Interview with Debbie Greenberg
Author of "Cavern Club: The Inside Story"

By Ronnie

I first talked to Debbie Greenberg when I was doing research for a project on the Cavern Club. (a different article in this issue) We reviewed her book, "Cavern Club: The Inside Story" in a previous issue of EAR CANDY. It is a fantastic book and I highly recommend it! Debbie graciously agreed to an interview, where we talked about her book, The Cavern, and of course The Beatles!.

EC: I thoroughly enjoyed your book, "Cavern Club: The Inside Story" because it was both entertaining and informative! What made you decide to write a book about the Cavern after all these years?

Debbie Greenberg: I was prompted to write my book because I became aware that rumours were circulating in Liverpool that my dad was responsible for the demise and subsequent demolition of the original Cavern Club. As my dad was no longer around and unable to defend himself, I felt that it was time to set the record straight.

EC: Did you keep a diary in the '60s?

Debbie Greenberg: Sadly, no, I have lost count of the times that I wish I had kept a diary.

EC: It blows my mind to think that you've seen the Beatles 292 times, from their debut at the Cavern in 1961 to their final show in 1963! Surely no American Beatles fan can even come close! You got an inside view as they progressed through various phases: the 5-piece Beatles with Stu on bass; the leather 4-piece Beatles; the introduction of the suits; finally, Ringo Starr joins the band. What are your memories of each of these? Did you prefer one phase over the other? For instance, what do you recall about Stu Sutcliffe? I would just love to hear any memories on these different phases!

Debbie Greenberg: My memories of The Beatles at the Cavern were equally enthralling throughout all of their fashion stages. The music was the main ingredient that excited me but the phase of the black leather outfits and cuban heeled boots were particularly memorable. The Beatles were raunchy and oozed sex appeal clad in black leather.

The Beatles first performance at a lunchtime session at the Cavern on 9th February 1961 was mind blowing. The Beatles were different from all the other Liverpool groups. Their energy was palpable and their music was fantastic.

EC: What are your memories of the 5-piece Beatles with Stu on bass?

Debbie Greenberg: Stu Sutcliffe was the quiet Beatle, to the point of being shy. He often played his bass guitar with his back to the audience. Some people said it was because he wasn't that good a guitarist, others said it was because he was shy and didn't feel comfortable facing the audience. Mike McCartney remembers Stu sitting on the piano stool next to the piano on the Cavern stage with his back to the audience, facing Pete Best on the drums whilst playing his guitar during a performance.

EC: What about the leather 4-piece Beatles?

Debbie Greenberg: If I had to choose one fashion phase of The Beatles journey, it would have to be the black leather and cuban heeled boots. They looked raunchy, sexy, energetic and exciting.

EC: What about the introduction of the suits?

Debbie Greenberg: As the attire of The Beatles evolved the fans accepted their appearance. I think The Beatles could have dressed in anything they wanted to and the fans would have welcomed it. The collarless suits were actually born out of a corduroy jacket that Astrid Kirchherr had made for Stu, following the latest Paris design by Pierre Cardin.

EC: And finally, Ringo Starr joins the band?

Debbie Greenberg: When Ringo joined The Beatles and replaced Pete Best on the drums at the Cavern on Sunday 19th August 1962, the fans were furious. They started chanting "Pete Forever. Ringo Never". (I was one of them.) We couldn't understand why Pete had been replaced by Ringo. The drumming didn't sound any different to us. The rumours flying around Liverpool at the time were twofold. Some people said it was because Paul was jealous of Pete's good looks and wanted him out of the group. Others said it was because Ringo was a better drummer and that Brian Epstein had decided to replace Pete with Ringo. To this day Pete Best says he doesn't know why he was sacked.

EC: When the Beatles debuted at the Cavern in 1961, was it really obvious that they were an exciting "new" kind of group?

Debbie Greenberg: When I saw The Beatles for the first time at a lunchtime session at the Cavern on 9th February 1961, it was obvious that The Beatles were different. They were exciting, their energy was palpable, and their music was incredible. After I had seen The Beatles a few times at the Cavern, I remember saying to my dad " there is a group at the Cavern called The Beatles and you mark my words, they are going to be famous one day."

EC: I've read in many accounts of the Cavern that the "regulars" always had the first 3 rows "reserved", while others had favorite places where they stood (usually nearest their favorite Beatle). Did you have a regular place where you sat or stood? Did you have a favorite Beatle, or did it change (like Freda Kelly said in her documentary)?

Debbie Greenberg: I wasn't aware that the front few rows of seats facing the Cavern stage were ever reserved for anyone. It was always first come first served. I was sometimes lucky enough to sit on the front row by the stage but I would often stand in the first archway to the right of the stage.

I always preferred Paul to the other Beatles. Stu and Pete were also very good looking but they were shy and retiring compared to John and Paul. John and Paul had a great rapport with one another, always making funny quips to impress the girls. John had a wicked sense of humour and could be quite cutting at times.

EC: Did you ever see any Beatles shows at the Casbah?

Debbie Greenberg: I never went to the Casbah. It was on the outskirts of Liverpool. It was easier to jump a bus into the city centre close to the Cavern.

EC: I've seen a couple of fan photos of the Beatles at the Cavern, did you ever take any?

