Mal Evans was The Beatles’ road manager and personal assistant, and a key member of their inner circle.
He was born Malcolm Evans on 27 May 1935 in Liverpool. In 1961 he married a Liverpudlian girl, Lily, whom he had met at a funfair in New Brighton, Merseyside. Their first child Gary was born later that year.
Mal Evans was living in Hillside Road, Mossley Hill and working as a telephone engineer for the Post Office when he first saw The Beatles. The group were performing a lunchtime show at the Cavern Club, and Evans – despite being an ardent Elvis fan – was instantly taken with them.
I walked down this little street called Mathew Street that I’d never noticed before and came to this place, the Cavern Club. I’d never been inside a club, but I heard this music coming out – real rock it sounded, a bit like Elvis. So I paid my shilling and went in…
His first friend among the group was George Harrison, who suggested to the Cavern’s owner Ray McFall that Evans be hired as a doorman. The tall and burley Evans, then 27 years old, was accepted, and became a valued asset as the enthusiasm of The Beatles’ fans gradually turned to hysteria.
Mal joined us full-time in 1963. He was our bodyguard, but he was great at it because he would never hurt anyone. He was just big enough to say, ‘Excuse me, let the boys through.’ He was pretty strong. He could lift the bass amp on his own, which was a miracle. He should have been in the circus.
One time Neil was sick and we needed someone to drive us to London, so we asked Mal. He was a nice bloke, and by this time we’d been chatting with him a lot. He had to take a couple of days off work to do it. Then as we were expanding with all the gigs we realised we had to get someone else to drive the van and leave Neil to look after us and our suits and all of that. It was a unanimous thought. So Mal left his job and came to work for us.
Evans became the group’s unofficial bodyguard and roadie, working with Aspinall as part of the trusted inner circle, setting up and checking their equipment and transporting it from venue to venue.
I do remember one incident: going up the motorway when the windscreen got knocked out by a pebble. Our great road manager Mal Evans was driving and he just put his hat backwards on his hand, punched the windscreen out completely, and drove on. This was winter in Britain and there was freezing fog and Mal was having to look out for the kerb all the way up to Liverpool – 200 miles.
In addition to his official duties, Evans was often used as The Beatles’ fixer, being called upon to supply items including clothes, food and other essentials. As The Beatles’ fame grew, they became accustomed to their every desire being fulfilled.
He had a bag that he developed over the years, because it would always be: ‘Mal, have you got an Elastoplast? Mal, have you got a screwdriver? Mal, have you got a bottle of this? Have you got that?’ And he always had everything. If he didn’t have it, he’d get it very quickly. He was one of those people who loved what he was doing and didn’t have any problem about service.
Evans’ loyalty to The Beatles meant he obeyed every whim, as illustrated by a tale from their first world tour in 1964.
We were boating along the canals [in Amsterdam], waving and being fab and we saw a bloke standing in the crowd with a groovy-looking cloak on. We sent Mal to find out where he got it from. Mal jumped off or swam off the boat and about three hours later turned up at our hotel with the cloak, which he’d bought from the guy. When we flew from there to Hong Kong we all had copies made, but they were in cheap material which melted in the rain storm at Sydney Airport.
Evans’ work as The Beatles’ bodyguard extended to making sure the band members weren’t bothered by overenthusiastic members of the public. On many occasions they were treated with something approaching religious fervour by people thought their talents extended to healing abilities.
People would bring in these terrible cases and leave them in our dressing room. They’d go off for tea or whatever and they would leave them behind. If it got very heavy we would shout ‘Mal, cripples!’ and that became a saying – even when there were no handicapped people present. If there were any people around we didn’t like, we’d shout, ‘Mal, cripples!’ and they’d be escorted out.
Evans and Aspinall often signed autographs for The Beatles, to cope with public demand. Although the pair were valued members of The Beatles’ entourage, they almost always flew economy while Brian Epstein and the group were always in first class. An anecdote by The Beatles’ press officer Derek Taylor illustrated how Epstein was cajoled by the group into treating them better after their triumphant 1964 US tour.
He came through to economy to get Mal and Neil and me out into first class. He was sent through by The Beatles actually. ‘What are they doing back there? We made a fucking fortune on the tour. Get them up here. You go and get them.
The Brian Epstein Story, Deborah Geller
The differences between The Beatles, their management and crew members extended to the payment each party received.
I recently found a piece of paper that shows how much we were actually earning in one period in 1963. From the starting figure of ￡72,000, we made about ￡4,000 each. Brian Epstein took ￡2,025 a week and Neil and Mal got ￡25 each.