Bill Harry bigraphy, stories - Journalists

Bill Harry : biography

17 September 1938 -

Bill Harry (born 17 September 1938), is the creator of Mersey Beat; a newspaper of the early 1960s which focused on the Liverpool music scene. Harry had previously started various magazines and newspapers, such as Biped and Premier, while at Liverpool's Junior School of Art. He later attended the Liverpool College of Art, where his fellow students included John Lennon and Stuart Sutcliffe, who both later performed with The Beatles. He published a magazine, Jazz, in 1958, and worked as an assistant editor on the University of Liverpool's charity magazine, Pantosphinx.

Harry met his wife-to-be, Virginia Sowry, at the Jacaranda club—managed by Allan Williams, the first manager of The Beatles—and she later agreed to help him start a music newspaper. After borrowing £50, Harry released the first issue of Mersey Beat on 6 July 1961, with the first 5,000 copies selling out within a short time. The newspaper was published every two weeks, covering the music scenes in Liverpool, Wirral, Birkenhead, New Brighton, Crosby and Southport, as well as Warrington, Widnes and Runcorn. He edited the paper in a small attic office above a wine merchant's shop at 81a Renshaw Street, Liverpool.

Harry arranged for the future Beatles' manager, Brian Epstein, to see them perform a lunchtime concert at The Cavern Club on 9 November 1961. Epstein subsequently asked Harry to create a national music paper, the Music Echo, but after disagreements with Epstein about editorial control, he decided to become a P.R. agent; working for many solo artistes and groups, including Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull, Procol Harum, David Bowie, Led Zeppelin, and the Beach Boys, as well as many others.

P.R. and present

Harry and his wife moved to London in 1966 and was engaged as a public relations (P.R.) for The Kinks and The Hollies. During the next 18 years he was the P.R. to many artists, including Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull, Procol Harum, David Bowie, Led Zeppelin, The Beach Boys, Clouds, Ten Years After, Free, Mott The Hoople, The Pretty Things, Christine Perfect, Supertramp, Hot Chocolate, Suzi Quatro, and Kim Wilde. During his time working as a press officer, Harry started a monthly magazine called Tracks, which reported the latest album releases, and another magazine, Idols: 20th Century Legends, which ran for 37 issues, from 1998 to 1991. Harry also compiled a 34-track compilation, Mersey Beat, for Parlophone records, which was released on 31 October 1983.

Harry was presented with a gold award for a 'Lifetime Achievement in Music' by the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (BASCA) in 1994, has taken part in over 350 international television/radio shows, and was hired by Rediffusion to be programme assistant for the documentary Beat City. He was a programme assistant for the BBC's Everyman documentary about Lennon: A Day In The Life, and The Story Of Mersey Beat. The British Council asked him to represent them in Hong Kong, promoting The Beatles. Mersey Beat returned to publication in August 2009 with a 24-page special issue to celebrate the Liverpool International Beatle Week. He was an Associate Producer of the film The City That Rocked The World. Harry and Virginia have a son, Sean Harry, who is an actor, director and producer.

Mersey Beat

Photographer Dick Matthews, a friend from the Jacaranda, heard about Harry's problems with Leach and introduced Harry to a local civil servant, Jim Anderson, who lent Harry £50. This enabled Harry to found Mersey Beat in 1961. Harry decided to publish the newspaper every two weeks, covering the music scene in Liverpool, Wirral, Birkenhead, New Brighton, Crosby and Southport, as well as Warrington, Widnes and Runcorn. He thought up the name Mersey Beat by thinking about a policeman's 'beat' (the area of duty), which had nothing to do with a musical beat. Virginia gave up her accountancy/comptometer operator job at Woolworth's and worked full-time for £2.10/- a week (also contributing a Mersey Roundabout article), while Harry lived on his Senior City Art Scholarship funding. Matthews photographed groups, while Anderson found a small attic office for £5 a week above David Land's wine merchant's shop at 81a Renshaw Street, Liverpool. Anderson and Matthews helped with the move to the new office, with Anderson providing a desk, chair and an Olivetti typewriter. Harry asked printer James E. James (who had printed Frank Comments), if he could borrow the printing blocks he used for photos, as they were too expensive for the fledgling company at the time. Harry also borrowed blocks from the Widnes Weekly News, Pantosphinx and local cinemas, but contributed to charities by printing free charity advertisements at the side of the front cover page. After taking Virginia home to Bowring Park in the evening, Harry would often return to the office and work throughout the night, pausing only to go to the Pier Head to buy a cup of tea and a hot pie at four in the morning. Virginia's parents helped the paper during this time, as they paid for classified ads, and arranged for Harry and his future wife's first photographs together.

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