16th August 1962: A Fourth Drummer – Johnny Hutchinson – turns The Beatles Down

The Silver Beatles - Stuart Sutcliffe, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Johnny Hutchinson and George Harrison
The Silver Beatles – Stuart Sutcliffe, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Johnny Hutchinson and George Harrison

Johnny Hutchinson Turned Down The Beatles

When John, Paul and George decided that they needed to replace Pete Best, following the Parlophone audition, they asked Brian Epstein to find a replacement. The first drummer approached was Bobby Graham, who turned Brian down. Brian Epstein then spoke to Ritchie Galvin, who also said no to The Beatles. Johnny Hutchinson became the third drummer to decline the offer.

The Beatles introduced Brian to Ringo Starr at the Blue Angel Club. Epstein then offered Ringo the opportunity to replace Pete. Brian said that he would confirm the appointment on 14th August 1962. However, Brian then offered Johnny “Hutch” Hutchinson the job of Beatles drummer the day that Brian got rid of original Beatles drummer Pete Best. (see Why Pete Best was not sacked)

16th august 1962: brian Epstein asks johnny Hutchinson to be the beatles drummer

Johnny Hutch Hutchinson sat behind a replica Beatles drum kit. He played with The Beatles twice
Johnny Hutch Hutchinson sat behind a replica Beatles drum kit. He played with The Beatles twice

On the afternoon of 16th August 1962, Brian told Pete Best the bad news that the other Beatles wanted him out. Pete initially agreed to fulfil the Beatles gigs until Ringo was due to arrive on Saturday. An obvious choice for drummer was Johnny “Hutch” Hutchinson. Hutch had sat in, albeit grudgingly, with The Silver Beatles at the Larry Parnes audition in May 1960. Johnny Hutchinson was the driving force behind The Big Three and the best drummer in the Liverpool. Considering that The Big Three had just signed a management contract with Brian on 1st July 1962, it made sense to approach him to help The Beatles out at short notice.

The Big Three had been playing in Hamburg for most of July before returning to Liverpool in time to appear at the Tower Ballroom on 27th July. Brian asked Hutch to join The Beatles after he returned from Hamburg, and not just for the three upcoming appearances when Pete Best didn’t show up.

I was playing with the beatles

Finding the Fourth Beatle the story of the 23 drummers who put the beat into The Beatles
Finding the Fourth Beatle the story of the 23 drummers who put the beat into The Beatles

I interviewed Johnny for Finding the Fourth Beatle. “I was playing with The Beatles in Chester. With the Big Three playing on the same bill, Brian asked him to sit in with The Beatles. “I had to set up my drums and get dressed for our set with The Big Three, and then go and get changed and go back on stage with The Beatles.” Brian was there and kept looking at me strange. I got off stage after the gig and had to zoom off. Brian said, ‘I was looking at you to see how you’d fit with The Beatles’. I joked, ‘I don’t really.’” Little did he know what Brian was about to say to him.

“I think John would suit The Beatles down to the ground”

Johnny Hutchinson drumming with The Big Three
Johnny Hutchinson drumming with The Big Three

Johnny Hutchinson was honest; “I don’t remember dates, but I remember exactly where we were,” Hutch recalled. “I was in the Grosvenor Hotel in Chester,” after playing at the Riverpark Ballroom in Chester with The Beatles. “We sat down, and Brian Epstein and Bob Wooler were just looking at me. So I said, ‘What the f##k do you two want?’ And they looked at each other, and Brian said to Bob, ‘What do you think?’ Bob said, ‘Well, Brian, I think John would suit The Beatles down to the ground.’ Then Brian said, ‘I do, too. John, I want you to be The Beatles’ drummer.’

“I wouldn’t join The Beatles for a big clock”(Johnny Hutchinson)

“I told him that ‘I wouldn’t join The Beatles for a big clock. The Beatles couldn’t make as good a sound as the Big Three. My group is ten times better than The Beatles!’ And Brian said, ‘I know, but the Big Three are limited. The Beatles? The world is their oyster.’

