While the last Collector’s Corner article covered the first time The Beatles were credited on an American vinyl record, this article covers an even earlier U.S. disc that has The Beatles playing “My Bonnie” with lead singer/guitarist Tony Sheridan as the front man. The artist was credited as Tony Sheridan and The Beat Brothers. This was the very first time The Beatles appeared on an American vinyl disc. This Decca single was released in very limited quantities on April 11, 1962.
Most fans know The Beatles made several stints to Hamburg, Germany, to play in the red light district before they finally met world success. The second of these kicked off in April 1961, when they went down to play at the Top Ten Club for the next three months. Another British singer and guitarist playing there at the time was Tony Sheridan, who was often backed by The Beatles, which at the time consisted of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Stuart Sutcliffe (bass) and Pete Best (drums). Record producer Bert Kaempfert, who was an A&R executive for Polydor Records and a resident of Hamburg, dropped by The Top Ten Club one night and liked what he saw (or should I say heard?) in both Tony and The Beatles. Bert signed them both to his production company.
By the time the effective date rolled around on July 1, 1961, Stuart had permanently quit The Beatles and Paul McCartney was playing bass. On June 22-23, 1961, Tony and The Beatles made their first professional recording session at Friedrich-Ebert-Halle, near Hamburg. With Bert Kaempfert producing and sound engineer Karl Hinze, seven song were recorded:
1) “My Bonnie (Lies Over The Ocean)”
2) “The Saints (When The Saints Go Marching In)”
3) “Why (Can’t You Love Me Again)”
4) “If You Love Me, Baby” (aka “Take Out Some Insurance On Me, Baby”)
5) “Nobody’s Child”
6) “Ain’t She Sweet”
7) “Cry For A Shadow”
The first five of these had Tony Sheridan on lead vocal and rhythm guitar. The sixth is by The Beatles without Tony, and John Lennon on lead vocal. The seventh is an instrumental written by John Lennon and George Harrison. An eighth song, “Sweet Georgia Brown,” was recorded with Tony on lead vocals at another session on May 24, 1962 (although Tony’s vocal was added later, on June 7, 1962).
“My Bonnie” starts out with a slow verse before kicking in with a energetic rock beat for the remainder of the song. One edit has the slow verse sung by Tony in German and the other has him singing it in English.
On October 23, 1961, a German single was released with “My Bonnie” (with the German intro) on the a-side and “The Saints” on the b-side. This was the first time The Beatles appeared on commercial vinyl. This German intro version, now the least common, was featured as a Beatles Rarity Of The Week on Dec. 10, 2008, and can be heard here.
On December 7, 1961, the single was remastered with the English intro version of “My Bonnie” on the a-side. Both the German and English versions had the same catalog number (Polydor NH 24 673), but the German version has the title as “My Bonnie (Mein Herz ist bei dir nur)” and “Rock” on the label, whereas the English intro version just has the title as “My Bonnie” and instead of “Rock” says “Twist” on the label. The single did not use the name Beatles and credited the artist as Tony Sheridan and The Beat Brothers. In January 1962, when it was released in the U.K. (on Polydor NH 66833), it was credited to Tony Sheridan and The Beatles. Of course, the U.K. release contained the version with the English intro verse.
Although both “My Bonnie” and “The Saints” were originally written in the late 19th century, the Sheridan/Beatles arrangements were straight up rock and roll. “My Bonnie” featured Tony Sheridan on lead vocal and guitar, George Harrison on guitar, Paul McCartney on backing vocals, bass, and some background shouting, John Lennon on backing vocals, and handclaps and Pete Best on drums. “The Saints” has Tony Sheridan on vocals and rhythm guitar, George Harrison on lead guitar, John Lennon on rhythm guitar, Paul McCartney on bass and background shouts, and Pete Best on drums.
Polydor Records did not set up its label in America until 1969, so the U.S. release of the single ending up going to Decca Records. Decca released their “My Bonnie” c/w “The Saints” single in America on April 11, 1962, as Decca 31382. As in Germany, the disc was credited to Tony Sheridan and The Beat Brothers.
The commercial copies of the U.S. 45 used the recently designed black background labels with a rainbow color bar across the center (see picture above). The singles were pressed by Decca’s factories in Gloversville, NY, (identified by a “1″ in the trail-off area of the disc) and Pickneyville, IL (identified by a “2″ in the trail-off area of the disc). The Gloversville labels have the catalog number, file number, “Gema (AMRA)” and the running time printed in silver-colored font in the lower black area, just below the color bar. The rarer Pickneyville labels have the catalog number, file number, “Gema (AMRA)” and the running time printed in silver colored font inside the color bar, to the right of the center hole. Since there were almost no sales or airplay of this record, Decca made very few commercial copies, making this one of the scarcest American Beatles records in existence.
