John Duff Lowe

John Duff Lowe

John Charles Duff Lowe (1942 – 2024) was a part time member of the Quarrymen for a while, when the lineup was John, Paul, George, drummer Colin Hanton and John Duff Lowe on the piano. Of course, the group didn’t haul a piano along to their gigs, but at a number of engagements there was already a piano on the stage. So whenever there was a piano available, John Duff Lowe would be “the fifth Quarryman”.

Most famously, Lowe was in the lineup when the fledgling Beatles visited Phillips Sound Recording Services, a home studio in Liverpool, on 12 July 1958, to pay for having a record made. The owner, Percy Phillips recorded the group performing the Buddy Holly song “That’ll Be The Day” and Paul and George’s co-composition “In Spite Of All The Danger”. The recording cost the group 11 shillings and sixpence, and was pressed directly onto a 10″ aluminium and acetate disc to be played at 78rpm. The studio log book records the session simply as “Skiffle. 10inch double sided. Direct. 11/3”.

The record they made, here seen with the B-side.

I can well remember even at the rehearsal at his house in Forthlin Road, Paul was quite specific about how he wanted it played and what he wanted the piano to do. There was no question of improvising. We were told what we had to play. There was a lot of arranging going on even back then.*

– John Duff Lowe

Paul has incorporated “In Spite Of All The Danger” in his live set for many years now, prefaced by the story of the record. As there was only a single copy pressed, each member of the band had the record for a week each and the last member, John Duff Lowe had it for twenty years! The song has proved to be a fan favourite singalong at Paul’s concerts.

Actually, Lowe had the record for nearly 25 years, before he had the record evaluated by Sotheby’s and was going to put it up for auction. However, Paul McCartney intervened and purchased it from him – for an undisclosed figure (but rumoured to be £12 000).

Before midday on that Sunday Paul McCartney had called my mum in Liverpool. I eventually spoke to him on the phone and we had long conversations over the next few days because he wanted to buy it from me. I was living in Worcester at the time and he sent his solicitor and his business manager up. I deposited the disc in a small briefcase at the local Barclays Bank and we met up in a small room the bank kindly let me use. The deal was done, I handed the record over and we all went home.*

– John Duff Lowe

Admiring Queen Elizabeth’s crown, John Duff Lowe is the tall boy standing to Paul’s left.

Born on April 13, 1942, John Duff Lowe met Paul McCartney when they were eleven. He was offered to play piano with the Quarrymen by Paul in February 1958, mainly because was able to play Jerry Lee Lewis’s exacting arpeggio part in “Mean Woman Blues”. He stayed with the Quarrymen for under a year, then left to join Ricky Tomlinson’s band.

At the same time, Duff found employment as a stock broker for Henry Wilson & Co in the city. He later became a securities clerk at Barclays Bank before moving to Bristol to accept a position as banking hall manager for Hill Samuel Bank in 1976. In 1980 he became self-employed, offering financial advice for a decade, until he joined an accounting firm as general manager of financial services.

In 1994, John Lowe played again with the now resurrected Quarrymen for the album “Open for Engagements”. Of the 1994 lineup, only Rod Davis (guitar) and Lowe (piano) had played for the Quarrymen in the 1950s. Lowe, despite not being classified as an official member, toured with Rod Davis, Len Garry and Colin Hanton as “John Lennon’s Original Quarrymen” at Beatles events around the world until 2017.

No photo exists of The 1958 Quarrymen lineup that John Duff Lowe was a member of. For many years, John was searching for a picture of himself from his days in the Quarry Men, but was never successful. However, his family now believe that they have spotted John in a picture taken in about 1958/59 that shows him with Paul McCartney.

Unfortunately, the original photo is a double exposure and the image of a woman is laid over the top of the main image at 90 degrees and obscures the face believed to be John Duff Lowe.

Paul with Ian James. Photo: Mike McCartney

This is the original photo. It was taken by Mike McCartney in the back yard of the McCartney home at Forthlin Road in Liverpool, showing Ian James on the left and Paul McCartney on the right and was published in Mike’s book “Early Liverpool” by Genesis Publications.
On closer inspection, there is a third person who has his arm around Ian James but, because of the double exposure, the top half of his face is difficult to make out. However, his nose, mouth and chin are pretty clear and that is what the family spotted and recognised it as John.

Lowe died on 22 February 2024, at the age of 81.

Thanks to John’s widow Linda, his son Henry and daughters Maudie and Louisa for identifying Lowe in the photo and for information for this article.

* John Duff Lowe quotes from “A Hard Day’s Write” by Steve Turner


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