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Baby Steps

The Meeting, Paul And George Become Quarry Men, The New Kids, Hard Times In Hamburg

John Winston Lennon was born on October 9, 1940. His parents were Julia and Fred Lennon, both of Liverpool, England. John recalled, “My mother was a housewife, I suppose. She was a comedienne and a singer. Not professional, but she used to get up in pubs and things like that. She had a good voice.” Julia's sister Mimi primarily raised John from the time he was eighteen months old. As a young child, John showed little interest in music or music lessons, though at the age of ten he taught himself to play basic songs on the harmonica. “At sixteen, my mother taught me music,” he explained. “She first taught me how to play banjo chords—that's why in very early photos of the group [the Quarry Men] I'm playing funny chords—and from that I progressed to guitar.”

In 1956, the appearance of Elvis Presley's “Heartbreak Hotel” on the top of the charts in fourteen different countries (including England) marked a pop music milestone, and had a huge impact on John. “Nothing really affected me until Elvis,” he explained. “Rock ‘n’ roll was real, everything else was unreal,” he added. “It was the only thing to get through to me out of all the things that were happening when I was fifteen.”

James Paul McCartney was born in Liverpool on June 18, 1942, to Mary and Jim McCartney. Paul's father had been a bandleader in Liverpool in the early 1920s, and was the only Beatle parent with any experience as a musician. Like John, Paul showed little interest in music as a child. At one point, he did make an effort to learn the piano (his father had once told him, “Learn the piano, because you'll get invited to parties”), but didn't like the fact that he had to apply himself to it. When Paul was fourteen, his father bought him a cheap guitar after Paul started listening to American rock and roll on the radio and was inspired to make music of his own. Among the first songs he learned to play were Elvis songs. “Any time I felt low I just put on an Elvis song and I'd feel great, beautiful,” he said. Paul has never had true formal musical training, something which he is almost proud of now. “To this day, I have never learnt to write or read music,” he said. “I have a vague suspicion that it would change how I'd do things.”

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Musician BiographiesThe Beatles