The Cavern Club, Liverpool, 1966: Alf Geoghegan takes command

As the Mersey Sound was slowly fading in 1965/6, it seemed that The Cavern Club was losing its relevance after closing its doors for a few months, due to the bankruptcy of Ray McFall in February 1966. But that was not the case – the club reopened in July 1966 and was world news again with Harold Wilson, the UK’s Prime Minister, officiating at the ceremony.

Nevertheless, this phase of The Cavern’s history does not arouse much interest among scholars. For example, Spencer Leigh, who has written three books on the subject, only touches lightly on the years 1966-69, devoting less than thirty pages to the period. It is hardly fair that no one has taken more interest in the time when the charismatic Alf Geoghegan took command. And when his daughter Debbie came to the rescue!

No, The Cavern did not enter a third incarnation in 1966 – quite the opposite. In the hands of another entrepreneur or corporate group that surely would have happened, but not with the good Alf at the helm. Alfred was the owner of Wilson’s, a small chain of Liverpool butchers, very popular among the locals. He was also blessed with abundant energy, a cheerful and kind character and a good eye for business. When he learned that the building owners were soliciting offers to take over the lease, Geoghegan got to work.

First he consulted with his daughter, Debbie. But her opinion was a foregone conclusion, because she had been practically living in The Cavern since 1961. She often went to both daily sessions at the club, saw all the groups, had been a Beatles fan since they dressed in leather, knew the sets and, above all, understood what the regulars liked. Debbie immediately advised her father to take over the venue and he insisted that she help run the club. Debbie must have thought she was in seventh heaven. Work at The Cavern!?

Alf, along with a partner, secured the lease for about £5,000, a very considerable sum in April 1966. The deal included use of the basements of numbers 8, 10 and 12 Mathew Street. In no. 8 was the original club, while the already empty no. 10 had housed Cavern Sound Studios (independent of the club and with all equipment removed) and in no. 12, behind a brick wall, was another dusty empty basement, not unlike the Cavern proper. All this space now had a rear exit to an alley that ran parallel to Mathew Street and linked to it. This is something that, without knowing for sure, Pop Thing has always claimed based on evidence that has drifted in over the years.

With this expanded subterranean space at their disposal, Alf and his team undertook a renovation study that would respect the original club layout while including more leisure areas. In addition, there would be a wider entrance (actually, the old one was closed, but it was not altered at all) and modern electrical and sanitary facilities.

What was inaugurated in July 1966 was the old club and much more: those of you who know the Tiles Club of London can get an idea of ​​the new Cavern – it had a cafeteria and bar serving simple meals, a clothing store, exhibition space, and areas to sit quietly and listen to records. And of course, it was still the same place where the groups played.

Alf did not want to incur McFall’s mistakes. He always aimed for viability, he wanted the business to pay off while still maintaining its role as an internationally renowned cultural centre. And with Debbie as a guide, he got it 100%.

Those five years of success are peppered with anecdotes. Debbie remembers everything because she was in the front line and wanted to pay homage to her father and claim his role in the club’s history. There was material for a good book. Debbie prepared it and Jorvik Press (Portland, Oregon) published it in 2016. Cavern Club: The Inside Story (176 pages) is not just another of the many titles dedicated to The Cavern or Liverpool’s Mersey Beat. As mentioned, this is because it’s about an era for which there is very little information from reliable sources. That’s what stands out in Debbie’s book, the large amount of unpublished data and unknown everyday stories it contains. As it is well written and edited, the 176 pages flash by.

It is hard to choose one revelation over another, but there are some very exciting ones: their tour of the closed club, lanterns in hand, with the newly acquired keys; the re-inauguration with the Prime Minister (and Rufus Thomas, Solomon Burke, Georgie Fame, The Searchers, The Merseys and a thousand others); the return of the good times (with Bob Wooler included!); the presence of an organist who enlivened the kids that went to the cafeteria with his Hammond; Chuck Berry, sitting in a chauffeur-driven car parked in the middle of Mathew Street, demanding to be paid cash before going on stage; the relationship with Radio Caroline; performances by legendary artists Lee Dorsey, Edwin Star, Chris Farlowe, The Who in 1967, and an excited Paul McCartney (in 1968) and a thousand other things, all very interesting.

If you got this far, it’s clear you’re interested in The Cavern and the Liverpool Pop Scene of the 60s, so this book will not disappoint you. It also contains many photographs rarely if ever seen. There is an excellent one of The Escorts! The book, which does not have a Spanish translation, can easily be found on Amazon.

Extra Bonus Info: Debbie Geoghegan stopped working at the club when her father received a suitable offer for the business and decided to sell it in 1970. After marrying and working in other family businesses, Debbie divorced her first husband and married Nigel Greenberg, whom she had actually known most of her life because, quite by coincidence, he was one of the founding partners of Cavern Sound Limited, the recording studio that operated in the club between 1964 and 1966. Martin Craig wrote about the studio in a two-part article we published in 2010.

 

Cavern Club: The Inside Story


Debbie Greenberg


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Cavern Club

The Inside Story



A great street-level history of one of the world’s most famous small music venues. This inside story is the real thing. 

