The Beatles attend Sam Leach and Joan McEvoy’s engagement party

Saturday, March 17, 1962

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Earlier in the evening, The Beatles performed at the Village Hall in Knotty Ash, Liverpool. The evening was billed as a “St. Patrick’s Night Rock Gala”. Sam Leach, (Liverpool concert booker) booked The Beatles and Rory Storm and The Hurricanes to draw a big crowd so that he could make enough profits to pay for his engagement party, scheduled to follow the night’s show. Both bands attended Leach’s party, which didn’t end until the following afternoon. Also present at the party was Mike McCartney, Paul’s girlfriend Dorothy ‘Dot’ Rhone, Brian Epstein, Bob Wooler and Ted ‘Kingsize’ Taylor.

In his book Sam Leach has a distinct memory of ‘a gang of us’ (presumably including Beatles and Hurricanes) travelling to the party from Knotty Ash in a van. Their driver (not Neil Aspinall) pulled out from the Village Hall into the path of a speeding articulated lorry which seemed to have appeared from nowhere. Everyone braced themselves for the inevitable impact but miraculously the lorry, its brakes screeching hysterically, managed to stop less than a foot from the side of the van. Shocked, stunned, shaken and stirred, everyone in the van travelled the 1.5 miles to the party in complete silence. 

Hurricane Johnny ‘Guitar’ Byrne diary entry for 1962 mentions the party:

Bought Zodiac. Knotty Ash, Orrell, then Sam Leach’s engagement party. Had row with Eileen. Got home 6.

The party was at the family house in Huyton, thrown by Dolly, mother of Vera and Joan McEvoy.

I can vouch for the fact that Brian fell in love with Vera and pursued her all night. In fact after the party he wrote more than one letter to Dolly asking her could she help him fix a date with Vera. Unfortunately for Brian she wasn’t interested.” Sam Leach (She seemed a little interested, as displayed below)

Brown, who was married (but separated) at the time of her liaison with Epstein in 1962, describes him as “…very emotional. He always gave the impression of being cold and icy, but he was very softhearted, very tender, very gentle, and he had a lot of feelings. And he was all man, I don’t care what they say.” (Ray Coleman, The Man Who Made The Beatles)

“We’d been to the Knotty Ash Club for my sister’s engagement. The Beatles had played there, as did Rory [Storm] and a few other groups. Afterwards, as usual, we all went back to the house and Brian came along.

If you saw the Beatles in my mother’s they were just a scruffy bunch of boys. And who’d look at them? I wouldn’t bother with them but then Brian stood out and Brian looked like the real thing. He was handsome. He was tall. He was immaculate. That’s why I let Brian get behind the bar with me and help me serve the drinks. He was the best of the bunch.

So we were just behind the bar when Elvis came on, ‘Heartbreak Hotel’. He loved it, I loved it, and we started dancing. There wasn’t much room. You know, you could go two steps forward, three steps back and that was it. So we sort of got a bit close and everyone was laughing at us, saying, like, ‘What’s going on?’ But if you moved sideways you fell over the crates. There were crates of beer in there and everybody’s coats. We ended up on top of the coats or on top of the crates if we just moved the wrong way. And we got pretty close but I wasn’t surprised by the way he was acting towards me.

We were dancing and kissing at the same time. He was probably one of the sexiest fellas I had ever met. People say, ‘Oh well, Brian was gay.’ but he wasn’t very gay with me. He was just like any other man and more. He was very easy-going and casual and funny. He’d make you laugh and he could dance. You know he could move. He said to me, ‘I’ve seen you in different places and I thought you were stuck up.’ And I said, ‘Well, I thought you were stuck up because I remember being in your shop and you were like the big boss.’

I think he was pretty fresh. In a house where people are looking at you it’s not like a club with all the lights out and people tend to be aware of others but Brian wasn’t that bothered. He was interested and he showed it. Maybe he’d had a bit too much to drink. I don’t know. But I can’t say that because I met Brian afterwards and he was still interested.

