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The John Lennon Series
by Jude Southerland Kessler

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Reference Library: Raymond Jones

From: (saki)
Subject: Re: Unraveling the Raymond Jones Myth
Date: Fri, 6 Jun 1997 19:19:46 GMT

robert young [] wrote:

...although my favorite bit in the book is the concrete description of Raymond Jones: 18-year-old Huyton boy, printer's apprentice, Carl Perkins fan, always went to Hambleton Hall on Friday nights with his "mates," wore leather jacket and jeans on 28 Oct. '61, and disappointed that the Beatles were merely the backing group on "My Bonnie."

I wonder if Alistair Taylor was the source of all this delightful detail; whoever it was must have had a good laugh upon finding it in the book.

saki wrote:

I had some email from a fellow recently who said he'd been friends with one of The Dakotas (as in "Billy J. Kramer and"), during the sixties. Ray Jones of the Dakotas told this gentleman that he *was* *the* Raymond Jones. Of course, this Ray Jones was from Oldham, near Manchester, not from Huyton in Liverpool, so that makes the story more complex.

I have no doubt that Ray Jones may have thought he was the official Raymond Jones; he may even have shopped at Epstein's NEMS (traveling an hour by train to do so...maybe NEMS was that famous in 1961!).

But thanks to the highly esteemed Steve Carter in England, I now have two beautiful back issues of the Manchester Evening Standard from last November. Freeland journalist Bill McCoid interviewed Alistair Taylor, once Brian's personal assistant and one of the Fabs' "inner circle" (though bounced out by Allen Klein).

Alistair admits he was Raymond Jones...or that there *was no Raymond Jones*. He said he kept it secret for so many years because "It's part of the myth. I've kept the myth going. There are many myths".

Under further questioning, Alistair said "I've kept this hidden for 30 years, truly [actually more like 34 years!]. I made up the name Ray Jones. He doesn't exist".

McCoid asked Alistair why NEMS ever ordered "My Bonnie", the German Tony Sheridan single that started the Liverpool disc-buying craze, if Raymond Jones (or someone like him) didn't request it: "Because we knew they were big in Liverpool. So Brian and I said: 'OK, yeah, let's find it'."

While Alistair is careful to insist that no one in the Beatles camp---not Brian, not the Fabs, not even Derek Taylor (no relation to Alistair), who ghost wrote Brian's "A Cellarful of Noise" in 1964 and who repeated the story there---knew about the myth of Raymond Jones, this does reveal an important fact. Clearly Brian and Alistair knew of the Beatles' fame before that fateful trip to the Cavern on 9 November 1961.

It still boggles the mind that Brian wasn't in on the mythmaking, but perhaps more will be revealed when (and if) Alistair's own memoirs are ever released. As of last November, he was supposed to be working on his own book.

Gurzeler [] wrote:

I've been reading with great interest the debunking of the Raymond Jones myth. A few questions come to mind:

1. Has anyone ever tried looking for Raymond Jones? If he was a lad from Liverpool he shouldn't have been too hard to track down, assuming he wouldn't have come forward himself. I'm not asking this in hindsight; I mean, once the world knew about Raymond Jones did anyone try to find him?

Yes, insterestingly, Alistair Taylor tried. :-) No fooling; the man who made him up used to go on British radio chat shows and beg Raymond to reveal his presence. All part of keeping the secret, I guess.

2. When, exactly, was the story of Raymond Jones revealed? 1962? 1963? 1964?

I don't have access to much British press material prior to 1964, but I have some, and Raymond Jones isn't mentioned specifically. The first printed reference I can find is Brian Epstein's "A Cellarful of Noise", which came out in October 1964. If anyone from our highly esteemed British contingent has an earlier printed or transcribed reference, I'd be pleased to hear of it.

3. How long was NEMS in business? Where was the store located? How close to the Cavern?

North End Music Stores was an offshoot of the Epstein family business, which was a department/furniture/entertainment store in Liverpool; there were a couple locations, the most famous of which was in Whitechapel Street, about 100 steps away from the jazz club (later beat-music club) called The Cavern, in Mathew Street (actually a cobblestoned alley).

What kind of records did Brian sell and what kind of clientele did he have? Was it the kind of store tennagers would go to? Who was his competition?

