Is George Harrison the reason why The Rolling Stones got their first record deal?
George Harrison was a fine guitarist, songwriter and composer but another aspect of the former Beatle’s talents was his eye for talent which, allegedly, played a pivotal role in helping The Rolling Stones secure their first-ever record deal. That deal, of course, would go on to set the foundations for Mick Jagger and the rest to become one of the biggest bands of all time.
Bob Spitz‘s acclaimed biography of The Beatles details exactly how Harrison played a pivotal role in transforming The Rolling Stones from one of London’s hottest unsigned bands to The Beatles’ high-profile rivals after he recommended them to the president of Decca Records.
Harrison’s intervention occurred around the time of The Beatles releasing their debut album Please Please Me which, of course, went straight to number one in the charts and catapulted the Merseysiders to icon status so early on in their career. The meteoric rise also had made the band become in incredible demand, with requests to make personal appearances at events going through the roof. With limited time, the group decided that individual members would appear at different events to fulfil their duties.
For the turn of Harrison, he made an appearance as a judge in a ‘Beat Group’ talent show which was made up of local Liverpool bands hoping to replicate the Fab Four’s success. A fellow judge at the contest alongside Harrison was Dick Rowe, the president of Decca Records and the winner of the talent show would go on to secure a deal with the label. Yes, it is that Dick Rowe, who was most famous as “the man that turned down the Beatles” when they auditioned for Decca before going to EMI—but he wasn’t going to make the same mistake twice.
After some of the bands came out to perform for both Harrison and Rowe, the two began discussing the competition so far. Harrison, unimpressed by what he has seen on the day, explains that none of the groups performing in the talent show were on the same level as a band from London called The Rolling Stones who he had seen a few days prior. Rowe, with his ears pricked by Harrison’s suggestion, instantly leapt out of his judge’s chair and began making plans. Picking up his coat, Rowe headed straight to London and immediately arranged a meeting to see Rolling Stones perform that night. The rest, as they say, is history.
Check out this footage below from when Mick Jagger would repay the favour by joining George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and many more for an all-star performance of ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ to mark The Beatles entering the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988.