Peter Shotton (4 August 1941 – 24 March 2017) was an English businessman and former washboard player. He is known for his long friendship with John Lennon of The Beatles. He was a member of The Quarrymen, the precursor of the Beatles, and remained close to the group during their career.
He built an independent career as a restaurant manager, eventually founding the Fatty Arbuckle’s chain of restaurants.
Shotton, born in Liverpool to George and Bessie (née Wilson) Shotton, was a close childhood friend of John Lennon, and attended Dovedale Infants School and Quarry Bank Grammar School at the same time as the future Beatle. The two boys were frequently in trouble with their teachers and with their headmasters, often being caned by the headmaster as punishment for their various misdeeds, and they came to be known at Quarry Bank as “Shennon and Lotton” or “Lotton and Shennon.”
In 1957, Shotton was Lennon’s bandmate in The Quarrymen, playing percussion (specifically, a washboard), until Paul McCartney joined. Shotton was “fired” from the band when, after confiding that he really did not enjoy playing, Lennon smashed the washboard over his head at a party. However, he remained a friend and confidant – as he became friends with all of the Beatles as the group formed.
During the Beatles’ career
Shotton regularly visited Lennon’s house (Kenwood) on weekends to keep Lennon company, leaving his wife and young son at home, or to escort Cynthia Lennon for a night out when her husband was busy with band matters or songwriting.
Shotton had a minor, but uncredited, role in the Beatles’ songs: he was occasionally invited to observe them recording at Abbey Road Studios, and played percussion (maracas, tambourine) on a few records. Shotton also helped Lennon with the lyrics to “I Am the Walrus” (remembering a nonsense rhyme they had loved as boys) and McCartney with the storyline of “Eleanor Rigby” (he suggested that the two lonely people in the song meet, but too late). Shotton also recalls Lennon squinting at the words of a Victorian-era poster for Pablo Fanque’s Circus Royal that hung in Lennon’s music room at Kenwood while he worked out the tune for “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!”. According to writer Stan Williams, Shotton’s wife Beth is the “pretty nurse” selling poppies mentioned in the lyrics of “Penny Lane”.
After the Beatles became famous, Lennon and George Harrison bought a supermarket on Hayling Island, and gave it to Shotton to run. Later, Shotton served as manager of the Apple Boutique, then as the first managing director of Apple Corps.
After Lennon began a relationship with Yoko Ono and Apple started to flounder, Shotton parted company with Lennon and the Beatles. He resumed his ownership of the Hayling Island supermarket, which he continued to run until the late 1970s. He then began the Fatty Arbuckle’s chain of restaurants, a franchise designed to bring the feel of the American diner to Britain. The franchise was highly successful in the 1980s and was later sold for an undisclosed sum. He later moved to Dublin, Ireland, living as a tax exile.
Upon hearing the news that Lennon had been murdered on 8 December 1980, Shotton visited Harrison at Friar Park, Harrison’s home.
Shotton is the co-author of John Lennon: In My Life (1983, republished later as The Beatles, Lennon and Me), which told the story of their friendship, from the age of six until Lennon’s death.
Shotton died of a heart attack on 24 March 2017 at his home in Knutsford, Cheshire.