The next day he called round to the house. I wasn’t there so he talked to my mother about poetry. I don’t know how they got talking about poems but Brian came the following day with a book of poems for my mother with a little letter. He also gave her a letter thanking her for having the party because everyone had made such a terrible mess of the house. It was full of eggs and rubbish and bottles everywhere and he apologized for the actions of everybody else at the party.

Well, my mother just thought he was the most wonderful person in the world. At last a gentleman has come through this door and not Teddy boys and hooligans and all the rest of it. In the first letter he said he’d enjoyed meeting her, loved coming to the house, felt so welcome and would she mind if he came around again to see me. I said to my mum, ‘Well, that’s impossible. How can I see him? You know I can’t go out with Brian.’ She said, ‘You will have to’.

My mother was in love with Brian: ‘He’s beautiful. He’s wonderful.’ So she sort of arranged it. I didn’t want him to come and pick me up at the house because I didn’t want people to see us going out. I arranged to meet him in a little cafe in Bold Street. We had a coffee and a chat and then I can’t really remember where we went. We went somewhere for a drink around Bold Street where there were all these little dives at the time. But I had to be back for nine o’clock. Another time I met him in the Tower and we had a little chat. We met in the back office and had a talk.

I liked Brian as a man and I think Brian liked me. But then he suggested if we were to go out we’d have to go to Southport or Manchester – anywhere out of Liverpool because he didn’t want to walk into my husband in Liverpool. We were separated at the time but it was a little bit awkward, you know.

It’s hard for me to believe Brian was gay. I think if I had been free and if I’d seen more of Brian I think we could have got serious. I think he was all man. I just can’t accept that he was gay.

In the shop Brian seemed like a man, like your dad shouting at you and superior. He had an attitude of superiority. But later on I discovered he was just like any other man. I thought he was a very passionate, loving person. He was like two different people. So if there’s a third person involved – this gay person – I just say he’s one hell of a man to be able to please everybody. You know, he was just unique. That’s all I can say.” Vera Brown, In His Life, The Brian Epstein Story.

George always fancied Joan and when I began dating her, he asked her to let him know when she finished seeing me. ‘But don’t tell Sam’, he added. ‘He’d batter me!’ Today she probably feels like battering me for spoiling her chances.” Sam Leach, The Rocking City

Later in the evening, Joan had a headache and said she was going upstairs for a lie down. I went to fetch a couple of aspirins from the kitchen and said I’d follow her. Bob Wooler then made a typically cheap remark about pre-marital sex. Before I had a chance to sort him out, Paul and George grabbed him and made him personally apologise to Joan.” Sam Leach, The Rocking City

“Rory Storm was lying on the floor hopelessly drunk. He shouted up to Paul, ‘I wanna be in the picture’. So, as you can see, Paul bent down and lifted his foot into the shot.” Sam Leach

The night rolled on and I found Lennon, completely sloshed, sitting in the kitchen rolling raw eggs down Ann Barton’s birds-nest hairstyle. Each time one broke, he gave a gasp of astonishment at the gooey yellow mess spreading across the tiled floor. Dolly found out and gave him a severe rollicking, which sobered him up enough to utter a sincere, ‘Sorry, Mrs Mac’. Everyone liked and respected Dolly McEvoy and that was the only time I ever saw Lennon genuinely humbled. He disappeared for a while after that and was found later fast asleep in the bath.

When he finally came downstairs, he once again started to apologise. Dolly had forgotten all about it, but he was still apologising as he left at nine the next morning. As we stood outside, he shook my hand gravely. ‘That was the very best party I’ve ever been to . . . honest,’ he croaked. I was pleased everyone had enjoyed themselves, but when John started thanking me for a third time, I put him in a taxi and packed him off home. As he left, I slipped an egg into his pocket. He never did tell me how that hatched out.” Sam Leach, The Rocking City

Last updated on June 8, 2024

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