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When did John, Paul and George leave the Quarrymen and form the Beatles?

The short answer is that they didn’t.  John. Paul and George never left the Quarrymen.  They simply changed the band name after it had been in service for a good four years.

It’s a natural part of the evolution of musical groups and bands that they change and evolve over time as individuals leave and are replaced by new members. In some cases the band can end up with a lineup that contains few if any of the original founding members. That is exactly what happened with the Quarrymen.  By 1960, John was the only original member remaining.

Just as the lineup changed with the arrival of Paul McCartney and then George Harrison – so did the music.  We started out in 1956 as a skiffle band struggling to master three chords.  Over our first year we added more and more of the American rock ‘n’ roll that was especially enthusing John.  By the time of Paul’s first Quarrymen show (in October 1957) and George’s debut (circa February 1958) the group was on a very clear path away from skiffle and towards rock ‘n’ roll.

By early 1960, the nucleus of the Quarrymen was the trio of John, Paul and George.  And the repertoire was almost exclusively rock ‘n’ roll.  Given their ambitions and the fact that the inspiration for the group name (the reference to “quarrymen” in the Quarry Bank school song) only had significance for one of the members (John) it was certainly reasonable that the group should consider a new name.

Apart from its connection to Quarry Bank School, the Quarrymen name also conjured up images of sweaty, manly toil on rugged land, American chain-gangs and prison labour. Perfect when singing Lonnie Donegan-style skiffle songs that were often derived from 1930s rural America. But as a new modernistic decade dawned and young men’s thoughts turned to rock ‘n’ roll, girls, sex, leather jackets, jeans and juke joints – it was certainly time to have a name more in keeping with those inspirations.

So – just as Bill Haley shed his original band name (The Saddlemen) in 1952 and adopted the snazzier name The Comets – so did John, Paul and George gently release the band name under which they had met and developed their musical bonds – in favour of a new name for the new decade. 

As history records, they experimented with a few band names in the first six months of 1960 including “Johnny & The Moondogs”, “Long John & The Beetles”, “The Beetles”, "The Beatals", "The Silver Beetles" and finally just "The Beatles”.

But their affection for the days when they were called The Quarrymen never deserted them.  In a 1963 interview on Britain’s premier TV music show “Ready Steady Go” – John was interviewed about the origin of the Beatles name and then proudly referenced the band’s original name The Quarrymen.  In 1980, a few months before his tragic death, as he turned 40, John asked his Aunt Mimi to send him his old school tie from Quarry Bank School and he took to wearing it around New York City. He also stayed in touch with his old Quarry Bank schoolmate and Quarrymen co-founder Pete Shotton. For John, the “ties” that bind included never losing “affection for people and things that went before…”

The Quarrymen are all proud to have been part of what “went before” and how they were The Band That Became The Beatles.  And we carry on saluting that glorious heritage today