Paul McCartney Made the Quarrymen ‘Embarrassed’ and ‘Uncomfortable’ in His First Show With Them

In the late 1950s, Paul McCartney watched John Lennon’s band, the Quarrymen, perform at a festival. He was so enamored with the group that he introduced himself afterward — and tried to impress them with his own guitar playing. It worked, and a thoroughly impressed Lennon invited McCartney to join the band. In his first performance, though, he messed up so spectacularly that his new bandmates felt humiliated.

Paul McCartney flubbed a guitar solo when playing his first show with the Quarrymen
The Quarrymen were McCartney’s first-ever band, and he worked hard to ensure his guitar playing sounded good for performances. He began “practicing relentlessly,” even in the car with friends.

“Every damn minute, he would be picking at it until we threatened to toss him and the guitar out of the car,” his friend Charles Roberts said, per the book The Beatles: The Biography by Bob Spitz. He’d nailed down a solo for “Guitar Boogie Shuffle,” but when it came time to play it onstage, McCartney choked.

“For my first gig, I was given a guitar solo on ‘Guitar Boogie,’” McCartney said in The Beatles Anthology. “I could play it easily in rehearsal so they elected that I should do it as my solo. Things were going fine, but when the moment came in the performance I got sticky fingers; I thought, ‘What am I doing here?’”

McCartney missed his cue for the solo and then struggled to get back on track. His new bandmates were horrified. “At first we were embarrassed, just really uncomfortable with what had happened,” drummer Colin Hanton said. “John insisted on a certain degree of professionalism. And now the new guy made us look worse than the amateurs we were.”

John Lennon’s reaction to Paul McCartney’s mistake surprised the other Quarrymen
Lennon was the leader of the band and took his music more seriously than his bandmates. The other Quarrymen expected him to berate McCartney for his mistake. “I thought he was going to lay into him something fierce,” Hanton said.

As it turned out, though, Lennon found McCartney’s blatant humiliation at least a little endearing. “Paul McCartney — normally so confident, so cocky, so graceful even ill at ease that you wanted to hate him — looked so deflated,” Hanton said. “Why, John laughed so hard, he almost pissed himself.”

The mistake ultimately landed George Harrison a place in the band
McCartney walked away from the performance red-cheeked but inspired. He realized he wasn’t the right person to perform guitar solos; it was too stressful for him. Luckily, though, he knew a person who was perfect for the role: his school friend, George Harrison.

“I was just too frightened; it was too big a moment with everyone looking at the guitar player,” he explained, adding, “I couldn’t do it. (I never played a solo again until a few years ago). That’s why George was brought in.” When Harrison joined the Quarrymen, the group moved one step closer to their future as The Beatles.

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