I Like the beatles

“By that, I think he meant that I was the only one in the group who was grafting, really working hard. I was the drummer, doing the singing too, and with only three of us, there was only so much we could do. That’s what I reckon he meant. Brian also said that he had been ‘everywhere to get a drummer and that he couldn’t get one.’ And I said there must be another drummer out there, but Eppy said, ‘there isn’t anyone to suit The Beatles.’ You see, it is often said that I hated The Beatles, but I didn’t. I liked The Beatles, but hated the music. It wasn’t for me, but it suited lots of people. That’s why I wanted to stay with my band.”

johnny hutch recommended ringo to brian

Hutch recommended Ringo to Brian. “Yes I did. I told him to go and get Ringo. He’s a bum, he’ll join anyone for a few bob.” Johnny Hutch hasn’t for one minute ever regretted his decision to turn down The Beatles.

almost the fourth beatle

Johnny Hutchinson became the third drummer to turn down the opportunity to replace Pete Best in The Beatles. Sadly, Johnny died after a short illness in April 2019. He had become a good friend, and always good company, with some incredible stories. He was never one to make anything up – he always told the truth, which is a rarity.

finding the fourth beatle

These revelations from Johnny “Hutch” Hutchinson came from exclusive interviews with David Bedford over a three year period, and feature in his latest book, Finding the Fourth Beatle. You can purchase your copy here.

David Bedford

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Pete Best was NOT Sacked by Brian Epstein or The Beatles

The Beatles in Hamburg: John Lennon, George Harrison, Pete Best, Paul McCartney and Stuart Sutcliffe
The Beatles in Hamburg: John Lennon, George Harrison, Pete Best, Paul McCartney and Stuart Sutcliffe

Pete Best and the biggest Beatles Mystery

Since 1962, one of the hottest debates has centered around Brian Epstein’s dismissal of Pete Best from The Beatles. The controversy has inspired articles, chapters and even entire books, all speculating on the reasons why the band booted Pete from the group as they were on the cusp of stardom. However, we have been looking at this most well-known chapter in Beatles history the wrong way.  To being with, let’s go back to the infamous head-to-head meeting that took place on this day in 1962.

Beatles Change Drummer is how Mersey Beat announced that Pete Best had left The Beatles
Beatles Change Drummer is how Mersey Beat announced that Pete Best had left The Beatles

Brian Epstein summoned Pete Best to NEMS on 16th August 1962. Although Pete thought it was to be a routine meeting, it would in fact go on to define his life thereafter. Even though we will demonstrate that Brian did not dismiss Pete, this does not mean that either Pete or Brian have ever lied about what went on that day. Both of them have since given consistent accounts over the years. After nervously exchanging some small talk, Brian then uttered those fateful words:

“the boys want you out”

I don’t know how to tell you this, but the boys want you out and it has already been agreed that Ringo is joining on Saturday.”

Pete recalled what happened next. “Only one echoed through my mind. Why, why, why? ‘They don’t think you’re a good enough drummer, Pete,’ Brian went on. ‘And George Martin doesn’t think you’re a good enough drummer.’ ‘I consider myself as good, if not better, than Ringo,’ I could hear myself saying.

does ringo know yet?

Beatles manager Brian Epstein
Beatles Manager Brian Epstein

“Then I asked: ‘Does Ringo knew about this yet?’ ‘He’s joining on Saturday,’ Eppy said.

” A conspiracy had clearly been going on for some time behind my back, but not one of the other Beatles could find the courage to tell me. The stab in the back had been left to Brian, and it had been left until almost the last minute. Even Ringo had been a party to it, someone else I had considered to be a pal until this momentous day.”

The meeting continued. “Epstein went on to what for him was simply next business at this shattering meeting. ‘We still have a couple of venues left before Ringo joins – will you play?’ ‘Yes,’ I nodded, not really knowing what I was saying, for my mind was in a turmoil. How could this happen to me? “

“Why had it taken two years for John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison to decide that my drumming was not of a high enough standard for them? Dazed, I made my way out of Brian’s office. Downstairs, Neil was waiting for me. ‘What’s happened?’ he asked as soon as he saw me, ‘you look as if you’ve seen a ghost.’” Pete walked straight past Billy Kinsley and Tony Crane of The Merseybeats, the group Brian was hoping Pete would join.”