— John May The Generalist


Mini-skirted Debbie Greenberg’s… first-hand, fan’s-eye, gossipy chit-chat and fashion notes have tactile authenticity, from resident DJ, Bob Wooler’s ‘Hi there, all you cave-dwellers,’ to bassist Stuart Sutcliffe standing with his back to the audience ‘so no one could see how he was playing’, and Pete Best (‘sultry, fiercely good-looking and oozed sex appeal’).

—Andrew Darlington, R2 magazine


A fab read for any 60s music fan. Richly illustrated with… rare photos, posters and press cuttings… The day Paul McCartney popped in with his new girlfriend, Linda, to show her where the Beatles story began is particularly special.

—Simon Fine sixtyplusurfers.com


As a teenager, Debbie Greenberg was spending far too much time at the Cavern Club in her hometown of Liverpool, England. It was already the most famous music club in the world, where she had been dazzled by the Beatles’ debut performance and witnessed their rise to stardom for two years before watching the local heroes leave home.

Then in 1966, after the previous owner declared bankruptcy, her father asked out of the blue if she thought it would be a good idea to take over the club. It was an offer she couldn’t refuse. She’d been a Cavern fanatic since it was a jazz club, hardly missing a lunchtime or evening rock session until its closure a few weeks before – amid mass protests by Liverpool youth.

Now she was suddenly part of a new family business, faced with the task of helping to breathe new life into a dilapidated rock ’n’ roll shrine and build on the legacy of the legendary Mersey Beat.

This first-hand account of her ten years frequenting and eventually managing the original Cavern Club is the authentic inside story of the Beatles’ launch pad, full of triumphs and failures – and surprise celebrity encounters.

Richly illustrated with dozens of photos, posters and press clips.


Author Bio


Debbie Greenberg

Born in 1945 in Liverpool, Debbie Greenberg attended the Morrison School on Greenbank Road and, after passing her eleven-plus, New Heys High School for Girls.
Leaving school at seventeen, she started working with her father, Alf Geoghegan, who ran three butcher’s shops. By age 20 she was managing the family business and also working part-time as a fashion model.

Her life changed forever when her father took over the lease of the Cavern Club in 1966 after the previous owner went bankrupt.

Debbie lives with her husband Nigel in Liverpool and partners with him in their 44-year-old business, Solo Security.


News & Views



Live interview with Debbie
on Plastic EP TV

Among a stunned and delighted audience, she was there
for the Beatles debut at Liverpool’s Cavern Club
in 1961 before their second trip to Hamburg

Watch on Facebook

Join Beta Brothers Lou and Bob
of Garage Bandits
in a podcast interview
with the author

Debbie tells how her dad took over the Cavern Club in 1966
after she’d seen The Beatles over 200 times
– and remembers a surprise visit by Paul in 1968


Listen here


Signed Copies Shipped from Liverpool

Personalized signed copies of Cavern Club: the Inside Story can now be ordered through Beatlesbookstore.com. An original collectible Cavern Club label from 1967 is included free inside the book (while supplies last). You just pay the special price of £12.00 (30% off the UK bookshop price), approx. $15.60 (22% off US retail), plus shipping. Debbie personally signs each copy and mails from Liverpool.

Order through Beatlesbookstore.com


Interview with Debbie Greenberg,
Author of Cavern Club: The Inside Story

The April 2020 issue of Ear Candy Mag
has two articles on Liverpool’s Cavern Club

By Ronnie

I first talked to Debbie Greenberg when I was doing research for a project on the Cavern Club (a different article in this issue). We reviewed her book, Cavern Club: The Inside Story, in a previous issue of EAR CANDY. It is a fantastic book and I highly recommend it! Debbie graciously agreed to an interview, where we talked about her book, the Cavern and, of course, The Beatles!

EC: I thoroughly enjoyed your book, because it was both entertaining and informative! What made you decide to write a book about the Cavern after all these years?

Debbie Greenberg: I was prompted to write my book because I became aware that rumors were circulating in Liverpool that my dad was responsible for the demise and subsequent demolition of the original Cavern Club. As my dad was no longer around and unable to defend himself, I felt that it was time to set the record straight.

EC: Did you keep a diary in the ’60s?

Debbie Greenberg: Sadly, no, I have lost count of the times that I wish I had kept a diary.

EC: It blows my mind to think that you’ve seen the Beatles 292 times, from their debut at the Cavern in 1961 to their final show in 1963! Surely no American Beatles fan can even come close! You got an inside view as they progressed through various phases: the 5-piece Beatles with Stu on bass; the leather 4-piece Beatles; the introduction of the suits; finally, Ringo Starr joins the band. What are your memories of each of these? Did you prefer one phase over the other? For instance, what do you recall about Stu Sutcliffe? I would just love to hear any memories on these different phases!

Debbie Greenberg: My memories of The Beatles at the Cavern were equally enthralling throughout all of their fashion stages. The music was the main ingredient that excited me but the phase of the black leather outfits and Cuban-heeled boots were particularly memorable. The Beatles were raunchy and oozed sex appeal clad in black leather.

