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Singer Tony Sheridan, Early Beatles Collaborator, Dead at 72



British singer and guitarist Tony Sheridan, best known as an early collaborator of The Beatles, has died, according to the British paper The Telegraph.  He was 72.  He was the only person who wasn't a member of the band ever to appear as a lead singer on a charting Beatles single.

The Beatles -- with Pete Best on drums -- first met Sheridan in Hamburg, Germany, where both acts were playing the local clubs.  According to the Telegraph, it was Sheridan who introduced the group to the American R&B songs that became a large part of their early repertoire.  A Hamburg club owner then offered the Beatles a residency as the house band, backing up Sheridan seven hours a night, seven days a week.

Polydor records talent scout Bert Kaempfert offered Sheridan a recording contract, including the Beatles as his backup group, but Kaempfert insisted the group be billed on record instead as The Beat Brothers.  Apparently, "Beatles" sounded too much like a German slang word for male genitalia.

During what turned out to be the Beatles' first recording sessions, with Sheridan in 1961, seven songs were put to tape, including "My Bonnie" and "When The Saints Go Marching In" with Sheridan, and the Beatles' own "Ain't She Sweet" and "Cry for a Shadow."  A single featuring "My Bonnie" and credited to Sheridan and the Beat Brothers was released in October of 1961 in Germany, and in January of 1962 in the U.K., credited to Sheridan and the Beatles.

Legend has it that in 1961, a Liverpool man named Raymond Jones walked into Brian Epstein's record shop and requested a copy of the "My Bonnie" single, which led, Epstein claimed, to him tracking down the group and becoming their manager.   The Telegraph reports that the story later turned out to have been largely invented by Epstein.

Songs from the Sheridan sessions have since been re-released countless times, and Sheridan himself continued to make music, but moved away from rock 'n roll to a more bluesy, jazzier style.  He continued to live in Germany, and according to the Telegraph, underwent heart surgery there last year.  He died in Hamburg on February 16.

Photo courtesy of rollingstone.com

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