Delving into the technicalities

We have to carefully look at, and challenge, every piece of available evidence, and consider the following statements:

  • Brian Epstein sacked Pete Best – the accepted truth since 1962
  • John, Paul, and George had hired Pete in the first place, and therefore they could fire him too

Definition of Dismissal: “Dismissal (referred to informally as firing or sacking) is the termination of employment by an employer against the will of an employee.” 

Pete Best was not an employee, so Brian couldn’t sack him. John, Paul and George couldn’t sack him either. In fact, Pete was a self-employed musician, so couldn’t be sacked by anybody.

Brian had to choose his words carefully

Now we know that Brian didn’t sack Pete, we have to examine what really happened.

The reason Brian used those exact words, “the boys want you out and it has already been agreed that Ringo is joining on Saturday” was not accidental; he chose those words very carefully.

Brian, as we know, was terribly nervous about the meeting, as Pete Best observed. It was because Brian knew he had to get the wording right, or it could have had dire consequences. Brian had to communicate Pete that he was sacking and replacing him, without saying those words.

Getting rid of Pete was not an easy matter. When he joined The Beatles, it was as an equal member, and therefore they became a partnership. The Beatles of John, Paul, George and Pete signed that Partnership Agreement at the end of 1961.

Another notable piece of evidence is the management contract that John, Paul, George and Pete signed as members of The Beatles. Brian hadn’t signed the contract. If Pete Best was simply a “hired hand”, then the contract would not have included him. The four Beatles were performing as a group, as a partnership.

No member of that partnership could fire another member. There needed to be a complex examination of the legal partnership among The Beatles and that management contract. Epstein needed the help of his solicitor, David Harris, to find a way to follow the instructions of John, Paul and George to get rid of Pete Best from The Beatles.

interview with Brian Epstein’s lawyer

Brian Epstein's lawyer, David Harris, who confirmed that Pete Best was not sacked
Brian Epstein’s lawyer, David Harris, who confirmed that Pete Best was not sacked

“Best wasn’t employed by Brian,” said Harris, “he was in partnership with the other three Beatles, and they had a partnership as a group known as ‘The Beatles’. Their partnership didn’t have to be in writing – not all contracts have to be in writing – but in general terms, a contract doesn’t have to be in writing. It can be verbal, like buying something in a shop. Same with this informal partnership agreement where they would work together as a group and share their profits. They could have agreed among themselves that they could divide the profits between themselves in any way they wanted.” What Harris didn’t know at the time is that The Beatles had a formal partnership agreement arranged in December 1961.

Brian had no authority to get rid of Pete

Finding the Fourth Beatle the story of the 23 drummers who put the beat into The Beatles
Finding the Fourth Beatle the story of the 23 drummers who put the beat into The Beatles

“The problem was,” said Harris, “that it was a Partnership. Brian had no authority to get rid of Pete. They (the other three Beatles) had to get rid of him, and dissolve the partnership. Brian could say that Ringo was replacing Pete.

I wrote a letter saying Brian would happily place him (Pete) in another group, as that was in his character anyway. He couldn’t sack him. The personal relationships didn’t suggest it, but the legal relationship did, that Pete was engaging Brian to provide work for him.” Pete and the other Beatles, in a legal context, employed Brian Epstein.

Finding the Fourth Beatle

Brian Epstein, on behalf of The Beatles, had already approached Bobby Graham, Ritchie Galvin and would also ask Johnny Hutchinson later this same day, but he had already lined up the young Ringo Starr. The rest, as they say, is history.

Read the full interview with Brian’s lawyer, David Harris, in Finding the Fourth Beatle.

David Bedford

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1962 in Beatles History: Decca audition, George Martin signs The Beatles, Pete Best is “sacked/ dismissed” from The Beatles (the truth is revealed) and Ringo Starr joins. The Fab Four is born and “Love Me Do”, their first single, is released.

