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Paddy Delaney: Doorman at the Cavern Club during its Sixties heyday

Spencer Leigh
Tuesday 14 April 2009 00:00 BST

First impressions count and during the Cavern Club's heyday in the 1960s, the first person you would see was the so-called "gentle giant", Paddy Delaney, standing in the doorway. He had come to the Cavern as its doorman in 1959 and after clearing out the rough element, he kept it trouble free during the historic Merseybeat years.

The Cavern, in the basement of a warehouse in Mathew Street in Liverpool's city centre, had opened in 1957 as a jazz club. Two years later, its new manager, Ray McFall, wanted to resolve its problems and hired Delaney, a former guardsman who worked at the Locarno, a Liverpool dance hall. Delaney's fee was initially £1 a night, but his prowess in the job meant that McFall quickly increased it to £1.10s (£1.50).

"I had read about the trouble with Teddy Boys in the Liverpool Echo," Delaney told me once, "and I knew I had to sort it out. I did get a broken jaw because someone came at me from behind, but I put five of them in hospital one night. My main rule was that when people were banned, they were banned for life. Too many clubs let them back after a week or so and then the trouble started again. I told Ray McFall that I could clean the place up, but it would take three months and I'd need more men. That's the story and I never looked back. I was there until it was demolished in 1973."

Delaney carried out his job very effectively: he knew how to resolve disputes and how to escort troublemakers off the premises peacefully. He once criticised me for calling him a bouncer. "Never call me that," he said. "I always thought that people were human beings and that they were paying good money to come and see the show and also paying my wages. Nowadays a fella who's never had a dinner suit on before thinks it's a licence to belt anyone who says a word out of place."

McFall and his DJ, Bob Wooler, soon took the club in the direction of beat music and the Beatles made the first of their historic 275 appearances in February 1961. The basement club, which only had one entrance (with incredibly steep steps), was frequently packed way beyond capacity. With its appalling ventilation and dreadful toilets, it was undeniably a health and safety risk, but no one complained.

Delaney's hero was Al Jolson and he would often perform or mime his songs in Liverpool pubs and clubs, even singing "Mammy" at the Cavern. "I used to like to jump on stage while the groups were packing up their equipment and do a few songs. One of my greatest fans was George Harrison. He used to sit down and listen to them."

Delaney let Brian Epstein into the club on 9 November 1961 to see the Beatles, paving the way for one of the most celebrated relationships in rock'n'roll history. Delaney also witnessed the Beatles' final appearance at the Cavern on 3 August 1963. "The crowds outside were going mad. By the time John Lennon had got through the cordon of girls, his mohair jacket had lost a sleeve. I grabbed it to stop a girl getting away with a souvenir. John stitched it back on. They may have altered their style elsewhere, but they didn't do it when they played at the Cavern. They were the same old Beatles, with John saying, 'OK, tatty-head, we're going to play a number for you.' There was never anything sophisticated about his introductions."

Delaney had a large family to support and as well as spending the daytime delivering the Mersey Beat newspaper he undertook various odd jobs to make ends meet. He also managed the beat group the Nomads and secured them a record contract with Decca, where they became the Mojos and had a Top 10 hit with "Everything's Alright".

The Cavern became a victim of its own success as McFall expanded too rapidly, leading the club into bankruptcy in 1966. Delaney organised a siege to keep out the bailiffs, and when the police came, he was the last to leave. The club reopened under new management and kept going for seven years, by which time it was a heavy metal venue and subject to a compulsory purchase order.

Delaney had a succession of jobs after leaving the Cavern – notably, patrolling Liverpool's parks – and he supported his wife, Margaret, a local councillor. He advised the architect, David Backhouse, on his plans to rebuild the Cavern, and the new premises opened in 1984. The Cavern's original entrance is now marked with a life-size photograph of Paddy standing in the doorway. "That's the story of my life," he would muse. "I've spent my whole life standing in a doorway."

Patrick Delaney, doorman: born 5 October 1931, Liverpool; married Margaret (deceased, four daughters, two sons); died Liverpool 7 February 2009.

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