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The night The Beatles played Shrewsbury Music Hall

By Toby Neal | Shrewsbury | Shrewsbury entertainment | Published:

"I thought 'I can't imagine this scruffy lot getting very far.' How wrong could I be?"

The Beatles played their first Shrewsbury gig on December 14, 1962

David Wiseman, bass guitarist with The Deltas, didn't think that much of the Liverpool foursome on the bill with them at the Music Hall in Shrewsbury on December 14, 1962.

That Liverpool group were The Beatles, performing at the county town for the first time.

They had had a minor hit a few weeks beforehand with Love Me Do and, although nobody knew it that Shrewsbury night, were about to explode on the music scene as a global phenomenon.

David, 76, lives these days in West Sussex, but at the time was living in Oakfield Road in Copthorne and worked at Shrewsbury's big Maddox department store, doing window dressing and helping in the shop.

The Deltas were a Shrewsbury band with a strong local following and were one of the supporting acts for The Beatles, who topped the bill.

No pictures have turned up of The Beatles at their first Shrewsbury gig, but they were to return to play the Music Hall a few months later, as in this picture courtesy of Dave Wallace

"My memories are a bit vague, but I can remember doing the show. When we were in the dressing room we were in a bit of a huddle one end and they were in a huddle their end.

"There was a smart-looking gentleman with them, who might have been Brian Epstein, but I'm not sure.

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"I was vaguely having a chat with Paul McCartney because he had this amazing guitar that looked like a violin. I thought it was a bit odd.

"Fans came in to try to get some autographs from The Beatles. I was not terribly impressed with them actually.

"They were very good musicians, but I thought they looked rather untidy because the fashion then was to be quite well dressed, even in pop groups.

"We were dressed in suits and bow ties. I think they were just in shirts and I think they had some sort of jacket, and their hair was a bit untidy. It was not as smart as it was later on.

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The Beatles topped the bill

"It was quite an experience to listen to them. They had started to be a bit well known. We all had friends in the audience and were dancing with the audience in between our sets.

"The hall was quite packed. I think we were almost as popular as The Beatles at the time, with I suppose loyalty from the local people.

"I can't really remember if there was screaming or that sort of thing."

The Deltas during the concert, with Roger third from left in the group line-up.

David went at the time as Tony Wiseman.

"A lot of my friends were called David and it was not a very cool name. Tony sounded much cooler, and Anthony is my middle name."

His own bit part in The Beatles story is not something he has talked about previously.

"I've kept it to myself until now.

This poster reveals the names of the support acts

"I did have a poster until I left to go to Australia, and when I came back it had been destroyed, unfortunately, which I was cross about.

"I had kept my guitar and amplifier in the loft of the Shrewsbury house. When I came back it was all gone.

"I hadn't really any proof of playing with The Beatles. You can imagine saying to somebody 'I played with The Beatles' and them saying 'Oh yes, pull the other one.'"

Swapping chords with George Harrison

The turning point came when he learned there had been a reunion of 1960s Shropshire pop bands earlier this year which led to him getting in touch with Roger Francis, singer and rhythm guitarist with The Deltas, who lives in Arleston.

Roger remembers that night a little differently.

"David didn't think much of them and thought they were scruffy, but my memory is that they were suiting up.

Roger Francis with some mementoes

"When they came to Shrewsbury they had suits on. We had suits, but theirs were a little smarter, with velvet collars, and we thought that was a nice idea and did the same thing.

"The Music Hall was around about half full, I would have thought. It was not packed. When we were playing people were crammed to the stage, but when The Beatles came on they stood back a bit. They tuned up on stage, which was something nobody ever did.

"A lot of people weren't that impressed, but the harmonies were the things that struck me and I thought that was really good. They did a lot of American stuff."

He has a photo of The Deltas performing that night in which Ringo Starr's drum kit is in the background bearing the name, not yet of The Beatles but of Ringo himself.

The Deltas on stage at the Music Hall on December 14, 1962. From left: Tony Wiseman, Roger Francis, Bernard Lewis, drummer Bob Partridge, right, Barry Udy on lead guitar. Note the drum kit in the background extreme right which was the drum kit of Ringo Starr – it was such early days that the kit has Ringo's name on it rather than that of The Beatles.

Roger said: "It was good fun. The dressing room upstairs was a communal one. I got on pretty well with George Harrison. We were swapping chords.

"When he was doing his set I was watching what they were up to and asked what was that chord and he would say 'do you mean this?' and showed me.

"Then when they did their second set he was holding his guitar up when he was doing his solos so I could see what his chord sequences were.

"They were a good bunch of lads. Paul McCartney dropped his plectrum while playing and I had a plectrum in my pocket and reached up and gave him mine.

"I got the Beatles' autographs but one of my ex-girlfriends had it from me."

As for David, he has resumed his musical activities.

"I'm playing the guitar again now in Bognor Regis, near where I live. I'm playing bass guitar in a classical guitar group.

"Of The Deltas, Barry, the lead guitarist, is not with us any more, and the drummer has gone to Australia. So there's only us two, me and Roger, left."

Toby Neal

By Toby Neal
Feature Writer

A journalist in Shropshire for 40 years, mainly writes features and columns, especially about aspects of Shropshire history. Lives in Telford and is based at the Ketley headquarters.

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