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R.I.P., John 'Duff' Lowe: Former Member of Pre-Beatles Band the Quarrymen Has Died at 81

With John Lennon on lead vocal, the group recorded a Paul McCartney/George Harrison original, 'In Spite of All The Danger,' as well as Buddy Holly's 'That'll Be The Day."

Source: Screenshot via YouTube

John 'Duff' Lowe in 2014.

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John 'Duff' Lowe, one of the original members of the Quarrymen, an early group founded by John Lennon, passed away Feb. 22 at the age of 81.

Though most famous for his early involvement with the musicians who would later form the Beatles, Lowe reformed the Quarrymen (without the surviving Beatles members) in the 1990s, releasing the album Open for Engagements in 1994. His cause of death has not been revealed.

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Source: Apple Corps, Ltd. LLC

Label from the Quarrymen's "In Spite Of All The Danger."

For those unfamiliar with Lowe's contributions to the pre-Beatles era, he was invited by Liverpool Institute school chum Paul McCartney in February 1958 to become the piano-playing ad-hoc member of the skiffle group the Quarrymen. Soon afterward, several of the members left, leaving Lowe, drummer Colin Hanton, Lennon, McCartney and George Harrison (who had joined in March 1958, at McCartney's insistence) as a quintet that shifted more toward the emerging sound coming in from America called rock and roll.

It was this version of the Quarrymen that walked into a local Liverpool electrical shop on July 12, 1958. The shop was owned by 60-year-old Percy Phillips, who had a small recording set-up advertised as Phillips' Sound Recording Services. The group recorded straight to disc with a single microphone in the center of the room. With Lennon on lead vocal, they first recorded a McCartney/Harrison original "In Spite of All The Danger" and then a cover of Buddy Holly's 1956 song "That'll Be The Day." Due to the expense, only one fragile 78 rpm acetate was pressed to be shared among the group.

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Source: ℗ © Yoko Ono Lennon, Paul McCartney, G.H. Estate Ltd. and Apple Corps Ltd., under exclusive license to Calderstone Productions Limited (a division of Universal Music Group)/YouTube

In Spite Of All The Danger (Anthology 1 Version)

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Shared amongst the band and passed around to friends, the acetate ended up with Lowe, who, as legend reports, kept the disc in a sock drawer at home. Drummer Hanton quit the band after a fight, and then Lowe left after graduating from Liverpool Institute. Lowe remained in the background until 1981 when he discovered the acetate in said drawer. His attempts to sell this one-of-a-kind piece of Beatles history at auction were thwarted when McCartney stepped forward to purchase it outright for an undisclosed amount in 1981.

With McCartney's purchase, he was able to restore the recordings to an acceptable level. Both of the tracks were held for release until 1995's Anthology 1 collection.

Lowe joined the early departee Rod Davis as the only other original Quarrymen in the group's 1990s reunion, and was also in a 2017 version billed as John Lennon's Original Quarrymen that played at Beatle-related events.


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