Remembering Joe Flannery, the Secret Beatle Who Died on This Day in 2019

You know Paul, John, George, and Ringo. But what about the fifth secret Beatle? No, not Pete Best, the original drummer — we’re talking about Joe Flannery, the original booking agent.

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Before Beatlesmania spread into a global pandemic, the Fab Four were one of countless rock and roll bands cutting their teeth in the U.K. The Beatles’ manager, Brian Epstein, hired his childhood friend and Liverpool music scene supporter Joe Flannery to book gigs for the band.

From the Teenage Rebels to the Beatles

The Beatles’ first booking agent, Joe Flannery, and the band’s manager, Brian Epstein, grew up together in Liverpool. Their lives were inextricably linked from childhood to their early 20s. Flannery and Epstein’s mothers worked at the same furniture factory, they attended the same school, and they were also in the army together. 

Flannery was a lifelong lover of music and spent his early adult days diving into the Liverpool music scene. He frequently booked shows for his brother’s band, The Teenage Rebels, and was well-acquainted with local clubs and players. Epstein separately developed a relationship with the original Beatles’ lineup (Paul, John, George, and Pete). Eventually, Epstein reached out to his childhood friend to employ his local scene expertise. Flannery obliged. 

“[Brian] was very well-spoken and didn’t think it would suit if he was going round taking the bookings,” Flannery said in an interview with The Beatles Story museum in Liverpool. “That became my job, and Brian handled the contacts and business side of things. We would meet up every few days to share notes. We had other bands on our books too, such as Gerry and the Pacemakers, Cilla, Beryl Marsden, and Billy J. Kramer.”

A Supporter, Mentor, and Friend

Joe Flannery and the Beatles were more than a booking manager and his clients. The not-yet-famous musicians would regularly visit Flannery’s home in Tue Brook, Liverpool. According to Flannery’s interview with the Liverpool Museum, Lennon called his home  the “posh house.” Lennon would lay on Flannery’s floor in front of his fireplace, writing music on scraps of paper. 

After the band finished their set in the early hours of the morning, the four-piece would crash at Flannery’s home. The next day, Flannery would drive them home. The booking manager was heavily involved in the Beatles’ lives during the earliest days of their career. In his book Standing in the Wings: The Beatles, Brian Epstein, and Me, Flannery recalled giving driving lessons to the youngest member of the band, George Harrison

As the Beatles began recording and submitting music to radio stations, Flannery and Lennon would visit Liverpool’s Pier Head area, drinking coffee, and trying to catch Beatles tracks on the radio. “He used to wonder how successful the band could become, and I remember him saying that if it didn’t work out, he was going to join the merchant navy and go on to live in New York,” Flannery told the Liverpool museum. “As it happens, the latter part of that came true.”

The Third (Secret) Beatle Died in 2019

Flannery amicably parted ways with the Beatles following their skyrocketing to stardom. He continued to work in stage management with Epstein, who would tragically die of an overdose in 1967 at only 32 years old. Flannery had reached out to Lennon post-Beatles breakup as he was recording his solo material. The former booking agent and musician had plans to reconnect, but sadly, their plans never came to fruition. Mark David Chapman shot and killed Lennon in front of the Dakota in 1980 before Lennon ever made it back to his hometown.

The “secret” Beatle died nearly four decades later on March 27, 2019. His nephew, Norman Meek, released a statement following his uncle’s death in his home in Aigburth. “He had been unwell for the past month, but he was still making plans for the future,” Meek’s statement to NME read. “Fans from all over the world would call at his home, and he was always happy to speak with them. He had a song, ‘Much Missed Man,’ and I’m sure the city would agree with that sentiment.”

(Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

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