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With his 1961 recording of "My Bonnie," Tony Sheridan forever secured rock & roll immortality; while the song was certainly a respectable hit during its heyday, its place in music history is instead assured as the first studio session to feature the Beatles. Anthony Sheridan McGinnity was born in Norwich, England on May 21, 1940; he formed his first band, the Saints, at the age of 15 before relocating to London a few years later. In 1959, he joined Vince Taylor & the Playboys, one of the most popular of the many British groups which rose to fame on the decadent Hamburg, Germany club scene; over time, the band evolved into a new unit called the Beat Brothers, originally featuring Sheridan on vocals and guitar backed by guitarists Ken Packwood and Rick Richards, bassist Colin Melander, keyboardist Ian Hines, and drummer Jimmy Doyle.
The Beat Brothers' lineup was notoriously nebulous, and among the various musicians which briefly passed through their ranks were John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Pete Best; it was this early incarnation of the Beatles which backed Sheridan in mid-1961 on at least three tracks — "My Bonnie," "The Saints," and "Why (Can't You Love Me Again)." (Much of the information about the sessions remain murky, based on memory and conjecture; the true circumstances will likely never be definitively determined, although it is also widely agreed that the same date generated "Ain't She Sweet," sung by Lennon, as well as the instrumental "Cry for a Shadow.") "My Bonnie" sold some 100,000 copies and reached the West German Top Five; it was credited to Tony Sheridan & the Beat Brothers as a result of label fears that "Beatles" bore too much similarity to the German word "peedles" — slang for the male organ.
In April 1962, the Beatles also joined Sheridan for a performance at the Hamburg Star Club; two more tracks, "Sweet Georgia Brown" and "Swanee River," are believed to have been recorded at that time. (Again, conclusive proof is lacking.) By this time, Sheridan was fronting a new group called the Tony Sheridan Quartet; at one point, their ranks included drummer (and future Beatle) Ringo Starr. By 1964, Sheridan had joined the Bobb Patrick Big Six, but by now the Hamburg beat craze was dying; at that juncture he journeyed to Vietnam to play U.S. army bases. When he returned to Hamburg in 1968, he remained a cult hero, and played a number of triumphant live dates before gradually retiring from show business. Years later Sheridan converted to the Sannyasin religion, rechristening himself Swami Probhu Sharan and settling in Germany. He died in Hamburg in February 2013 at the age of 72. Tony Sheridan was a footnote in rock history, to be sure, but an important and enduring one.