Brian sold all kinds of records---classical, jazz, pop, rock and roll, and all age groups shopped there, though after the Merseybeat sound began to become well known, teens frequented the store more noticeably. I believe other departments stores (like Lewis') sold records as well, and operhaps Hessey's, a guitar shop; but maybe some originals from Liverpool would like to fill us in here.

4. If the attraction to the Beatles (and John in particular?) was homosexual in nature and, for the sake of argument, the leather jackets and pants was a catalyst, were the Beatles the only group wearing leather?

No, other groups did as well---Gerry Marsden, for instance, and anyone attempting to imitate the sultry American motorcycle-bad-boy image a la Brando and others. Leather gear was not predominant, but some groups did persist in weaing leather even after it became slightly passe.

Why wouldn't a local group such as Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, which apparently had a larger following, also capture Brian's attention?

An interesting question. Storm and crew wore matching suits rather than leather; perhaps that's a clue? Or perhaps Storm (for all his energy) didn't have the same musical and personal charisma that the Beatles had.

5. And, as someone pointed out, how could "My Bonnie" be associated with the Beatles? It was a Tony Sheridan record. It was recorded in Hamburg.

If the Beatles, on-stage at the Cavern, told their fans that they were on a record, even as a backing band for another singer, it's still possible that Beatles fans asked Epstein for a record by the Beatles called "My Bonnie". The Fabs may not have been precise in telling their followers how to request the record locally, particularly since they left Hamburg in July 1961 with only (we surmise) a couple demo or promo copies of the record. Actual release of the Polydor disc is hard to trace, since Polydor's release notes no longer exist, but it was probably autumn 1961.

What was the B-side?

"The Saints".

Was "Ain't She Sweet" or "Cry for a Shadow" ever released on a single?

"Ain't She Sweet" in the UK on May 29, 1964, on Polydor; "Cry for a Shadow" on July 13, 1963 on a Polydor EP.

If the Beatles could be connected to "My Bonnie" then their reputation was a lot stronger than Alistair or Epstein have admitted!

Absolutely! Although to be fair, Alistair says in the Manchester Evening News article that they both knew the Beatles were big, and that's why Alistair ordered the record as Jones.

6. If Alistair Taylor is Raymond Jones, how did he learn about the Beatles and "My Bonnie"?

He doesn't say. I'd be interested in finding out more about this myself!

Any why would Brian suddenly want to become the manager of a rock and roll band? What was Brian's taste in music?

Brian had failed in a theatrical career but still had aspirations for the stage. This may have been a way of being on stage vicariously. Brian wrote a column for "Mersey Beat" on music; his tastes seem to have been classical and pop/jazz (he knows opera and big-band names very well); he mentions bigger rock-and-roll names like Elvis and the like, but mainly American rock.

7. Finally, what do the Beatles know about Raymond Jones? I get the feeling they have (as have we) believed the story to be true. Has anybody asked them since Alistair's revelation?

Not to my knowledge. I'm not sure what they know. Alistair says they knew nothing about the Jones myth, since he kept the truth of it from them all these years.

"You gave me the word, I finally heard...."
saki (


From: (saki)
Subject: Re: Unsolved mysteries: Raymond Jones.
Date: Thu, 5 Jun 1997 06:02:38 GMT

R Lapworth wrote: (saki) wrote:

Davies mentions Jones' leather jacket, but from whom did he get that information? Both Norman and Brown & Gaines pick up that description without doing further research to determine whether Epstein saw Jones, whether Alistair Taylor described Jones to Epstein, or whether anyone actually saw him at all!
Minor point:

Also from 'A Cellarful of Noise', p.43, "...the store into which, years later, on a Saturday afternoon, walked leather-jacketed Raymond Jones."

The personification of Jones as a leather-clad boy may be a clue. Let's keep that in mind for a moment.

A little later Eppy (?Derek Taylor) actually quotes 'Jones': "The words, of course, were 'Have you got a disc by the Beatles?'".

I think this implies that Eppy actually saw Jones, or at least that he wanted us to think so.

Perhaps, or that he wanted to leave it passive and non-specific so it wouldn't be necessary to state an untruth. "The words, of course, were...." is what Derek has Epstein say---not "I heard Jones ask...." or "Jones asked me...."

