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 Coca-Cola. 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. What role did Coca-Cola play in all this? More than you would think. Through Roag, we were able to catch up with Johnny Johnson (see interview below,) who worked for the Liverpool Coca-Cola Bottler. Johnny was active in making sure that while it was called a coffee club, Coca-Cola was the preferred drink. Through Johnny, the Casbah received a prestige “Coca-Cola” sign with the clubs name. Johnny also had coolers placed and enough Coca-Cola 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 Coca-Cola. 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. E-Mail Interview with Johnny Johnson Q How long did you work for Coca-Cola? A. I worked for Coca-Cola from 1958 to 1962. I was working for Coca-Cola right through the whole birth of The Beatles. I was a Route Salesmen. Q. Did you work for the Coke bottler in Liverpool? A. I did. I worked for the Coke Bottler on Charnock Road, Aintree, Liverpool Q. Do you have any special memories of serving the Casbah Coffee Club? A. (He laughs) Do I, how long have you got? We were doing regular runs to the Casbah, maybe two three times a week. It was at the Casbah that I met Mona Best, who started the whole thing. The Beatles wouldn't have happened without her you know. I also met Neil Aspinall there, who went on to become the Managing Director of Apple and of course Pete Best, what a handsome lad. The Casbah was always the first stop and the last stop for me. I couldn't believe the amount of Coke drank there, amazing. We always tried to get back to the Casbah because it was so exciting. I just wanted to be part of the family, become accepted by the Best's, which I was. Mo bribed us to do all sorts of things, we helped paint, we mowed the lawns and we were glad to do it. I tried to get as much advertising as I could for the Casbah. It was me who got the Casbah Coffee Club their Coca Cola signs. Coke wouldn't give them to just anyone you know. You had to be a special customer, which the Casbah was. I remember we would always have trouble driving the van into the driveway because of all the tents pitched everywhere. Girls would camp outside for days to get a glimpse of Pete. The tents would be all over the lawn and around The Beatles van. Funny, the van would be covered in red lipstick kisses and 'I love You Pete' and the likes. (He laughs) Pete spent many a night in that van doing homework or something of that effect. I would socialize at the Casbah. I played Piano there and often got up on stage with The Beatles, only to play one song mind, which was 'Red River Valley.' My claim to fame playing with The Beatles. On occasion I even worked the door at the Casbah for Mo. At the end of the evening I would end up upstairs in the kitchen drinking Coke. Sitting around the kitchen table chatting with Mo and The Beatles, unbelievable times. The Beatles went on to become the biggest group in the world and I went on to be known as the Coca-Cola Cooler King because I sold so many Coke coolers.
More on Journey
- From One Fan to Another: The Story Behind Unbox Therapy's Coca-Cola Cooler
- Rio de Janeiro: The Enchanted Kingdom of Two Carnivals
- Celebrating the Champs: The Storied History of Coke's Commemorative Sports Cans (and Bottles)
- Meet Shirley Hasley: The Accidental Coke Model Who Helped Make History
- ‘What is Coca-Cola?’ Why the Brand Has Appeared on Jeopardy! 200+ Times