Tony Sheridan, the British singer, songwriter and guitarist who once fronted the Beatles, died Saturday (Feb. 16) in Hamburg, Germany. He was 72.
The news of his death was made public by his daughter Wendy Clare Sheridan-McGinnity, according to the New York Times.
Although he wasn't a part of the Beatles for long, Sheridan's involvement with the band was pivotal. He met the group -- which then included John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison on guitars, Stuart Sutcliffe on bass and Pete Best on drums -- when they arrived in Hamburg to work as a club band in 1960. Sheridan was already an accomplished singer, but took a liking to the Beatles. When Sutcliffe and Best left the band, McCartney took over on bass and Ringo Starr officially became the new drummer in 1962. (In recent years, Sheridan claims he helped arrange Starr's first few performances with the Beatles).
In the spring of 1961, German producer Bert Kaempfert offered recording contracts to both Sheridan and the Beatles, with the intention of the Beatles acting as Sheridan's backup band. Still, the option was open for the Beatles to record on their own.
During studio sessions in Hamburg in 1961 and 1962, Sheridan and the Beatles recorded nine songs together under the name Tony Sheridan and the Beat Brothers. Sheridan sang seven of them -- “My Bonnie,” “The Saints,” “Why (Can’t You Love Me Again),” “Nobody’s Child,” “Take Out Some Insurance On Me, Baby,” “Sweet Georgia Brown” and “Swanee River.” The other two tracks were Beatles performances -- “Cry for a Shadow,” an instrumental by Lennon and Harrison, and “Ain’t She Sweet,” sung by Lennon.
When the group's first single, "My Bonnie," was released in Germany on the Polydor label in Oct. 1961, Beatles’ fans in Liverpool took over local record shops, requesting the disc. One store manager, Brian Epstein, wanted to see what all the fuss was about and caught a performance by the group at the Cavern. He obviously liked it, as he persuaded the Beatles to hire him as their manager, and within a year, got them a recording contract of their own with EMI.
McCartney called larger-than-life Sheridan "The Teacher." His most recent recordings include “Vagabond” (2002) and a DVD, “Chantal Meets Tony Sheridan” (2005), which includes the only recording of “Tell Me If You Can,” a song Sheridan wrote with McCartney in 1962.
Sheridan is survived by his three sons, Tony Jr., Bennet and Felim, and daughters, Wendy Clare and Amber.