Feb. 16 marks the anniversary of the death of singer Tony Sheridan, who played a major role in the Beatles’ early career in Hamburg. U.S. musician Dave Humphries, who knew Sheridan, performed and recorded with him, said Tuesday he was thinking of his friend. “Three years since my buddy Tony Sheridan left us,” he told Beatles Examiner. “Miss him. Genius guitarist much underrated.” And, as he pointed out, “After all The Beatles backed him.”
Sheridan, born May 21, 1940 in Norwich, England, started his road to a musical career by learning to play the violin. His first rock ‘n’ roll band was the Vagabonds, which included Jimmy Nicol, who later briefly subbed for Ringo Starr in the Beatles. After adding a rhythm guitarist, they became Vince Taylor’s Playboys while backing Taylor. The gig led to Sheridan being signed to “Oh, Boy!,” the early British musical show produced by Jack Good, who later was responsible for “Shindig!” in the U.S. Sheridan became the first British musician to play live electric guitar on TV in the UK and his group opened for Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent on their tour of the UK.
He met the Beatles after being hired by Bruno Koschmider for his Top Ten Club in Hamburg, Germany. He told Beatles author Spencer Leigh he thought George Harrison was a lot like him. “George Harrison was the most interesting Beatle as he reminded me of myself at that age. He was only 17 and he was asking me, ‘How do you do that? What’s that funny chord?’ It was the way I’d been talking to Eddie Cochran.”
His last U.S. appearance was at the San Diego Beatle Fair in late 2012. He died Feb. 16, 2013 in Germany. Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and Pete Best all paid tribute to Sheridan after his passing. Said McCartney, “Tony was a good guy who we knew and worked with from early days in Hamburg. We regularly watched his late night performances and admired his style. He will be missed.”
Sheridan’s work with the Beatles has been put out many times in many different releases over the years. The best is Bear Family’s “Beatles Bop” from 2004, a gorgeous box set that has both mono and stereo versions of the tracks he recorded with them plus a hardcover book. In more recent years, Time-Life put out “The Beatles With Tony Sheridan: 50th Anniversary Edition” in 2011, which, while not as lavish, covers much the same ground. It has four fewer tracks than the Bear Family set, but the four missing, all versions of “Swanee River,” didn’t have the Beatles on them.
Dave Humphries and his band will be among the performers at this year’s San Diego Beatles Fair March 26 at the Queen Bee’s Art and Cultural Center in San Diego. The show will be headlined by Denny Laine, and also include the Baja Bugs, True Stories and Cody Lovaas.