Debbie Greenberg: Regretfully, I didn't take any photographs in the Cavern in the early sixties. Oh how I wish I had. You know, in those days nobody thought about taking photos like they do today. If only we had had the technology of today back in the sixties.

Right: Debbie and Paul McCartney in 1968

EC: Did you have a favorite song that they played?

Debbie Greenberg: My favourite early Beatles song was 'I Saw Her Standing There' and it still is to this day.

EC: What can you remember about their humour on stage? (especially when the power went out!)

Debbie Greenberg: The Beatles had typical Liverpool humour. John especially had a dry sense of humour and was always making funny and sometimes sarcastic quips.

When the power failed at the Cavern, which it sometimes did, nobody minded, we just listened to John and Paul making small talk and passing funny remarks until the power was restored.

EC: In your book you mention a 1963 Rolling Stones concert at the Cavern in which the line got cut-off entering right before you were to about to enter! How did you make sure you always made it in for a Beatles show at the Cavern?

Debbie Greenberg: The Rolling Stones played their one and only performance at the Cavern on 5th November 1963. My friend and I were in the queue for the Cavern and had been for some hours. Paddy Delaney, the head doorman at the Cavern, put a stop on any more fans entering the club with just two people in front of us.

I reminded him of this when he returned to the Cavern in 1966 to ask for his old job back when my dad (Alf Geoghegan and Joe Davey had bought the Cavern) Paddy said "If I'd have known that you were going to be my future boss I would have let you in." As it happens Sue and I had seen The Rolling Stones live, a few weeks before in September 1963 at The Springfield Ballroom whilst on holiday in St Helier in Jersey, so we weren't too disappointed. The Beatles had played at The Springfield Ballroom on 6th, 7th August, 8th August in Guernsey and again at The Springfield Ballroom on 9th and 10th August. I had seen The Beatles last performance at the Cavern a few weeks before on 3rd August 1963.

EC: The only film of the Beatles at the Cavern is the famous 1962 Granada film - when you see it, does it bring back any memories?

Debbie Greenberg: Each time I see the Granada T V film of The Beatles at The Cavern on 22nd August 1962, I am immediately transported back, reliving the memory of that day at the Cavern. It was a very special day. It was like a sauna in the Cavern under normal circumstances but even hotter with the camera floodlights. We were right at the back of the centre aisle of the Cavern facing the stage, packed in like sardines in a can and barely had room to tap our feet to the music but we didn't care because it was The Beatles and we felt part of it.

EC: Did you keep any mementos or keepsakes from your time at the Cavern?

Debbie Greenberg: I still have many keepsakes and mementos from the Cavern. Mostly from the years that my dad (Alf Geoghegan) and I owned the club from 1966 to 1971.

EC: After you left the Cavern in the '70s, did you stay in touch with any of the Cavern "regulars"? Like Bob Wooler, Freda Kelly, Paddy, etc.

Debbie Greenberg: After we sold the Cavern in January 1971, we didn't stay in touch with former friends and employees of the Cavern.

Sadly we did meet up with Paddy Delaney (head doorman) and Ray McFall (Cavern owner 1959/1966) at the funeral of Doug Evans (former Cavern Office Manager). Paddy had lost his beloved wife Margaret and was going home to an empty house and Ray was going back to a hotel in Mount Pleasant in Liverpool, so Nigel and I took them both for a meal to a local eatery. We spent a poignant evening with them reminiscing about the good times we had all shared at the Cavern.

Right: Paul, LInda, Nigel and Debbie at Mike McCartney's wedding in 1981

EC: It's ironic that your husband Nigel was also a Cavern regular, but you didn't meet until many years later! Do you two have any shared memories of events? (other than him fixing the power when the club re-opened!)

Debbie Greenberg: Nigel and I were like ships that passed in the night. It transpired that we were often at the same sessions at the Cavern. When my dad hosted the launch of Radio Merseyside on 22nd November 1967 on the Royal Daffodil Ferry on the River Mersey, Nigel was also on board. The weirdest coincident of all was when the Prime Minister Harold Wilson re-opened the Cavern for us on 23rd July 1966. He went on stage to make his opening speech, the Worlds Press were in attendance and the power in the Cavern couldn't take the surge of electricity from the floodlights and cameras. The electrics blew and we were all plunged into darkness. My dad shouted from the stage (no microphones working) "is there an electrician in the house?" A voice from somewhere in the blackened crowd shouted. "I know where the electrics are, I'll sort it."

It wasn't until fifteen years later, on a blind date (organised by mutual friends) that I met Nigel and found out that it was him who had fixed the lights during the re-opening of the Cavern and had saved the day. He had also owned Cavern Sound Ltd, the recording studio at the Cavern between 1964 and 1966.

EC: Do you still visit the "new" Cavern?

Debbie Greenberg: Nigel and I still visit the new Cavern. There is always a lot happening here in Liverpool and we often meet up with old friends for events. My book was launched at the Cavern on 24th October 2016 at the Cavern together with a Christmas record that my dad had written for me over 50 years ago in 1967. It is called 'Little Girl - Bells of Christmas ' sung by Michael Armstrong, produced by Warren Bennett, (son of Brian Bennett of The Shadows). Brian Bennett is drumming on the record and it was mastered at Abbey Road Studios in London.