When The Beatles went to Germany in 1961, to play in Hamburg at the Star Club, they met English singer Tony Sheridan, who was something of a name in Britain having appeared on TV’s Oh Boy!. The Beatles ended up playing with Sheridan at another of the city’s nightspots, the Top Ten Club, which is how they came to the attention of German bandleader and producer Bert Kaempfert who worked for Polydor.
Overnight on 22 June 1961 Sheridan, backed by The Beatles, recorded the traditional song, ‘My Bonnie’ which ended up as the A-side of a single coupled with, ‘The Saints’ (a rocking version of the New Orleans jazz classic). According to John Lennon, shortly after the Beatles became famous in their own right, “It’s just Tony Sheridan singing, with us banging in the background. It’s terrible. It could be anybody.” It’s George Harrison playing lead guitar, but it’s Sheridan playing the solo, which was overdubbed from a different recording.”
‘My Bonnie’ was released as a single in Germany in October 1961, billed as Tony Sheridan and The Beat Brothers; according to Paul McCartney, “They didn’t like our name and said, ‘Change to The Beat Brothers; this is more understandable for the German audience.’ We went along with it.” it made No.5 on the German singles chart. It was put out in the UK in the first week of January 1962, as Tony Sheridan and The Beatles.
Whatever ‘My Bonnie’s’ artistic qualities it was mightily important in bringing the Beatles to the attention of Brian Epstein. A local fan when into Epstein’s Liverpool record shop and asked to buy a copy of the German record, which is what led to him going to see the Beatles at the Cavern Club on 9 November 1961. And the rest is history…
It also lead to the first review, in January 1962, of The Beatles to appear in a UK national music paper :
“Tony Sheridan and The Beatles: The Saints/My Bonnie (Polydor) – Sheridan sounds a very promising performer in the rhythm and blues idiom.
Expressive voice, dynamic deliver – and he gets admirable support from the Beatles. This is truly rocking, roisterous Saints that should have wide appeal. A noisy but highly spirited Bonnie confirms the talents of this crew. We should be hearing a lot more of them.”
Hear more of The Beatles early recordings on the Anthology 1 compilation.