The Beatles: This week marks 60th anniversary of landmark Fab Four concert in Doncaster

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They were four lads who shook the world – and 60 years ago this week, The Beatles performed a landmark show in Doncaster.

It was on March 22, 1963 that John, Paul, George and Ringo came to the Gaumont Theatre – the same day their debut album was released.

Please, Please Me, their very first album, would of course go on to catapult the Fab Four to global success – but during their visit to Doncaster, Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr only performed six songs in their set in a show which also featured Tommy Roe and Chris Montez.

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It wasn’t The Beatles’ only visit to Doncaster – they played in the town five times in total and the March concert came hot on the heels of a concert at the Gaumont just weeks earlier – when they actually stayed over at the nearby Regent Hotel.

The Beatles surrounded by female admirers on one of their five visits to Doncaster.The Beatles surrounded by female admirers on one of their five visits to Doncaster.
The Beatles surrounded by female admirers on one of their five visits to Doncaster.

Few guests stopping there in the winter of 1963 would have guessed that the four, dark-haired young lads tucking heartily into their breakfasts would change the music world forever.

After all, even though they had played to a hysterical, screaming audience at The Gaumont just a stone's throw over the road the night before, The Beatles only had two hits under their belts at that time.

Love Me Do had only climbed as high as number 17 and follow-up Please Please Me lodged at number two - hardly what you'd call superstar material.

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But as teenager Mick Longworth served up tea to the two Liverpudlians sharing a twin room at his mum's small town centre hotel on the morning of February 6, 1963, he sensed something big was about to happen for the unassuming yet cheery lads as they prepared to pack up their cases and instruments and head south on the next date of their tour with Helen Shapiro.

The Beatles on stage at the Gaumont in Doncaster.The Beatles on stage at the Gaumont in Doncaster.
The Beatles on stage at the Gaumont in Doncaster.

"When I heard The Beatles were staying at our hotel, I couldn't believe it," said Mick.

"I'd come home from school the night before and my mum just casually mentioned that we'd got a band in who were playing at The Gaumont that night.

"They hadn't had many hits at that time but me and my brother Dave knew who they were."

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Indeed, Mick, whose family ran the South Parade hotel, was so impressed that the Fab Four were in town that he cancelled his paper round for the following morning just so he could provide room service.

"They were in two rooms - John and George in one and Paul and Ringo in the other. I took tea to Paul and Ringo while Dave served John and George.

"Later on, when they came down to breakfast, they gave me a signed picture card, one of my proudest possessions which I have kept to this day. I'm sure a lot of the other guests didn't realise who they were."

Just hours earlier, the group had come off stage at The Gaumont, sparking the first crazed scenes which later spawned a whole new word - Beatlemania.

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Music fan John Burke, who wasn't lucky enough to have tickets for the show and who was just strolling along Hall Gate at the time with a group of friends, recalled the crazy scenes outside.

"There were loads of girls screaming out the front. Then this van pulled up at the stage door with guitar cases on top and they went berserk, running to try and see The Beatles," he said.

"But then an old Doncaster Evening Post van pulled up and the group jumped out and ran in through the front. There were only a few of us there to see it!"

And Mick, who later paid his own tribute to the Fab Four by opening the Beatles-themed Abbey Road bar and restaurant in the Regent's cellars, also recalled the hysteria.

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"My mum Peggy went out and asked this bunch of girls why they were screaming. They said it was because The Beatles were there. Mum told them they had got the wrong hotel and they were down the road at the Danum so they all headed off there," he chuckled.

Some of the Regent Hotel's Beatles collection.

Former Danum School headteacher Martyn Vickers was lucky enough to be at one of the group's Doncaster dates and watched awestruck as the band ran through their set.

He said: "My father was in charge of security on the night and he got me The Beatles' autographs on a programme.

"I sat next to a girl from Dunsville who screamed her head off the whole time. The noise was incredible - it was pandemonium. But it was quite a night."

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Fading newspaper articles about the group's visit still adorn the walls of the Regent, along with memorabilia from the sixties - a Gaumont concert ticket for The Beatles Show, block 3, seat A32 and priced at 12/6, a show programme and signed photos of the group themselves.

But pride of place goes to the hotel's guest book, which contains the signatures and original Liverpool addresses - as well as a taster of that cheeky wit - from the men who changed music forever.

Closer inspection reveals George was the first to sign in with the other three scribbling their names at the top of the adjoining page.

But Ringo, who used his real surname Starkey seemed confused about the date - signing in on February 6 rather than the actual date, the 5th.

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John Lennon was next, putting his address as 251 Menlove Avenue, the famed address where he lived with his beloved Aunt Mimi and showing that rebellious streak of later years by jotting "White Man" under nationality.

Paul McCartney was last and echoed Lennon's humour, scrawling "Green" under his bandmate's "White Man" joke.

Added Mick: "It really is a piece of rock history. How many hotel guest books in the world contain the signatures of The Beatles? Doncaster is a very important place in the history of the greatest group ever and we should all remember that.

"The Beatles changed the world forever and I am glad that I was a very small part of it."

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The Beatles played in Doncaster five times during their career:

The Co-op Ballroom - August 8, 1962

The Gaumont Theatre on February 5, March 22 and December 10, 1963

St James' Baths - February 20, 1963

The Beatles’ March 22 setlist contained six songs: ‘Love Me Do’, ‘Misery’, ‘A Taste Of Honey’, ‘Do You Want To Know A Secret’, ‘Please Please Me’ and ‘I Saw Her Standing There’.

* This article originally appeared in the Doncaster Free Press in 2003.

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