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John is remembered for his lyricism and the unforgettable stamp he left on rock and roll with The Beatles, as the 40th anniversary of his death approaches. The world mourned the legendary musician’s passing on December 8 after he was fatally shot by Mark David Chapman, in New York. The Liverpool-born star was renowned for his cheeky antics, which was a trait that stretched back to his school years, his former The Quarrymen bandmate Rod Davis told Express.co.uk.
Mr Davis knew the future-Imagine singer from the age of five, when they attended Sunday School at St Peter’s church and later grew closer when they performed together.
While he was one-year younger than John, the now 79-year-old remembered his friend’s sense of humour and some of the amusing antics he got up to at school.
In one account, he recalled how the Beatle and his friend Pete Shotton played a prank on their religious studies teacher.
Mr Davis told Express.co.uk: “The best story was about their scriptures teacher, who John and Pete said ‘Would not be happy until he had a room full of vicars’.
“Pete’s mother had a grocery store, so they made white cardboard dog collars for every kid in the class and arrived a bit early to hand them out to the class.
“The scriptures teacher John McDermott came in and didn’t notice or look at class, while he was taking the register, notes or something.
“He then looked up to find himself facing 32 ‘vicars’ and he just burst out laughing – that was probably the best joke that he did and it would have been all around the staffroom.”
Mr Davis, who played the banjo in John’s first band, The Quarrymen, claimed he was warned to steer clear of the future star, when they were children.
He told Express.co.uk: “He was not a good influence, he was known in our house as ‘That Lennon!’ – as in ‘Stay away from that Lennon!’
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“I think his Aunt Mimi (who raised John from a child) thought the sun shone out his various orifices but we knew differently.”
Mr Davis admitted that he was “never really a close friend” of John despite being in the same band because he was a troublemaker and wasn’t in his “little gang”.
Instead he found “plenty of mischief” in his own area, as they lived in different parts of Liverpool, and the two of them got closer from the ages of 11 to 14.
Mr Davis, who went on to become a lecturer, admitted that John would not have been an easy pupil to control.
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He told Express.co.uk: “He was a total pain in the proverbial at school, he would have been classed as a ‘disruptive pupil’.
“Sometimes he was really funny, other times he was a pain in the proverbial – always chatting and fooling around.
“As a teacher, if someone had come up to me and said ‘I’m a genius, I’ll mess about and cause trouble’ I’d have given them a thick ear – you could in those days.”
Mr Davis admitted he would have found it hard to teach John and wasn’t sure how the future star “expected people to react to his genius”.
He remembered that Paul McCartney changed John and his idea of how to become a professional musician by making them take it “more seriously”.
Mr Davis left the band after they decided to change from performing skiffle – a type of folk music – to rock and roll, which was a genre he didn’t like.
He told Express.co.uk: “I enjoy it now but at the time I thought it was cheap, nasty and cobbled together by people in Tin Pan Alley to separate youngsters from their money.”
Mr Davis and The Quarrymen continue to perform around the world to this day, in October they played at a tribute to John’s 80th birthday in Germany.
He revealed that people are still shocked to hear that he performed with the star and some “don’t believe him” or think he’s “taking the p***”.
While his band didn’t experience the level of fame of The Beatles, Mr Davis rejected any notion of jealousy and instead took pride that a local group shook the world.
He said: “A band from Liverpool had gone to London and wiped the floor with other musicians down there – that was my feeling.
“It wasn’t jealousy of his success, I thought it was fantastic and great to see, John was still the same cheeky blighter that we knew at school.”
To find out more about Rod Davis and The Quarrymen visit here.
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