There were also promotional copies of the record pressed with pink labels and black text. The labels use an older design, more heavily used by Decca in the 1950′s. Although these discs are also quite scarce, the commercial copies are the most rare.
Soon after Beatlemania swept the U.S. in early 1964, MGM Records secured the rights to four of the recordings by Tony Sheridan and The Beatles: “My Bonnie,” “The Saints,” “Why” and “Cry For A Shadow.” On January 27, 1964, MGM issued their version of the “My Bonnie” single. It still had “The Saints” as the b-side but with the artist listed as The Beatles with Tony Sheridan instead of Tony Sheridan and The Beat Brothers. It came in a large green picture sleeve with The Beatles in very large white font. The slow English intro verse was edited out of the MGM version, so that it would start out rocking. The catalog number was MGM K13213. As one might expect, unlike when Decca’s release came out, this time it charted in the U.S. and peaked on the Billboard singles chart at number 26 on March 14, 1964. MGM also issued an entire LP containing all four of their Tony Sheridan/The Beatles recordings named The Beatles With Tony Sheridan And Their Guests (MGM E/SE 4215). The additional tracks on the album were by Tony Sheridan with other back up musicians.
As you may have guessed, like many other rare Beatles vinyl releases, there are also known counterfeit versions of Decca 31382. A known counterfeit promotional pressing has the pink labels like the real ones, but has “My Bonnie” on both sides of the disc. The matrix numbers are machine stamped on authentic copies and etched in counterfeits.
A known fake commercial copy has the same 50′s style Decca label that the promo copies have, but the background color is gray with silver text instead of pink with black text. For more information on fakes, or to verify authenticity of a copy you have come across, check with any of the dealers I’ve listed near the end of this article.
Authentic copies of Decca 31382 have become quite collectible over the years. The Price Guide For The Beatles American Records by Perry Cox and Frank Daniels (2007) cites this as a guideline for how much they are worth. (Keep in mind that since this book is some years old, the prices are in all likelihood somewhat lower than what you could expect to buy them for today. Also, mint copies are worth considerably more than near mint copies, but can show no wear, age or signs of being played. (Note: I’m not sure if there are any authentic mint copies of the Decca “My Bonnie” record in existence.))
Decca 31382 (promotional copy): Pink label promo, Good ($250), Very Good ($625), Near Mint ($2500)
Decca 31382 (commercial Gloversville NY or Pickneyville IL pressings): Good ($1500), Very Good ($3750), Near Mint ($15,000)
MGM K13213 (promotional copy): Yellow label promo, Good ($40), Very Good ($100), Near Mint ($400)
MGM K13213 (commercial, with no ref. to MGM LP # listed on label): Good ($3), Very Good ($10), Near Mint ($40)
MGM K13213 (commercial, with ref. to MGM LP # listed on label): Good ($3), Very Good ($10), Near Mint ($60)
MGM K13213 (unauthorized pressing w/half black-half yellow vinyl): Good ($400), Very Good ($1000), Near Mint ($4000)
MGM K13213 (commercial, with ref. to MGM LP # listed on label): A side publishing credit listed as Hill & Range, Good ($12), Very Good ($30), Near Mint ($120)
MGM K13213 (Picture sleeve): Good ($15), Very Good ($40), Near Mint ($150)
Note: “Near mint” (NM), “Very Good” (VG) or “Good” (G) conditions are in line with the standards of Goldmine magazine as defined here. For more information on worth, check with any of the dealers I’ve listed near the end of this article.
The subjects of all photographs of singles, albums, album jackets, sleeves, etc. in this article are of actual items within my very own record collection. These items are listed as entries in my own online vinyl inventory as linked below:
1) Polydor 24 673 “My Bonnie (Twist version)” / “The Saints” (original German issue single)
2) Decca 31382 “My Bonnie (Twist version)” / “The Saints” (commercial Gloversville pressing)
3) MGM 13213 “My Bonnie (Twist version)” / “The Saints” (commercial Bloomfield pressing)
4) MGM E 4215 The Beatles With Tony Sheridan And Their Guests (commercial mono LP)
In closing, I’d like to credit the main sources of information used in this post: Bruce Spizer’s The Beatles Swan Song, Perry Cox and Frank Daniel’s Price Guide For The Beatles American Records (6th edition), and the website MyBeatlesCollection.com. I’d also like to thank Heather Lackey for help with the photography that went into this post.
A few dealers in Beatles collectibles:
Please let me hear from you if you have questions, comments, corrections or anything to add about this single. I’d love to hear from you!
Here are some Amazon links to read more on, or purchase, some music related to this post:
1) Early Tapes – 2000 remastered versions of all 8 songs form the Tony Sheridan/Beatles Hamburg sessions, plus a few extras