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Alf Bicknell, 75; Beatles' Driver in the Mid-1960s

March 13, 2004|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Alf Bicknell, chauffeur to the Beatles at the height of their fame and the inspiration for the song "Drive My Car," died Tuesday, the band's former promoter said Thursday. He was 75.

Sam Leach said Bicknell had died at his home in Oxford, England.

Leach said the chauffeur had started working for the Beatles in 1964 during the filming of "Help."

In his autobiography, written with Garry Marsh, Bicknell said he had become 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, saying, "You don't need that anymore, Alf. You are one of us now."

Bicknell once recalled that his job had been to help the Fab Four make a quick getaway after a concert.

"When they came off stage, they were wrecked," he said, "and I would have the towels ready for them in the car. I would make sure the ciggies were there, the door would slam and away we would go."

Former Beatles promoter Joe Flannery told the Liverpool Echo that Bicknell "was very well respected by the Beatles."

"Alf was a confidante to them," Flannery said. "A chauffeur does listen and is able to take part in conversations on long journeys."

In his memoir, Bicknell wrote that his job, besides being a good driver, was to be honest, loyal, discreet and "not to get carried away with the people in the back of your car."

A couple of years ago, Bicknell released a video, "Alf Bicknell's Personal Beatles Diary," with stories about being on the road with the band, including a time that Lennon's guitars fell off the back of the car.

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

Bicknell stayed with the Beatles until they stopped touring in 1966; he retired from driving in 1980, after injuring his right arm. He made a new career talking about his experiences -- but rejected offers to "dish the dirt."

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