The Beatles Decca Audition Part 2

The Beatles Decca tapes
The Beatles Decca Audition on vinyl

If you missed it, Decca Audition Part 1

The Audition

The Beatles knew it was one of the most important dates of their lives; they still thought they could clown around as if they were in The Cavern. According to George Harrison, they even “put on heavy, thicker-than-usual Liverpool accents to try and fool the Londoners. It was a bit of a defence mechanism.” (True Story of The Beatles) 

John Lennon would later say that “somehow this helped get our spirits up again.” Still, despite their best efforts, they were unable to recreate the energy and atmosphere of their Liverpool and Hamburg shows. Johnrecalled: “Remember that we had at the back of our minds that Brian Eppie had spent a lot of time already trying to get record companies interested in us, but without having any luck. I guess that was weighing on our minds.” (True Story of The Beatles)   

As if all these pressures were not bad enough, tensions soon rose to the breaking point when Epstein’s sense of self-importance tripped him up once again. Dismissing normal studio protocol, he interrupted he proceedings and immediately got into an open altercation with John Lennon. Oops!

John Lennon and Brian Epstein – A Fair Fight?

The red mist descended over Lennon faster than a rainstorm. Pete Best: “…Brian began to voice some criticism either of John’s singing or his guitar playing. I’m not sure which. Lennon burst into one of his bouts of violent, uncontrollable temper, during which his face would alternate from white to red. ‘You’ve got nothing to do with the music!’ he raged. ‘You go back and count your money, you Jewish git!’” The sudden chill in the studio was far icier than the weather outside. “Brian looked like he had cracked down the middle. Mike Smith, the sound engineers and the rest of us all looked at each other in amazement.” (Beatle!) 

Brian wisely walked away from the confrontation. This was likely the first time he experienced a very public tongue-lashing from the often cruel tongue of John Lennon.  It wouldn’t be the last, and the fact that it happened at a crucial audition at Decca studios of all places shocked everyone watching. Not the best way to sell yourself.

Would You Have Signed The Beatles?

The final order of the songs performed at the session is not known, but by the end they had managed to record 15 numbers, all live, with little or no opportunity to correct mistakes. Time was up.

Now, decades later, we ask you to put yourself in Dick Rowe’s position. After all the feedback on the day’s events, having listened to the session tapes, and knowing the comparisons and options concerning Brian Poole and the Tremeloes, Rowe had to make a straightforward commercial business decision whether to sign The Beatles or not. There was no crystal ball where he could gaze into the future; nor did he have the luxury of looking back in hindsight.

With that in mind, and based on the known facts, what would you have decided? Would you have signed The Beatles?

Blame it on the Drummer – A Convenient Scapegoat?

Beatles drummer Pete Best
Beatles drummer Pete Best

These Decca auditions have been cited over the years as proof of Pete Best’s poor drumming and one of the reasons why he had to go. “Worst of all was Pete’s drumming,” and “At Decca, Pete had the full kit at his disposal and did little with it.” (Tune In). But is there any basis in this assessment?

Examining Third Party Opinions: Is Criticism Valid as Evidence?

Writing for Ultimate Classic Rock, Dave Lifton also condemns Best’s drumming. “The tapes prove George Martin’s assertion that Pete Best was the wrong drummer for the group. For years, Best had said he was fired in favour of Ringo Starr because the band were jealous of his success with their female fans. But after one listen, it’s obvious that Best was a limited drummer with a poor sense of timekeeping.”

Savage Opinion

“I thought Pete Best was very average, and didn’t keep good time. You could pick up a better drummer in any pub in London,” recalled Decca session engineer Mike Savage in a 2007 interview. (TuneIn) 

Very average and didn’t keep good time? A better drummer in any pub in London? These emotive words condemn Best as a drummer; Savage’s words are savage. In context, Mike Savage was the 20-year-old junior assistant to producer Mike Smith back in 1962. “If you’ve got a quarter of a group being very average, that isn’t good,” (Tune In) he continued. Granted, this is a fair comment. 

