Paul McCartney - Childhood

Childhood

McCartney was born on 18 June 1942, in Walton Hospital, Liverpool, England, where his mother, Mary (née Mohin), had qualified to practise as a nurse. His father, James ("Jim") McCartney, was absent from his son's birth due to his work as a volunteer firefighter during World War II. Paul has one younger brother, Michael (born 7 January 1944). Though the children were baptised in their mother's Roman Catholic faith, their father, a former Protestant turned agnostic, felt Catholic schools sacrificed the education of their students for the sake of their religious teachings, so he and Mary did not emphasise religion in the household.

McCartney attended Stockton Wood Road Primary School from 1947 until 1949, when he transferred to Joseph Williams Junior School due to overcrowding at Stockton. In 1953, he passed the 11-plus exam, with only three others out of ninety examinees, gaining admission to the Liverpool Institute. In 1954, he met schoolmate George Harrison on the bus to the Institute from his suburban home in Speke. Harrison had also passed the exam, meaning he could attend a grammar school rather than a secondary modern school, where most pupils went until becoming eligible to work. The two quickly became friends; McCartney later admitted: "I tended to talk down to him, because he was a year younger."

The family's primary wage earner, Mary's income as a midwife enabled them to move into 20 Forthlin Road in Allerton, where they lived until 1964. She rode a bicycle to her patients; McCartney described an early memory of her leaving at "about three in the morning streets ... thick with snow". On 31 October 1956, when McCartney was fourteen, his mother died of an embolism. McCartney's loss later became a point of connection with John Lennon, whose mother, Julia, had died when he was seventeen.

A trumpet player and pianist who led Jim Mac's Jazz Band in the 1920s, McCartney's father kept an upright piano in the front room, and he encouraged his sons to be musical. Jim gave Paul a nickel-plated trumpet for his fourteenth birthday, but when rock and roll became popular on Radio Luxembourg, Paul traded it for a £15 Framus Zenith (model 17) acoustic guitar, rationalising that it would be difficult to sing while playing a trumpet. He found it difficult to play guitar right-handed, but after noticing a poster advertising a Slim Whitman concert and realising that Whitman also played left-handed, he reversed the order of the strings. McCartney wrote his first song, "I Lost My Little Girl", on the Zenith, and composed another early tune that would become "When I'm Sixty-Four" on the piano. Against his father's advice, he took few piano lessons, preferring to learn by ear. Heavily influenced by American rhythm and blues music, Little Richard was his schoolboy idol. "Long Tall Sally" was the first song McCartney performed in public, at a Butlins holiday camp talent competition.

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