ON THIS DAY: 1963 - The Beatles play Doncaster

It was 53 years ago today - when John Lennon and Paul McCartney taught the band to play.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 5th February 2016, 10:52 am
Updated Friday, 5th February 2016, 10:59 am
The Beatles on stage at The Gaumont.
The Beatles on stage at The Gaumont.

For it was on February 5, 1963 that The Beatles played one of their legendary concerts in 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 Beatles December 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.

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.

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.

The Beatles with female admirers backstage at the Gaumont.

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.

"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."

The Gaumont as it looked in the 1960s

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.

"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.

Mick Longworth with the Beatles' signatures.

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.

"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.

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.

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

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

The Beatles with female admirers backstage at the Gaumont.
The Gaumont as it looked in the 1960s
Mick Longworth with the Beatles' signatures.