The answer to Harrogate's enduring Beatles mystery?

MARCH 8 1963 was a Hard Day's Night for The Beatles, according to Harrogate rockers Ricky Fenton and The Apaches who shared the stage with the world's biggest band during their historic Royal Hall gig.

But they insist the Fab Four had a Ticket to Ride just after the performance and never stayed in the town as legend has it.

Over the past four decades, speculation about exactly where The Beatles slept that night has been rife - some say the Old Swan, others say the Hotel St George while some claim they were turned away from a handful of hotels because of their appearance.

Recently, Harrogate historian Malcolm Neesam asked readers to shed light on the mystery.

And now, former members of The Apaches believe they can settle the score.

The band supported The Beatles during their Royal Hall gig with fellow Harrogate group, Barry Corbett and his Mustangs, and brushed shoulders with John, Paul, George and Ringo.

“We were young lads. We were 18 at the time,” said lead guitarist Bob Mason.

“They were round about our age, maybe a little bit older. We were just a local pop band of the day.

“We’d heard their record, Love Me Do, once or twice and we thought ‘this is unusual’.

“They were different to anyone we’d ever heard before and it was all beginning to kick off when they came to Harrogate.

”They were into hard rock ‘n’ roll and R&B. It was a sharp and exciting sound. They were really tight and professional, and doing all the gigs they did that year, you can understand why,” he remembered.

“But I think it’s one of these urban myths that have stayed in Harrogate. They said they needed to get off because they had a gig down south the next day.

“Soon after that it all kicked off for them.”

In 1963, the road was a way of life for The Beatles who pinballed from town to town putting on one show after another, often for weeks without a break.

The Royal Hall gig, for which they were paid 75 with 25 going to their manager, Brian Epstein, was sandwiched between concerts hundreds of miles away.

The night before they appeared in Harrogate they played at the Elizabethan Ballroom in Nottingham.

The night after they were at London’s Granada Cinema - proof if proof were needed, say The Apaches, that the best-selling group of all time hit the road straight after the performance.

“They did get off sharpish,” said former Apaches front-man George McCormick, aka Ricky Fenton.

“They weren’t staying in Harrogate. People have said that they were turned away because of their appearance. It wasn’t stamped on their head that they were The Beatles or anything.

“They were smartly dressed and their appearance was not unusual.”

Bob added: “They were all dressed the same in black leather and black polos.

“After we played with The Beatles we came out of our blue suits and ditched our Shadows image.”

And their wardrobe wasn’t the only thing to be influenced by the Fab Four.

“Maybe it’s because we’re about the same age, but we’ve always felt a bond with The Beatles,” explained George.

“It’s never really left us and they’ve been a part of our lives since 1963.

“But if we’d said to them ‘we’ve seen the future and you’re going to be multi-millionaires, they’d have said ‘what are you lot on?’”

While Bob still plays in local jazz trio, Swingtime Jazz, George no longer sings.

But the thought of the Royal Hall reopening after its renovation has led the pair to consider a reunion with former Apaches bass player Dennis Wardman, of Tockwith, so the trio can to go full circle – with a little help from their friends.

“I hope that on the reopening night, the two sirs, Paul McCartney and Cliff Richard, will be invited to appear, especially as this was pretty much where it began for both artists,” said George.

“And I do hope The Apaches and The Mustangs are also invited. After all, me and Bob knew McCartney when he ‘had nowt’!”