The Cheeky Stage Names The Beatles Adopted Before Becoming The Fab Four

Although it’s hard to imagine anyone but Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr making up the Fab Four, for a brief moment in the early 1960s, the future Beatles adopted cheeky stage names while cutting their teeth in a cover band that was (unwillingly) playing for (mostly) free.

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The three original members of the now iconic band, McCartney, Lennon, and Harrison, settled on several names before adopting the Beatles. The trio performed as the Quarrymen for a spell until an audition to be a backing band for a touring musician sent the artists back to the drawing board.

Lennon first floated the Crickets as a potential moniker, but McCartney shot it down, arguing that another band had already used that name. Eventually, the band settled on the Silver Beetles. But the Liverpool musicians didn’t stop there.

The Musicians Used Their Professional Digs To Adopt New Stage Names

The audition that prompted the band’s name change was for London-based music promoter Larry Parnes, who was looking for backing bands who could play with various touring singers around the U.K. In a fortunate preview of the success that was to come, the Silver Beetles landed the gig and began performing on the road with a singer and fellow Liverpudlian named Johnny Gentle. 

The former Beatle recalled the moment the Silver Beetles (who were never billed as such but rather as “Johnny Gentle and his group”) decided it was time for yet another stage name change in Anthology. “Now we were truly professional. We could do something we had been toying with for a long time, which was to change our names to real showbiz names.” Unsurprisingly, each band member had a different idea for what classified as a “real showbiz name.”

McCartney adopted the name Paul Ramon, which he later said was “suitably exotic.” He particularly liked the French feel of the name Ra-mon—yet another example of McCartney using pseudo-French to impress girls, just like when he wrote the party song-turned-love song “Michelle.”

The Other Bandmates Followed Suit Using Different Inspirations

Whereas McCartney turned to different countries for inspiration, the other future Beatles opted to use their stage names to pay homage to artists who came before them. “Stuart [Sutcliffe, the band’s bassist at the time] became Stuart de Staël after the painter,” McCartney explained. “George became Carl Harrison after Carl Perkins (our big idol, who had written “Blue Suede Shoes”). John was Long John. People have since said, ‘Ah, John didn’t change his name; that was very suave.’ Let me tell you: he was Long John. There was none of us that didn’t change his name.”

McCartney, Lennon, and Harrison spoke not-so-very fondly of their time touring northern Scotland as the Silver Beetles. The pay was as scant as the audience turnout. They took out most of their frustration on Sutcliffe, Lennon would later admit with some remorse. Eventually, both Sutcliffe and the “silver” of their name would fall by the wayside. Laughably, McCartney would later say, “John didn’t wish to be known as ‘Long John Silver’ any longer, and I didn’t wish to be known as Paul Ramon. It was just an exotic moment in my life.”

Photo by Keystone Features/Getty Images

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