Talent competitions might seem like a new primetime capitalist venture, but they arose even before pop culture and The Beatles were no strangers to partake once things finally got swinging. One of their first efforts, however, almost got lost to the sands of time not least because John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison performed under the name Johnny and The Moondogs.
For some unknown reason, long lost to history, on November 15th, 1959, The Quarrymen (as the first incarnation of The Beatles were known) took a depleted squad to Manchester for the evening. They were set to partake in the regional final for the Carol Lewis show TV Star Search. They had breezed through the Liverpool leg in October and a victory in the regionals would mean that they acquired a coveted primetime national TV slot. Careers had been made by less exposure than that. This was a big moment for The Moondogs.
They took to the stage as three-piece without a drummer an essential element for any rock band in history. What’s more, they lacked any following in the audience which proved all the more important considering the band who progressed was the one who received the loudest cheer on the show’s famed clap-o-meter. But the final nail came in the form of the financial hardships that the band faced.
Without the cash to afford an overnight stay in Manchester the young lads from Liverpool left the studio despondently even before the audience had the chance to give them their backing in order to catch a train back to Merseyside. The band tucked their tails between their legs and put the event down to a lesson to learn from. Thereafter the search for a drummer went supersonic as they sought out their figurative primetime moment.
As Cynthia Lennon recalls regarding the event: “By this time John Paul and George had renamed themselves Johnny and the Moondogs and their hopes were high, but they came back despondent: they had failed the audition, mainly because they lacked a drummer. It was a setback, but it didn’t put them off. When something didn’t work out John would be down for a day or so, then he’d carry on, determined to be the best and to show anyone who didn’t believe in the group how wrong they’d been.”
For those searching for the happy final twist to the narrative that the Manchester audience waited in awe-struck wonder to give Johnny and The Moondogs the loudest cheer scousers had ever received in their territory, you will be left wanting. Even the date of the event is disputed among Beatles obsessives let alone anecdotal evidence declaring them unlucky not to have won it. Perhaps The Beatles even knew that their time was yet to come as it would seem that they had no intention of sticking with the name that could’ve landed them their big break.