Coke Archivist Discovers Link with The Beatles

I have to confess right from the start that I am a huge Beatles fan. My iPhone has an inordinate number of Beatles songs and I have a Beatles shuffle playing as I write this. Now that my confession is over, here is my Beatles story. Several years ago I purchased a copy of The Beatles – The True Beginnings by Roag Best with Pete and Rory Best.

The book tells the history of The Casbah Coffee Club, the club where the Beatles got their start. I purchased the book because as a Beatles nut, I saw a Coke cooler in the cover photo. I was curious to learn more about how that cooler happened to be present in the photograph, so I wrote Roag Best, at http://www.casbahcoffeeclub.com/ for more information. We have had a great e-mail exchange  for the past few months and I wanted to share the story of the birth of The Casbah Coffee Club, The Beatles and Coke.

Casbah Opening Night

In Liverpool, England in 1959, Mo Best decided to open a coffee club to capitalize on the growing popularity amongst teens for the emerging ‘Rock and Roll’ music. She cleaned out the basement of her house on 8 Haymans Green and with the help of her family and some local kids named John, Paul and George, painted it with fanciful designs including spiders, dragons and stars. Then on August, 29th, 1959, The Casbah Coffee Club opened with the musical entertainment provided by The Quarrymen featuring John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ken Brown.

While the group became a regular at the club, the band’s members and even the groups name changed. Paul McCartney asked Pete Best to join the group as the drummer and their name was changed to the Beatles as they headed off to do a tour in Hamburg, Germany. Upon their return to Liverpool in July of 1961, The Beatles played the Casbah with the new raw ‘Rock and Roll’ sound they had perfected in Germany. Six months later, they were recording their demo in London. “Beatlemania” soon followed.

beatles

What role did Coke play in all this? More than you would think. Through Roag, we were able to catch up with Johnny Johnson (see interview at link below,) who worked for the Liverpool Coke Bottler. Johnny was active in making sure that while it was called a coffee club, Coke was the preferred drink. Through Johnny, the Casbah received a prestige Coke sign with the clubs name. Johnny also had coolers placed and enough Coke was sold that the Casbah Coffee Club was the largest selling account in Liverpool and required two or three deliveries a week. It is easy to see why, a great new venue, great music, and crowds of teenager’s sounds like a winning combination for anyone selling Coke.  Johnny even played with the band a few times.

The Casbah is maintained as a Beatles museum and looks just as it did in when it closed in 1962 (the same time The Beatles were releasing their first album.) The stage, musical equipment and even the artwork drawn by the band is maintained in pristine shape. I have never visited Liverpool, but you can be certain that if I do, the Casbah will be the first stop on my tour.

View the full interview with Johnny Johnson on our Heritage blog: Coca-Cola Conversations.

Ted Ryan is the Director of Heritage Communications at The Coca-Cola Company.