Meet the Quarrymen. Lennon's pre-Beatles skiffle outfit has reformed for its first U.S. tour, opening tonight in an unlikely venue: the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Connecticut.
The five surviving members of the group--Pete Shotton (washboard), Colin Hanton (drums), Rod Davies (banjo), Eric Griffiths (guitar) and Len Garry (vocals and tea-chest bass, a British take on the homemade washtub bass)--first reunited last year at Liverpool's Cavern Club, the mythic site in Beatles lore where the Fab Four were discovered by manager Brian Epstein.
That reunion marked the 40th anniversary of the day Paul McCartney watched the Quarrymen play a church picnic. Afterward, he was introduced to the band's frontman, Lennon, sparking a partnership that would change music history.
Now the group is embarking on a Stateside trek, including gigs at the Connecticut casino, New York's famous Bottom Line club and a Beatles convention in Chicago.
Despite the tour and a new 15-song CD, Get Back Together, the members admit the reunion is a lark. "We don't pretend to be fantastic," Davis tells the Hartford (Connecticut) Courant. "We hope to be an interesting act. We're basically five old guys who know someone who became someone famous."
That someone, of course, was Lennon, the kid who founded the band, which he named after his Quarry Bank prep school.
Aside from Lennon, none of the other Quarrymen became professional musicians, dropping out one by one and eventually replaced by the likes of McCartney and George Harrison. After Harrison came on board, the band changed its name to Johnny and the Moondogs, then the Silver Beetles and finally in 1961, with Pete Best and later Ringo Starr, the Beatles.
The set list for tonight's show is virtually unchanged from the group's Liverpool days: several folk standards played in the hepped-up skiffle style ("Midnight Special," "Pick a Bale of Cotton"), early rock covers ("Blue Suede Shoes," "Be-Bop-A-Lula," "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On") and an early McCartney/Harrison effort recently unearthed on the Beatles' Anthology ("In Spite of all the Danger").
"None of us are brilliant musicians," Davis says. "But people are interested in us as walking antiques you know. This is as near as you can get to hearing the Lennon lineup in 1957."