RETRO: Remembering Beatles in Doncaster on 35th anniversary of John Lennon's death

The Fab Four with a bevy of female admirers backstage at The Gaumont.
The Fab Four with a bevy of female admirers backstage at The Gaumont.
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As the world marks the 35th anniversary of the tragic murder of Beatle John Lennon on December 8, 1980, we take a look back to when the Fab Four came to Doncaster.

They were four lads who shook the world. The names, John, Paul, George and Ringo roll off the tongue with rhythmic ease.

A ticket stub for the December 1963 show at The Gaumont.

A ticket stub for the December 1963 show at The Gaumont.

The Beatles were the undisputed kings of the popular music who revolutionised a generation and set the agenda for the future of popular culture as we know it. And what's more, on their way to global domination and selling an estimated one billion records, they dropped into Doncaster a few times as well.

We take a magical mystery tour down the long and winding road to discover why our own town has a very important place on the pop map.

It was more than 50 years ago today. . . when all their troubles seemed so far away.

Few guests stopping at The Regent Hotel in the winter of 1963 would have guessed that the four, dark-haired young lads tucking heartily into their breakfasts would change the music world forever.

They were four lads who shook the world

They were four lads who shook the world

After all, even though they had played to a hysterical, screaming audience at The Gaumont just a stone's throw over the road the night before, The Beatles only had two hits under their belts at that time.

Love Me Do had only climbed as high as number 17 and follow-up Please Please Me lodged at number two - hardly what you'd call superstar material.

But as teenager Mick Longworth served up tea to the two Liverpudlians sharing a twin room at his mum's small town centre hotel on the morning of February 6, 1963, he sensed something big was about to happen for the unassuming yet cheery lads as they prepared to pack up their cases and instruments and head south on the next date of their tour with Helen Shapiro.

"When I heard The Beatles were staying at our hotel, I couldn't believe it," said Mick.

The Beatles played in Doncaster five times during their career.

The Beatles played in Doncaster five times during their career.

"I'd come home from school the night before and my mum just casually mentioned that we'd got a band in who were playing at The Gaumont that night.

"They hadn't had many hits at that time but me and my brother Dave knew who they were."

Indeed, Mick, whose family runs the South Parade hotel, was so impressed that the Fab Four were in town that he cancelled his paper round for the following morning just so he could provide room service.

"They were in two rooms - John and George in one and Paul and Ringo in the other. I took tea to Paul and Ringo while Dave served John and George.

Doncaster's Gaumont Theatre as it would have looked when The Beatles were around.

Doncaster's Gaumont Theatre as it would have looked when The Beatles were around.

"Later on, when they came down to breakfast, they gave me a signed picture card, one of my proudest possessions which I have kept to this day. I'm sure a lot of the other guests didn't realise who they were."

Just hours earlier, the group had come off stage at The Gaumont, sparking the first crazed scenes which later spawned a whole new word - Beatlemania.

Music fan John Burke, who wasn't lucky enough to have tickets for the show and who was just strolling along Hall Gate at the time with a group of friends, recalled the crazy scenes outside.

"There were loads of girls screaming out the front. Then this van pulled up at the stage door with guitar cases on top and they went berserk, running to try and see The Beatles," he said.

"But then an old Doncaster Evening Post van pulled up and the group jumped out and ran in through the front. There were only a few of us there to see it!"

And Mick, who has paid his own tribute to the Fab Four by opening the Beatles-themed Abbey Road bar and restaurant in the Regent's cellars, also recalls the hysteria.

Some of the Regent Hotel's Beatles collection.

Some of the Regent Hotel's Beatles collection.

"My mum Peggy went out and asked this bunch of girls why they were screaming. They said it was because The Beatles were there. Mum told them they had got the wrong hotel and they were down the road at the Danum so they all headed off there," he chuckled.

Former Danum School headteacher Martyn Vickers was lucky enough to be at one of the group's Doncaster dates and watched awestruck as the band ran through their set.

He said: "My father was in charge of security on the night and he got me The Beatles' autographs on a programme.

"I sat next to a girl from Dunsville who screamed her head off the whole time. The noise was incredible - it was pandemonium. But it was quite a night."

Fading newspaper articles about the group's visit still adorn the walls of the Regent, along with memorabilia from the sixties - a Gaumont concert ticket for The Beatles Show, block 3, seat A32 and priced at 12/6, a show programme and signed photos of the group themselves.

But pride of place goes to the hotel's guest book, which contains the signatures and original Liverpool addresses - as well as a taster of that cheeky wit - from the men who changed music forever.

Closer inspection reveals George was the first to sign in with the other three scribbling their names at the top of the adjoining page.

But Ringo, who used his real surname

Starkey seemed confused about the date - signing in on February 6 rather than the actual date, the 5th.

John Lennon was next, putting his address as 251 Menlove Avenue, the famed address where he lived with his beloved Aunt Mimi and showing that rebellious streak of later years by jotting "White Man" under nationality.

Paul McCartney was last and echoed Lennon's humour, scrawling "Green" under his bandmate's "White Man" joke.

Added Mick: "It really is a piece of rock history. How many hotel guest books in the world contain the signatures of The Beatles? Doncaster is a very important place in the history of the greatest group ever and we should all remember that.

"The Beatles changed the world forever and I am glad that I was a very small part of it."

The Beatles played in Doncaster five times during their career:

The Co-op Ballroom - August 8, 1962

The Gaumont Theatre on February 5, March 22 and December 10, 1963

St James' Baths - February 20, 1963

* This article originally appeared in the Doncaster Free Press in 2003.

John, Paul and George on stage at The Gaumont.

John, Paul and George on stage at The Gaumont.

Another atmospheric image of The Beatles playing to The Gaumont audience.

Another atmospheric image of The Beatles playing to The Gaumont audience.

The signatures of The Beatles in the Regent Hotel guest book.

The signatures of The Beatles in the Regent Hotel guest book.

One lucky fan grabbed the lads' signatures - although George is missing.

One lucky fan grabbed the lads' signatures - although George is missing.