John, born during a German bombing raid in Liverpool in 1940, was given the patriotic middle name Winston, after Britain's leader and wartime inspiration.
Paul was born to a Catholic mother and Anglican-born but agnostic father, was named James Paul McCartney. "James" was the name of his father, great-grandfather, and great-great-grandfather, and the "Paul" was a tribute to St. Paul. Paul would, in turn, name his son James.
Ringo Starr was born Richard Starkey to Elsie and Richard Starkey, and became known as Little Richard, while his dad was called Big Richard. Ringo's grandfather's last name was originally Parkin, but he changed it to Starkey. By the time Little Richard was five, he was known simply as Ritchie. When he was playing with Row Storm and the Hurricanes, Row renamed Ritchie "Ringo Starr" and introduced "Ringo Starrtime" into his act, where Ringo would sing "Boys" and "You're Sixteen."
John's first band received the name The Quarry Men, a reference to both the Liverpool quarries and the Quarry Bank Grammar School. They covered skiffle classics such as "Rock Island Line," "Worried Man Blues," and "Long Black Train," as well as rock 'n' roll numbers such as "Blue Suede Shoes."
After George came to the band, the name Quarry Men was dropped and the band tried such names as the Rainbows, or the Moondogs, or, for one night, Johnny and the Moondogs. When, in April 1960, John and Paul performed together for an engagement at a pub, they went by the name the Nerk Twins.
Facing another audition in 1959, the band began searching for a new name. John had been listening to Buddy Holly and the Crickets, and explained to Hunter Davies, the "official" Beatles biographer, "I was sitting at home one day, just thinking about what a good name the Crickets would be for an English group. The idea of beetles came into my head. I decided to spell it Beatles to make it look like beat music, just as a joke." A friend of theirs thought the name was horrible, and suggested "Long John and the Silver Beatles," insisting that bands had to have long names. "Silver Beatles" thus became their name for the remainder of 1959. In 1960 they experimented with "The Beatals," "The Silver Beats," and "Silver Beetles."
Another account has the name coming from Stuart, who suggested it without the "a" spelling. When John wrote a comic history of the group for Mersey Beat in 1961, he said, "It came in a vision -- a man appeared on a flaming pie and said unto them 'From this day on you are Beatles with an A.' Thank you, Mister Man, they said, thanking him."
When working on the Anthology series, the surviving Beatles also looked into the idea that John and Stu had been inspired by the classic Marlon Brando film The Wild One. In the film, which was a favorite of John's, the Lee Marvin character, "Chino," refers to the girls in the gang as "beetles."
For their first tour, Paul adopted the stage name "Paul Ramon," while George came up with "Carl Harrison," after Carl Perkins. Stuart Sutciffe adopted the name of a contemporary artist, "Stuart DeStael," and John went as "Johnny Silver."
In June 1969, John changed his middle name, dropping "Winston" for "John Ono Lennon." Yoko became Yoko Ono Lennon.
Yoko Ono's name means "ocean child."
On the day John's parents, Freddy Lennon and Julia Stanley, married, they met on the steps of the Adelpbi Hotel in Liverpool. The hotel, now the Britannia Adelphi, is today the site of an annual Beatles convention each August.
John was raised by his aunt Mimi at "Mendips," at 251 Menlove Avenue, a small house in a suburb three miles northeast of Liverpool known as Woolton. His first school, which he entered at the age of four, was Dovetail Primary School.
George three grades behind John, also attended Dovetail, but they never met. George later moved on to the Liverpool Institute in 1954, where Paul was a student one year ahead of him.
George stood out at Liverpool Institute, and Paul remembers him for having long hair and extravagant dress. He tightened his pants and snuck a bright yellow waistcoat under his school uniform. However, his rebellion didn't go far beyond dress: "I learned it was best to keep cool and shut up. I had this mutual thing with a few masters. They'd let me sleep at the back and I wouldn't cause any trouble."
George finally met Paul on their shared bus route. They hung out sporadically, and practiced guitar at George's place.
Paul says he loved riding the two-decker buses in Liverpool, and always rode upstairs, where smoking was permitted and he had a view of the streets. He says also that these memories came out in the "A Day in the Life" line about smoking upstairs and drifting off into a dream. The bus also figures, of course, in "Penny Lane," the main transfer point for Liverpool buses.
John found early musical expression in the choir at St. Peter's Parish Church, Woolton, where he was later confirmed. Still later, St. Peter's became the site of some of John's earliest gigs with his first band, the Quarry Men, during the church's youth club "hops." It was during one of these church events, an outdoor summer party, where Paul first saw John's band perform. They met later that day in the church hail.
At the age of twelve, John started at Quarry Bank Grammar School, where he met lifelong friend Pete Shotton. John evidently did not excel at Quarry Bank. One of John's reports from school read, "Hopeless. Rather a clown in class. A shocking report. He is just wasting other pupils' time." Another read, "Certainly on the road to failure." He wound up in the lowest track -- the "C stream," with the "thick lads." He later failed his O levels (exams given to "Ordinary" students), and might not have made it into Liverpool College of Art if he hadn't been helped by his headmaster.