Read interview


The Cavern Club, Liverpool, 1966: Alf Geoghegan takes command

Translation of an article in Pop Thing, a Spanish online magazine based in Vitoria-Gasteiz, Álava, specializing in mid- to late 20th Century Western popular culture

March 24, 2017

“As the Mersey Sound was slowly fading in 1965/6, it seemed that The Cavern Club was losing its relevance after closing its doors for a few months, due to the bankruptcy of Ray McFall in February 1966. But that was not the case – the club reopened in July 1966 and was world news again with Harold Wilson, the UK’s Prime Minister, officiating at the ceremony.”

“Nevertheless, this phase of The Cavern’s history does not arouse much interest among scholars. For example, Spencer Leigh, who has written three books on the subject, only touches lightly on the years 1966-69, devoting less than thirty pages to the period. It is hardly fair that no one has taken more interest in the time when the charismatic Alf Geoghegan took command. And when his daughter Debbie came to the rescue!”

Read the full translation here

Read the original Pop Thing article here (in Spanish)


A Cellarful of Noise

Julie Burns, Vintage Rock
Issue 27

As The Cavern geared up for its 60th anniversary, Julie Burns heard about its heyday
from ex-Cavern owner and author Debbie Greenberg

“The Beatles performed an amazing total of 292 times at the Cavern – and every Wednesday night, and thrice-weekly lunchtimes, Debbie was out front. “Overnight The Beatles had a following of devoted fans, and I was one of them. The amazing thing about the Cavern was that The Beatles and all the groups were so accessible. We were literally inches away as they played.”

View a PDF of the article here


World Famous Cavern Club Turns 60

Dominic Utton, The Express
January 14, 2017

IT IS the most famous cellar in the world. A cramped, sweaty “cesspit” that incubated a musical revolution – and for a decade was the undisputed hotbed of rock ‘n’ roll.

Read the original article


60 Years of The Cavern

This SNS Online audio interview, recorded at the Cavern Club in Liverpool to help celebrate 60 years of the Mersey Beat, features Debbie and Nigel Greenburg. Also broadcast on BBC World Service.

Listen


Cavern Club owner’s daughter reveals one of the first photos Linda McCartney took of Paul just weeks after they got together

Isobel Frodsham, Daily Mail
November 22, 2016

Linda, who had been dating Paul for a few months, took photos of Debbie with Paul, then they all went down to the cellar so she could see where the Beatles began.

Read the full article


Debbie shares inside story of club The Beatles made famous

Simon Yaffe, Jewish Telegraph
November 18, 2016

There are a few well-known Jewish links to The Beatles. The most obvious being Brian Epstein, the Fab Four’s manager at the height of their stardom, and Linda McCartney (nee Eastman), the haimishe girl from New York who captured Paul’s heart.

But perhaps less conspicuous are the Jewish strands which connect The Beatles and Liverpool’s world-famous Cavern Club.

Click to see an image of the original article


The Beatles, Cilla, Spike Milligan and me: My dad owned the Cavern Club

Stefan Kyriazis, The Express
November 12, 2016

Debbie Greenberg’s dad Alf owned Liverpool’s iconic Cavern club and she tells us intimate tales of growing up with Paul McCartney, Ringo, Cilla and Spike Milligan.

Read the full article


‘It Was A Cess Pit, But We Loved It’ – A Former Owner Remembers Liverpool’s Cavern Club

Mark Beaumont, NME
October 31, 2016

“We’ve all dreamt of being in The Cavern Club with The Beatles twisting, shouting and mop-wobbling the place into a Cilla-quivering frenzy, but only the more imaginative business studies student has ever dreamed of what it might be like to run the club after they’d graduated to Shea Stadium. Until now. A new book, Cavern Club: The Inside Story, tells the story of Debbie Greenberg, a Beatles-era Cavern regular whose family bought the legendary club in 1966, nursed it into a second golden era and who wants to set the record straight on why the original Cavern was demolished in 1973.”

Read the full article


Liverpool’s original Cavern Club could have been saved, claims a new book

Catherine Jones, Liverpool Echo
October 14, 2016

“Liverpool’s original Cavern Club could have been saved according to a new book penned by former owner Debbie Greenberg.

Cavern Club: The Inside Story gives readers an insight into the legendary venue after it was reopened in 1966 – when Debbie’s dad, the late Alf Geoghegan, took over the helm.

The family re-built the Mathew Street club into a popular nightspot, as well as a tourist destination, before selling it on four years later.

Read the full article


Inapub magazine names Cavern Club book of the month

Inapub Issue 60
November 2016

inapub-cavernclub

Read the issue (see p. 62)

Listen here

Details


TitleCavern Club: The Inside Story
ISBN-13978-0-9863770-4-4
SizeTrade paperback, 6 x 9 in (15.24 x 22.86 cm)
List Prices$19.95; UK £17.25; EU €19.75
PublishedOctober 16, 2016
Pages186
FeaturesPhotos, posters, press clips
BISACRock Band Biographies, Rock Music, The Beatles