"Brian liked the look of the boy, and instead of letting a saleman help, he approached the boy himself."--Brown/Gaines (pfui)
If this is correct, and perhaps Brian was attracted to Jones, then it may explain why a) he remembered the incident so well, and b) he was so keen to find the unkown record, and thus please Jones.

Or perhaps it was to please someone else!

Perhaps this isn't a minor point after all. The implication of the above would be that Brian Epstein's first interest with The Beatles was, indirectly, a result of his homosexuality! (I hasten to add that I am not suggesting that this is any more than idle speculation.)

(My God, have I come up with an original idea?)

Almost. :-) I hinted at the same idea in a post about a year ago, but didn't feel I had sufficient evidence to make the case. I still don't, but it's worth a revisit, based on your bringing it up again.

As background for those who side with Alistair Taylor (no relation to Derek) and believe there was no Jones, here's what Alistair said in the Manchester Evening News, November 4, 1995, as journalist Bill McCoid reported it:

"'I've never told anyone this before' [Alistair told the journalist], 'but I ordered My Bonny [sic] -- I am Raymond Jones'. ... Do George, Paul and Ringo know this? 'Nobody knows it.' Did Brian know? Taylor shakes his head. 'Nobody knows.' Why have you kept this secret all this time? 'It's part of the myth. I've kept the myth going. There are many myths.' Why did you order that Beatles record then? 'Because we knew they were big in Liverpool. So Brian and I said: OK, yeah, let's find it. I just made it up. I became Raymond Jones.'" ....

"This is not the account given in Epstein's biography.... According to Taylor, this was a mythical embroidering.... You ordered the record? [asks McCoid]. 'Yeah' [replied Taylor]. You told Brian you'd had an order from Raymond Jones? 'Yeah'. Have you felt you should have got the credit you deserved for it this last 34 years? 'Yeah, of course I do. Yeah, sure.' So Brian never saw Raymond Jones? 'No, nobody ever sees Raymond Jones.' The nearest anyone's ever got to Raymond Jones is you? 'Absolutely. It's a thing I've kept under my belt. We had to do it'."

(Thanks to the Manchester Evening Standard, 4 Nov 1995, p. 9).

Interesting, isn't it, that at two places in his narrative, Alistair lapses into the first person plural. "*We* knew they were big in Liverpool. So *Brian and I* said...." "*We* had to do it".

Who's this "we" all of a sudden? :-) If Brian didn't know...why the plural? Just a slip of the tongue? Or is it a real clue, an indicator that someone else knew...possibly Brian after all, and Alistair is hiding it for reasons unknown?

"We knew they were big in Liverpool" is also a fascinating statement, since the myth rigorously maintained that Brian knew nothing of the band till he heard their name via Raymond Jones, and had never seen them till he and Alistair dropped into the Cavern Club a fortnight later. Brian also recounted in the autobiography that a total of three people---Jones and two unspecified girls---were the only people who had asked for "My Bonnie", that contrary to popular opinion there were not hordes of Liverpudlians asking at NEMS for the record. Note this fact for later!

In "A Cellarful of Noise", Brian does admit that he recalled dimly seeing the name "Beatles" from a poster advertising one of their gigs in Liverpool, and recalling with hindsight that the four scruffy lads who shopped at NEMS were the Beatles. On the other hand, if Jones (and all archetypal young men from Merseyside) could be characterized as wearing leather jackets, why would four in particular (once Brian scrutinized his memory) stand out in his mind? And if Alistair says he and Brian knew they were famous...why the prevarication in Brian's account of the tale? Why downplay local interest if it was really quite significant?

Perhaps the answer rests in the reason the myth was made. And there could be several sensible reasons. I'll just look at two. Perhaps some of you have better ideas!

Alistair doesn't really tell us, does he? There's a hint. Alistair and Brian knew they were big in town, so they went to the trouble of ordering a pack of 25 copies of "My Bonnie"---the minimal order. Why help out the lads, though? Did they order the records because the Beatles were big, or because Raymond Jones asked for it and Brian was adamant about satisfying every customer's record request, even if there were 24 records left over?

The traditional myth maintains the latter; Alistair reconfigures it in his new version, suggesting that the motive was to enhance the Beatles' popularity. Now why do that? If Brian claimed he couldn't even remember at first that the Boys shopped there...why go out on a limb for fellows he claimed he didn't even know and who attracted (according to Brian) only three record requests from NEMS patrons?

