Coca‑Cola Blog: Heritage

Ted Ryan, manager of the Coca‑Cola Archives in Atlanta, is a big Beatles fan. With a little digging, he finds links between the band’s early days and a well-stocked red cooler of Coke

Ted Ryan

The Casbah Club in Liverpool

It all began when I procured a copy of The Beatles: The True Beginnings, a book written by Roag Best, brother of ‘fifth Beatle’ Pete Best. It’s about the Casbah Coffee Club, the Liverpool venue created by the Best boys’ mum, Mona, which launched the Beatles’ career.

It doesn’t take a Coca‑Cola archivist to spot the Coca‑Cola cooler on the book’s cover, but it takes one to wonder how it got there…

I wrote to Roag, who now runs The Casbah Coffee Club as a museum. We exchanged some great emails and I wanted to share my findings with you.

In Liverpool in 1959, Mona Best opened a coffee club to capitalise on the popularity of this thing called ‘rock ’n’ roll’, after seeing a similar club opening in London’s Soho. She cleaned out the basement of her house at 8 Haymans Green and enlisted the help of some local lads to paint fanciful pictures of spiders, dragons and stars on the walls. Some of those boys – John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ken Brown – played at the club’s opening, in a band called The Quarrymen. The quartet went on to gig regularly at the club, but things changed. Paul asked Mona’s son, Pete, to join them on drums and the band’s name was changed to The Beatles.

Coca‑Cola at the Casbah, in pictures

Coca‑Cola had a bigger presence in this important piece of musical history than you might imagine. Roag put me in touch with Johnny Johnson, who worked for Liverpool’s Coca‑Cola bottler during the Casbah’s three-year existence. Johnny was the guy making sure the Casbah was only a coffee club by name and that its clientele preferred a cool Coke. He gave the Casbah a prestige Coca‑Cola sign with the club’s name printed on it, as well as the cooler; these items were reserved for special customers and the Casbah was the Liverpool bottler’s biggest account, requiring two or three deliveries per week.

These days, the Casbah looks just as it did when it closed in 1962 (just before the Beatles released their first album). I’ve never been to Liverpool, but if I do, the Casbah will be my first stop.

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