Bob Wooler was the compere and disc jockey at world-famous club The Cavern in Liverpool during the 1960s, as well as a compere and promoter at many other leading Merseyside venues. He was there at the start of Merseybeat, saw that influential scene develop, and played his own key part in The Beatles’ rise to fame.
Beyond the musicians themselves, Bob Wooler was seen by many as the most important figure in the development of Liverpool’s beat scene. What’s more, throughout his life, Bob amassed a large collection of memorabilia, including personal items that dated back to his school days, photographs, press cuttings, newspapers, magazines and correspondence on almost anything or anyone connected with Liverpool’s music scene. At the time of his death in 2002, any formal arrangements Bob had made for his files or access to them were unknown.
Bob’s entire collection was eventually purchased from the custodian, Dave Jones, in 2004 by Lancashire-based memorabilia dealers, Tracks Ltd, and when single items started appearing for sale in auctions and via internet marketplace, eBay.
The current collection of more than 1,000 items, many of which are shown in this archive, reveals the full extent of Bob Wooler’s interest in music. And not only does that shine a light on his lifetime involvement in the Merseyside music scene, but also on the professional relationships he formed with national promoters, venues, record companies, musicians, journalists, TV and film companies beyond Liverpool and the UK.
Dave Jones first met Bob Wooler at the Adelphi Hotel in Liverpool, during a Beatles Convention held over the August bank holiday in 1981. Dave was working for Merseyside County Council’s tourism department as one of their registered tourist guides. His job that day was to sell postcards featuring landmark Beatles sites in Liverpool. Customers could choose from a selection of four postcards. However, Bob didn’t like the idea of local government and tourist guides, meddling with the history of Liverpool’s music scene from 1957 to 1966 and its key players, The Beatles, The Cavern, and Bob Wooler himself.
By 1973, The Beatles had long since split up and The Cavern was forced to close, then demolished, with Bob Wooler relying on whatever he retained from that golden period in Liverpool’s music history to make ends meet.
In early 1986, Dave Jones teamed up with another tourist guide, Bill Heckle, who had formed his own company, Cavern City Tours Ltd. That year they came to an agreement with the county council to operate The Beatles Convention, an annual event which Cavern City Tours Ltd still runs as one of the happenings during Beatleweek. It was at that point that Dave and Bill became Bob Wooler’s friends, not his enemies.
By 1984, The Cavern had been rebuilt on its original site as a lasting monument to John Lennon, so cruelly lost at the end of 1980 in New York. But attempts by three different owners failed to make the business work, with the venue eventually closed down in 1989. Then came a new decade and a re-emergence, and on 12 July 1991, Cavern City Tours Ltd re-opened The Cavern to the public. Some 30 years later, the company still remains as its owners.
Dave started to acquire items from Bob Wooler’s collection in 2011. His aim was to create an archive solely comprising items from Bob’s collection, one that provided a clear picture of his involvement and contribution to the Merseyside music scene. In particular, he wanted to highlight the eight years he spent at The Cavern.
For health reasons, Dave retired from the day-to-day operation of Cavern City Tours Ltd in 2018. At that point he began to turn what he had been able to acquire into a Bob Wooler archive, giving it the broader name of ‘Liverpool Music Roots’.
Dave adds, “I haven’t aimed to be judgemental with the content. I will leave that to those who take the time to look at the items. For those who may not have been included in the archive or receive very little coverage, that is purely down to the fact that I haven’t found any items detailing their contributions to that vibrant scene … yet. Everything I have acquired has been included.”