The Beatles Connection: How I met Tony Sheridan and The Beatles

A story by George Dankmeyer edited by Cees Bakker

The famous Dutch impresario Lou van Rees offered the Harry Bredow Band, of which I was a member, to play at the Blauer Peter club in Hamburg during August, September and October 1960. The club was located at Grosse Freiheit, a side-street of the Reeperbahn. This club was a so called Frühlokal, it was open from 04.00 PM till 10.00 PM. Mainly in that period Italian and Italian orientated bands were contracted, because of the popularity of the style/genre. That means close-harmony singing was obligatory.
Harry Bredow’ s (vocals, guitar, piano) sidemen were Rob van Kreeveld (piano- today jazz piano teacher at Royal Conservatory The Hague); Wim Zuijdervelt (died April 2004 - trumpet, bass, vocals); Henny Heutink (deceased March 2000 - drums) and myself George Dankmeyer (guitar, bass and vocals).

Harry Bredow Band at the Blauer Peter (Hamburg, September/Oktober 1960)l/r: Rob van Kreeveld, Harry Bredow, Henny Heutink, Wim Zuijdervelt, George Dankmeyer

Our band was frequently visited by Tony Sheridan and James Macken aka Jimmy Ward (Irish, although he always tried to persist/convince his Scottish origin/descent). Jimmy Ward sang the song "At the End Of The Rainbow" very well; the man on the double bass: Tony Cavanaugh (Afro American, ex- GI) had a good performance with :”He Ba Be Re Bop” . Tony Sheridan's right middle finger was "stiff", I remember. These three musicians played at Top Ten Club on the Reeperbahn, where there was much fluorescent light. Our band was listening very often to them between 20 - 24 hours. And under such circumstances you often hear the invitation: Just like to sing/ play a couple of numbers with us?

A German young man Horst Fascher (former talented boxer), who worked in Top Ten and who was a former employee of club owner Bruno Koschmider of Kaiserkeller's - kind of bodyguard of Tony Sheridan, once had the idea to let play our band at Top Ten, in a change with Tony/Tony/Jimmy. As we were full of energy we accepted the invitation, because we now also could play for a younger public. The Blauer Peter public was more jet set-like, movie stars (Curd Jürgens, Hans Jörg Felmy and more), sportsmen as Olympic 100 meter gold medal winner (Rome-1960) and world record keeper Armin Hary, football players of HSV, airport flight crews, sailors and so on. Digging in my memories I remember that Blauer Peter was also visited by a famous boxer: Floyd Patterson. The Harry Bredow band stayed during that period at the Hotel Menken (Reeperbahn), where another Dutch band played of which Harry and Wim Zuijdervelt were former members (Rhythm Stars); the band’s new name was The Five Atomics. Most of the time we had our meals (dinners) at an Indonesian restaurant: Dewi, opposite to the hotel. The owners name was Moesi.

Just for the record Tony Sheridan played a Fender Stratocaster, Tony Cavanaugh double bass and Jimmy Ward drums. When the two bands played together the sound was fuller because we were specialized in close-harmony singing. Tony's repertoire was Elvis, but his success number was Summertime. With our piano player Rob van Kreeveld they did a original version of Elvis' Lover Doll.
Because of lack of energy we played 10 or 14 days at Top Ten and after that incidentally when there was a special occasion. Then by surprise together with The Tony Sheridan Trio we were invited to play at the Club 99 in Bremen to promote the 'Berlin Golden Boys & Gils Rock'n'Roll Team' for a live transmission of Televison/Radio Bremen in September 1960. Tremendous success, music and show (lying on the ground and more exiting movements). The offer to make a record was cancelled by us, because we had to move to another club after the end of our contract with Blauer Peter. Tony and his men later started to make records.

Very actual in the hit parade was a new release of Ramona (Blue Diamonds), which we never heard and when there was a special request for us to play that number, so we played the old 3/4 version, ha ha. Another hit at that time was : Wir Wollen Niemals Aus Einander Gehen, by Heidi Brühl.

Another band we met there was Rory Storm and The Hurricanes (with drummer Ringo Starr). A typical rock 'n roll band in style of Tommy Steele (who's brother Colin Hicks I played also once with, but that was pure incidentally - I even don't know exactly the place whether it was in Milan or at Brussels - World Exhibition). Rory Storm's band also played in the Grosse Freiheit (Kaiserkeller, a smaller club).
Once an evening there were English talking guys with Western outfit listening to us, presenting them as The Beatles from Liverpool. They played at Indra and from August 1960 as second band with Rory Storm in the Kaiserkeller. As they didn't earn so much money they offered us to buy their cowboy boots, but we were not interested in that, instead of that we paid their drinks and some more small things as a sandwich or so.

The Beatles with their cowboy boots in Hamburg 1960

But it was very friendly atmosphere. I myself met Stuart Sutcliffe several times and then we walked up together, chatting about all kinds of subjects and much about art. I remember that he sometimes said to me that "a splitting headache was torturing him" or something similar. He told about his German girlfriend, who was artist too? I once saw her at a distance with Stuart.

Remembering the time I'm sure that our band was the first Dutch band which had a narrow contact with Tony Sheridan and the others and very probably the first Dutch band who met The Beatles in their first line up.
After Hamburg we performed through Germany. Later our band changed its name into Rhythm Sellers. We played the summer of 1961 in Sheherazade (Scheveningen - The Netherlands). Harry Bredow left the band and in his place Leo van Oostrom joined us. He was the first Royal Conservatory student on saxophone in our country. He now still is a teacher as Rob van Kreeveld (our pianist) also is. Sometimes we talk about our wonderful time we had at Hamburg. But it is 45 years back!! Henny Heutink (drums) and Wim Zuijdervelt (bass, trumpet) passed away.

The Rhythm Sellers (Sheherazade, Scheveningen - Summer 1961)
l/r: Rob van Kreeveld, Leo van Oostrom, Wim Zuijdervelt, George Dankmeyer, Henny Heutink

In the beginning of the year 1961 I played with the Hawaiian band of Mike Anoi's (steeler), and we made a trip through Denmark and Germany. After that I was a member of the Italian band of Franco Betro and in the period 1963-1965 I joined the Indo-Rock group The Fire Devils.
The End.
George Dankmeyer
(Born Sunday 18 July 1937)
All pictures: George's private collection & all rights reserved
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