Singer-songwriter who was a friend and mentor of the Beatles in Hamburg

Sat, Mar 2, 2013, 00:00

Tony Sheridan Born: May 21st, 1940 Died: February 16th, 2013Singer-songwriter Tony Sheridan, who has died in Germany aged 72, will always have a place in popular music history for his role in the formative early days of the Beatles.

Born Anthony Esmond Sheridan McGinnity in Norwich in 1940, he was raised by his mother, a nurse with an intense interest in classical music. He was classically trained in the violin and took up the guitar in his teenage years.

By the late 1950s, he toured Britain with rock’n’roll trailblazers such as Chuck Berry, Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent, and he narrowly avoided being a passenger in the taxi Cochran and Vincent were travelling in when it crashed in 1960, killing Cochran and severely injuring Vincent.

A few months later, he became the resident act at the Kaiserkeller club in Hamburg, Germany. He was the first of a wave of British acts that would make Hamburg a centre of the burgeoning 1960s pop and rock scene.

Within months, he had been joined by a Liverpool band called the Silver Beatles, then a five-piece, and quickly became a friend and mentor. Over the next two years they played many all-night gigs together at clubs such as the Kaiserkeller, the Top Ten and the legendary Star Club. The Liverpudlians’ first appearance on record was as Sheridan’s backing band, under the name the Beat Brothers, on the 1961 release of the Scottish folk song My Bonnie.

In 1967 Sheridan went to Vietnam to perform for US troops. After 18 months he returned to Europe, traumatised by some of his experiences, and embraced spiritualism. Repulsed by the Bloody Sunday massacre in Derry in 1972, he renounced his British citizenship and became an Irish citizen. In recent years he lived in a small village in Schleswig-Holstein, north of Hamburg.

His third wife, Anna, died of cancer in 2011 at the age of 33. He is survived by two daughters and three sons.