However, an analysis of the songs will demonstrate that the whole audition was average at best. Applying the scholastic tests, theavage quote, the first by him was given 45 years after the original session, goes against the testimony by many ‘60s-era Liverpool musicians who describe Pete as a very good drummer. There is also no independent corroboration of these comments, and nobody else from Decca, including Mike Smith, commented on Pete’s drumming. We will examine Best’s drumming ability track by track to see if Savage’s assessment holds up.

Analysis by Drummers

For our analysis of the Decca session, we invited three drummers to listen to the audition songs, each for the first time ever. The analysts, which include a father-and-son team, are:

Mike Rice, drummer with ‘60s Merseybeat band The Senators who was an active drummer until recently, and saw both Pete and Ringo play with The Beatles.

Mike Rice (second from left)
Mike Rice (second from left) from ’60s group The Senators

Derek Hinton, 50, a guitarist and bassist in bands for over 30 years and an accomplished drummer as well.  

Derek Hinton
Drummer Derek Hinton

Derek’s son Andrew Hinton, 19, an excellent drummer, bass guitarist and lead guitarist who is currently pursuing a music degree at Liverpool University.

Drummer Andrew Hinton
Drummer Andrew Hinton, one of our experts

Each participant was played the song only once, and was then asked for his immediate feedback on Pete’s drumming as if they were at the session.

Here is a selection from the book, Finding the Fourth Beatle, where we examined all 15 songs. You can also find every track in the Decca audition on our Finding the Fourth Beatles double-CD.

1. Money (That’s What I Want)

John launched into a rocking version of “Money (That’s What I Want)”, a 1960 hit for Barrett Strong on the Tamla label. Written by Tamla founder Berry Gordy and Janie Bradford, it became the first hit record for Gordy’s Motown label, whose roster included all the great American pop-soul artists The Beatles worshipped. John seems to be almost croaking, or trying too hard to sound like a rock ‘n’ roller, and overdoes the vocals. Though John’s voice is too raspy, Pete’s atom beat is strong and Paul’s solid bass-playing augments the strong drum rhythm.

This song was later recorded for EMI and issued on their second LP, With The Beatles.

Pete’s drumming? 

Mike: “Couldn’t hear Pete enough because the balance isn’t too good between the instruments. Pete’s timing is good and he is playing the correct rhythm for the song, using his bass and floor tom well. Nothing wrong with his drumming.”  

Derek and Andrew: “Very good use of the full kit. Very tight and a good tempo all the way through. Drumming is fast and at a good pace with good syncopation.”

3. “To Know Her Is to Love Her

“To Know Him Is to Love Him” was written by Phil Spector, inspired by words on his father’s tombstone, “To Know Him Was To Love Him”. It was first recorded by Spector’s group, the Teddy Bears, and it went to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart in 1958. The Beatles’ version was not officially released until 1994, when it appeared on their Live at the BBC compilation album. The song is in 12/8 time. John’s lead vocal is good, though lacking in the quality we would expect, while the backing harmonies from Paul and George are perfect. Guitars, bass and drums all work together. This is possibly one of the best tracks of the day.

Never recorded by The Beatles with EMI, the song was performed for the BBC and a version was released on Live At The BBC.

Pete’s drumming?

Mike: “I would have added something slightly different, personally, when they go in to ‘Why can’t she see…….’, but that is still good, and the beat is good and regular, and he makes a good transition back into ‘To know, know, know her…’, so I’ve no real criticisms.”  

Derek and Andrew: “The timing on the hi-hat is like a metronome, it is that good and regular. He is playing almost freestyle, playing to the song – not just sticking to a set rhythm. He emphasises the melody and song, and doesn’t have a set part to play which is very creative. Maybe needs a little variation with his use of the snare and the ride cymbal.”

4. “Take Good Care of My Baby

One of the best songs in the day’s repertoire, “Take Good Care of My Baby” came from the famous songwriting team of Carole King and Gerry Goffin. Bobby Vee’s hit version was released in America July 1961 and by September, it had reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. In The Beatles’ version, George’s vocal is superb, with John and Paul harmonising with him brilliantly; the group sounds tight.