Unless he noticed them more keenly than he ever admitted, and wanted to impress them...well before he ever saw them at the Cavern?

Of course there are several reasons for creating Beatles legends, and the Fabs themselves were no strangers to inventing their own...most famously, and very early, was John's biblical-style "history" of the group and its naming, from 1961, only a year after the group was officially called "The Beatles".

For Brian and his coterie of pressmen (Derek Taylor, Tony Barrow, Brian Sommersville), myth was all; and reducing Liverpool's interest in the Fabs to one common denominator was an elegant and neat solution. Distilled into Raymond Jones, one could almost trace the genesis of Beatlemania. Ray Jones started it: the primal fan.

He even had a name, a "look" (leather, just like the Beatles used to wear), and in at least one fanciful account, a job and a earnest Scouse everyman, determined to learn a trade and a persistent fan of pop in his off-hours. The nascent Merseybeat sound was his playground. Soon the whisper became a roar as Beatlemania caught fire on the banks of the Mersey...and in Whitechapel Street, where there was the ever-helpful staff of NEMS, ready to serve Beatles fans as they clamored for their fave rave's first record.

So one reason you invent a myth is to make the complex simple, and control the official tale of historical events. Note that with Brian's emphasis (in "A Cellarful of Noise") on his own dedication to helping uncover a local mystery (who were these Beatles? What label? How to procure it?), he becomes a local hero.

Not undeservedly, of course. The fact that he ordered the disc, in multiples, and pursued the band to the steps of its fabled local hangout, and was so moved to offer to be their manager, is worth accolades aplenty. He may not have been the most acute financial manager, but as a personal manager he was nonpareil.

There is no question that Brian helped them find fame via radio, TV and recording gigs...many of which initially happened because of Brian's unassailable conviction that the Beatles had talent and charm and charisma fit to beat *any* band. He seemed to be able to convince a number of people (who might have doubted a less enraptured manager) of his group's musical potential. And of course, once seen, the group convinced them as well.

But there's another reason myths are made, and that's to hide a secret.

If I had to put my money on one or the other, I'd bet on this one.

In rereading the interview with Alistair Taylor, I do find it interesting that he slips from "I" to "We". Alistair himself was not homosexual but he knew his then-boss was. And he knew how dangerous it was to be a homosexual in the UK in the sixties. "You must remember" he tells McCoid, "in those days it wasn't just unacceptable, it was illegal".

Absolutely true, and Brian kept his private life very private for reasons of legality as well as propriety. Yet, as Brian's own biographer, Ray Coleman, tells it, Brian did have an interest in the "rough trade" that he kept well hidden from most people, excepting several trusted friends.

How much did Alistair know of this? Is there a chance that he knew his boss was interested in the four lads (or any lad wearing leather) because of their look, and less so because of their fame?

Did Alistair...with or without Brian's tacit request...order the Beatles' "My Bonnie" to flatter the group, to help them build their local reputation, to call attention to Mr. Epstein of NEMS? And did Mr. Taylor and Mr. Epstein pay a business call on the group at the Cavern because Brian was already intrigued with the Beatles, despite the music, and wanted---in some desperate way---to be involved with their lives?

If the latter is at all correct, then a legend like the Raymond Jones story would be a convenient cover for it. Brian and crew oblivious to the group until Jones called their attention to the Beatles; Brian intent on professionalism, ferreting out the elusive "My Bonnie" because it was a source of pride to him to give a customer what he wanted; being intrigued by the flurry of sales for the single, and wondering what all that fuss was down at the Cavern....

This would explain why Alistair Taylor kept the secret of Jones' nonexistence for so many years, and why his account of it *now* is so curiously unrevelatory and unconvincing. A truly logical motive just isn't there. It might suggest why he lapses from "It was my idea" into "We knew...". It could be the reason Taylor's account of their reasoning ("We knew they were big in Liverpool") has a hollow ring to it.

Something is still missing from the story.

Perhaps it always will be missing. It could be that the principals, who might have known, would prefer not to reveal what they know (*if* there's anything to know), out of loyalty to the memory of a still-admired friend.

And it could well Mr. Freud (or was it Groucho Marx?) said...that sometimes a myth is just a myth.

But it seems a question still worthy of pursuit.

"You gave me the word, I finally heard...."
saki (

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