On this day in 1942, recording artist Paul McCartney is born in Liverpool, England. The son of a jazz-band leader, McCartney began playing guitar after his mother died of cancer in 1956. The following year, he met another young Liverpool musician, John Lennon, and joined Lennon’s band, the Quarrymen. Later that year, he persuaded Lennon to add his friend, guitar player George Harrison, to the group. The three played together under several different names, and with assorted members, until 1960, when they adopted the name the Beatles.
The band toured German beerhouses in 1961 and debuted later that year at the Cavern Club in Liverpool, where they gave more than 300 performances during the next two years. Drummer Ringo Starr joined the group in 1962, just before the group hit the big time the following year. The band scored its first U.K. hits in 1963, launching the Beatlemania tidal wave that hit the United States in 1964. In a little more than 10 years, the group transformed rock and roll, scoring 20 No. 1 hits on the Billboard pop charts, more than any group in history. The group’s records spent a total of 59 weeks topping the charts between 1964 and 1970.
In April 1970, McCartney released his first solo album, McCartney, and announced that the Beatles had broken up. He formed a new band, Wings, which included his wife, Linda, playing keyboards. Wings released nine albums between 1971 and 1979. In 1980, McCartney released his second solo album, McCartney II, and followed with 10 more during the next decade or so. The most commercially successful of the ex-Beatles, McCartney was also one of the first artists to release an “Unplugged” album, based on his appearance on MTV’s acoustic concert series.