1962 – Brian Epstein signs a management contract with the Beatles.
Epstein was born into a Jewish family in Rodney Street, Liverpool, England. His grandfather (Isaac Epstein) was from Hodan, Lithuania; he arrived in England with his wife Diana in the 1890s at the age of eighteen. He founded a furniture dealership on Walton Road, Liverpool. Diana and Isaac’s third son was Harry Epstein; the father of Brian Epstein. After Harry and his brothers had joined the family firm, Isaac Epstein founded “I. Epstein and Sons”, and expanded his furniture business by taking over an adjacent shop to sell a varied range of other goods, such as musical instruments and household appliances. They called the new shop “NEMS” (North End Music Stores) from which McCartney’s father once bought a piano.
Epstein’s mother was formally named Malka (although always known by her family as Queenie—Malka translating as “queen” in Hebrew) and was a member of the successful Hyman furniture family. Harry and Queenie also had another son, Clive. During WWII the Epsteins moved to Southport to escape The Blitz—where two schools expelled Epstein for laziness and poor performance—but returned to Liverpool in 1945. The Epsteins lived at 127 Queens Drive, Childwall, in Liverpool, and stayed there for 30 years. After his parents had moved him from one boarding school to another, the 14-year-old Epstein spent two years at Wrekin College, in Shropshire. Shortly before his sixteenth birthday in 1950, he sent a long letter to his father, explaining that he wanted to become a dress designer, but Harry Epstein was adamantly opposed to this idea, and his son finally had to “report for duty” at the family’s furniture shop.
In December 1951, Epstein was drafted—as a clerk—into the Royal Army Service Corps, and was posted to the Albany Street Barracks near Regent’s Park, in London, where he was often reprimanded for not picking up his army pay.
In 1955, at the age of twenty-one, Epstein was made a director of NEMS. In September of 1956, he took a trip to London to meet a friend, but after being there for only one day, he was robbed of his passport, birth certificate, chequebook, wristwatch, and all the money he had on him. As he did not want his parents to find out, he worked as department store clerk until he had earned enough money to buy a train ticket back to Liverpool. Back in Liverpool, he confessed “everything” to a psychiatrist—a friend of the Epstein family—who suggested to Harry Epstein that his son should leave Liverpool as soon as possible. During the sessions Epstein had revealed his ambition of becoming an actor, so his parents allowed him go to London to study.
Epstein attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London. His RADA classmates included actors Susannah York, Albert Finney and Peter O’Toole, but Epstein dropped out after the third term. Back in Liverpool, Harry Epstein put his son in charge of the record department of the newly-opened NEMS music store on Great Charlotte Street. Epstein worked “day and night” at the store to make it a success, and it became one of the biggest musical retail outlets in the North of England.
The Epsteins opened a second store at 12-14 Whitechapel, and Epstein was put in charge of the entire operation. Epstein often walked across the road to the Lewis’s department store—which had a music section—where Peter Brown was employed. He watched Brown’s sales technique and was impressed enough to lure Brown to work for NEMS with the offer of a higher salary and a commission on sales. On 3 August 1961, Epstein started a regular music column in the Mersey Beat magazine, called, ‘Record Releases, by Brian Epstein of NEMS’.