The Fab Four
The Fab Four

1st January 1962 – The Decca Audition

24th March 1962 – The Beatles at the Barnston Women’s Institute

10th April 1962 – Stuart Sutcliffe dies in Hamburg

6th June 1962 – Parlophone: were The Beatles under contract?

6th June 1962 – The Parlophone Session

26th July 1962 – The Beatles at Cambridge Hall, Southport

27th July 1962 – Bobby Graham is asked to replace Pete Best

August 1962 – Ritchie Galvin is asked to replace Pete Best

11th August 1962 – Ringo Starr is asked to replace Pete Best

16th August 1962 – Pete Best is sacked/ dismissed from The Beatles. Or was he? New evidence revealed

16th August 1962 – Johnny Hutchinson is asked to replace Pete Best

18th August 1962 – Ringo Starr makes his debut with The Beatles

4th September 1962 – The Beatles first session at EMI Studios, Abbey Road

7th September 1962 – The Beatles at Irby Village Hall

11th September 1962 – Andy White is brought in to replace Ringo

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Finding the Fourth Beatle

The story of the 23 drummers who put the beat in The Beatles

Finding the Fourth Beatle
Finding the Fourth Beatle

Finding the Fourth Beatle: for the first time…
..the Complete Chronicle of the ‘forgotten’ Beatles’ who played their part in the long quest for a drummer.

“They’d had a succession of drummers through the years and finally found one who integrated, someone who fitted. Until this point it was always John, Paul, George … and a drummer…”
Neil Aspinall. Former CEO of Apple and the Beatles first road manager

FINDING THE FOURTH BEATLE

Available: as a Limited Edition of 100, including 2 Cds; Standard hardback; Standard softback; ebook; Double CD including the complete Decca session, first radio performance, EMI audition and so much more over 43 tracks

BUY FINDING THE FOURTH BEATLE? VISIT www.beatlesshop.co.uk

About Finding the Fourth Beatle

The fourth Beatle to join was Ringo, right?  Wrong!
How about John, Paul, George and Norman?
Or John, Paul, George and Tommy…or Johnny…or Terry?
Or even Ronnie the Ted!  Ronnie the who? Exactly!

Ringo Starr wasn’t the fourth Beatle to join. He wasn’t even the last! Half a century and hundreds of books after the Beatles went their separate ways, “Finding The Fourth Beatle” has finally pieced together the untold story of the Fab Three’s long quest for a permanent drummer – and how close the problem came to ending their dreams on several occasions, including those of their manager, Brian Epstein!

Thanks to their unrivalled network of sources Liverpool author’s David Bedford and Garry Popper have produced an in-depth investigation into the origins of the Fab Ones themselves, too. As a result “Finding The Fourth Beatle” reads like a thriller, mapping each crisis in the Beatles struggle for fame and fortune. It’s a roller-coaster story that tells it like it really was – a long and winding road paved by ruthless ambition and farce – none more vividly detailed than the panicked conspiracy to dump drummer Pete Best; one of darkest and longest controversies to engulf the band.

Book Highlights

Highlights include: Why Pete Best was not fired/sacked
PLUS
 Those drummers who were almost the “Fourth Beatle”, and those who weren’t
 In-depth analysis of the failed Decca audition, and EMI sessions in 1962
 PLUS why Brian Epstein didn’t sign the first Beatles contract
 How Ringo Starr joined The Beatles – and who else was asked before him
 A previously unknown Beatles contract
 The vindication of Pete Best and a celebration of Ringo Starr

Find out more at www.thefourthbeatle.com

“The must-read Beatles book of the year. A masterwork of rock ’n’ roll sleuthing and good old-fashioned research.”
Kenneth Womack, author of Maximum Volume: The Life of Beatles Producer George Martin (The Early Years, 1926-1966)

“This is the work of responsible researchers who challenge the usual received wisdom, carefully presenting their findings on a rock-solid foundation of fact.” Robert Rodriguez, award-winning Beatles author and creator of the Something About The Beatles podcast

BUY FINDING THE FOURTH BEATLE? VISIT www.beatlesshop.co.uk

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