The Rockin’ River Cruise

Published on

Thursday, November 2, 2023

On Friday 28 September 1962 music legends, The Beatles, rocked the Mersey Ferry on one of The Cavern’s famous Riverboat Shuffle Cruises. This was Ringo’s first and last gig on the ferry, as he joined the band on 18 August 1962, replacing Pete Best.

After this final performance on the ferry The Beatles released their hit single ‘Love Me Do’ on 5 October 1962, went on to have seventeen number one hits in the UK, twenty number one singles in America and became the most famous band in the world.

Mike, a local teenager and drummer in a four-piece rock band called The Senators, later to become Johnny President and the Senators, had bought two five shillings (25p) tickets to the cruise for a date night with his then girlfriend Doreen.

Mike and Doreen were some of the first passengers to board the Royal Iris ferry that night and watched as The Beatles were setting up for the gig. Mike went over and spoke to Ringo as he was setting up his drum kit, Mike explains:

“The Beatles’ drummer, Ringo, was setting up his drum kit on the dance floor in front of the stage. To the side of Ringo, John Lennon lay on the bench seat with his feet up and his eyes closed. Being a drummer myself I decided to have a talk with Ringo. I said hello and told him that I noticed he played a great deal on the hi hat cymbal and I wondered what tilt setting he had on the adjustment screw on the bottom hi hat cymbal. There was a silence for a few seconds as though he wasn’t sure what I meant, so I leaned forward and felt under his cymbal to show him what I meant.

To my surprise there was just a hole where the adjustment screw should have been. I often think back to that moment and laughingly think to myself, “well it pays to have a screw loose” as he is now a millionaire, and I am not!”

Mike and Doreen in the early 60s. 

As well as The Beatles, the other acts on the Riverboat Shuffle Cruise that night were Lee Castle and the Barons and Freddy (the Teddy) Fowell who was a Fontana recording star. Mike and Doreen enjoyed the lovely weather that night and had a dance or two to the bands, as they both loved to jive.

Mike was also lucky enough to see The Beatles perform one lunchtime in The Cavern, Mike remembers:

“It was quite common in those days to see The Beatles on the local clubs, for instance I worked in Coopers Publicity Department, which was in Church Street in Liverpool’s City Centre, quite close to The Cavern Club in Mathew Street, so I remember having nothing to do in my lunch hour. My workmate and I decided to go to The Cavern. We didn’t realise until we got there that The Beatles were the act on that day. If I remember correctly, it only cost two and sixpence (2/6D) i.e., 12½p at The Cavern entrance. Down the steps we went into the cellar to be met with the sound of The Beatles on stage. They were still playing after an hour when I returned to work, my lunch hour over.”

The Beatles on stage at The Cavern Club Liverpool in the early 60s. 

Photograph copyright: The Cavern Club Liverpool. 

In total, The Beatles played on the Royal Iris as part of The Cavern’s Riverboat Shuffle Cruises four times. Three of them included their drummer Pete Best (25 August 1961, 6 July 1962 and 10 August 1962) and only once with Ringo Starr on 28 September 1962. The Beatles later went on to rock the world with their famous Merseybeat sound and created some of the most loved and famous songs in the world.

Mike and Doreen remember their date night on the ferry fondly; they married in June 1969 and have celebrated 54 happy years together.

Find out more about Mersey Ferries’ connection with The Beatles here

If you'd like to experience a River Explorer Cruise and learn more about the Fab Four buy your River Cruise & The Beatles Story tickets here.