewhat; "It doesn't mean I'm in a wheelchair, but I just go around slowly," he said.

He maintains an interest in the current music scene ("I do watch Top Of The Pops and sort of keep track, as it were") and enjoys encounters with faces from the past.

"At last year's Mathew Street Festival [held in conjunction with Liverpool's Beatles convention] the Dakotas played and it was nice to renew acquaintance with them," he said. "And the MusiCats Children's Charity organization tries to bring the old Mersey beat groups together for an event now and again. And the response has been quite good. But they don't do it often, because these groups really don't exist. They have to be brought together. And then there's the question of, well, they won't have their guitars now or their drum kit and they have to supply those. But I do whenever possible keep in touch with them, from the old days."

The "Scouse Sound Sixties" may be over. But the good vibrations from the era live on in the heart, soul and stories of people like Bob Wooler, whose singular catch phrase, "Hello, all you Cavern dwellers, welcome to the best of cellars," links him to the Mersey beat scene as inextricably as the Fab Four themselves.

Copyright 1996 by Goldmine. All rights reserved.

November 24, 2002 update:  An exciting new book is out called: The Best of Fellas - The Story of Bob Wooler. The book is written by highly respected BBC music journalist, Spencer Leigh, author of Let's Go Down the Cavern. The Best of Fellas chronicles the early Mersey beat days and the excitement of the Cavern Club as told by Bob Wooler. For details on how to order the book along with a very heartfelt introduction by Joe Robinson who himself had the pleasure of meeting Bob in person on several occasions, click on the following active link: BOB WOOLER - CAVERN DJ: MERELY SPINNING DISCS AND NEARLY SPILLING THE BEANS.

For the book review of Spencer Leigh's new book by the Ottawa Beatles Site, click on the active link: THE BEST OF FELLAS - THE STORY OF BOB WOOLER.

For another book review of "The Best of Fellas - The Story of Bob Wooler" by Philip Key of the Daily Post, click on the active link: PORTRAIT CAPTURES THE WIT AND WISDOM OF A CAVERN LEGEND.