Beatles' Ex - Chauffeur, Inspiration Dies

posted 2004-03-12 14:50:03 by dmcnelis

LONDON (AP) -- Alf Bicknell, chauffeur to the Beatles at the height of their fame and inspiration for the song, ``Drive My Car,'' has died at the age of 75, the band's former promoter said Thursday.

Sam Leach said Bicknell died at his home in Oxford, England on Tuesday. The cause of death was not given.

Leach said the chauffeur started working for the Beatles in 1964 during the filming of ``Help.''

``He was with them for four years including when they met Elvis (Presley) in 1965,'' he said. ``Alf often recalled with pride how Elvis called him 'Sir' during that meeting.''

In his autobiography, written with Garry Marshall, Bicknell said he became very close to the band. He described how John Lennon once stole his chauffeur's hat and flung it out of the band's car with the words, ``You don't need that anymore Alf, you are one of us now.''

At first, he drove the band in an Austin Princess with blacked-out windows; later, the group traveled in Lennon's Rolls Royce Phantom V.

The first time he drove the group, Bicknell recalled, ``Every time I stopped at a traffic light I felt conscious of all the eyes peering in. Between sets of traffic lights, I'm getting faster and faster, and I pull up a bit quick outside this block of flats at one point and Bang! George (Harrison), who's sitting on the occasional seat, hits his head on the partition. Let's just say he was upset. A few choice words were said. I thought, well, that's it -- the shortest job that's ever happened to Alf.''

However, Bicknell stayed with the Beatles until they decided to stop touring in 1966.

Harrison once wrote, ``Alf Bicknell lived moment to moment with the Beatles through those years ... Anyone who was beaten up by Imelda Marcos's bully squad is a friend of mine,'' a reference to the rough handling the band had while touring the Philippines.

Bicknell spent most of his career as a chauffeur, although he did a stint as an apprentice butcher and once worked as a circus clown.

For a time after leaving the Beatles, he drove the New Christy Minstrels in the United States.

He retired from driving in 1980 after injuring his right arm and made a new career talking about his experiences -- but rejected all financial offers to ``dish the dirt.''

He is survived by his wife Jean and their son. Funeral details were not announced.