Not recorded by The Beatles for EMI, the song was performed for the BBC and appeared on Live At The BBC.

Pete’s drumming?

Mike: “Clean and clear sound, Pete’s rhythm is the right one and nicely in time. Good performance.”

Derek and Andrew: “The drumming is very tight, and has a good, consistent tempo. He uses a simpler pattern and rhythm, appropriate for the song. He stops perfectly in time with the rest of the group; the whole group performs this song perfectly. The drumming is holding the group together, and leading from the back. He is very inventive, using a different rhythm for each song, whereas most drummers would just do the same for each song.”

7. “Crying, Waiting, Hoping

There had to be a Buddy Holly composition included, and they chose “Crying, Waiting, Hoping” a song released in 1959 as the B-side to “Peggy Sue Got Married”. There are actually three versions of Holly’s song: the 1959 release, the 1964 reissue with different orchestration, and Holly’s original home recording.

The Beatles’ Decca version featured George Harrison on lead vocal whilst replicating studio guitarist Donald Arnone’s instrumental bridge note for note. Everything about the song is great. George’s vocal is once again the pick of the session, and the balance of the group’s rhythm is very good.

The number was never an official EMI release by The Beatles, until it appeared on Live At The BBC.

Pete’s drumming?

Mike: “Nice rhythm, good drum rolls at the right place, and variation in the chorus, too. A good performance and sounded great.”

Derek and Andrew: “Again, Pete’s drum rolls are excellent. More variety in his choice of rhythm, with good variation on the snare drum. He is playing a standard 4/4 time signature but with a samba variation. This is where he is listening to the group and playing the song well. It is inventive and precise, with perfect patterns. Stunning performance by Pete, and this is probably the best the whole group has sounded together. They all know what they are doing.”

14. “Three Cool Cats 

“Three Cool Cats” was a 1958 song written by Leiber and Stoller. It was originally recorded by The Coasters and released as the B-side of their hit single, “Charlie Brown”. The Beatles performed this song several times during the infamous Get Back/ Let It Be sessions in January 1969.

Another fine vocal performance from George with supporting harmonies from John and Paul, whose interludes are characterized by very dodgy foreign accents. These odd dialects, though well-suited for a live Cavern show, spoil an otherwise impressive group performance with tight vocals, guitars and drums.

First released on Anthology 1, this is The Beatles’ only recording of a great song.

Pete’s drumming?

Mike: “He varied the beat at the right time – better variation – and kept a good tempo. No problem with his drumming there.”

Derek and Andrew: “Again, Pete adds his signature drum roll to perfection, and sounds really good. He uses great variety in the chorus with his use of the snare. Good variety in the lead guitar solo to back up what George is doing. Again, drumming is very tight with the group.”

And In The End? Conclusions from The Decca Audition

The Studio:

Steve Levine has been a successful record producer for many years, and was a good friend of George Martin. He has a unique insight into the recording environment and technology The Beatles would have used in 1962. For him, the whole process of stepping into a recording studio for the first time was a significant factor. Read Steve’s comments in the book.

The Drummer?

Did our expert drummers agree with Savage’s comments about Pete’s drumming being “very average, and didn’t keep good time. You could pick up a better drummer in any pub in London”?   

“I don’t know who these people are who criticise Pete’s drumming because he was a great drummer,” said Mike Rice. “He was fantastic to see live with The Beatles and his sound drove the group forward.” (DB interview 2015)

As Derek observed: “Pete’s timekeeping was like a metronome, and at times, it came across as if it was the drummer who was the leader of the group, like a Buddy Rich. In fact, Pete’s drumming reminds me of ‘Wipeout’ by the Ventures, with that great use of the floor tom and that pounding rhythm that drives the song.” It’s noteworthy that both The Ventures’ and Safaris’ versions of “Wipeout” didn’t come out until 1963, a year later.

Andrew notes: “Considering Pete had no training, he is very creative and he was creating sounds and rhythms for the first time. He knows what he is doing, is confident in his ability, and isn’t simply copying the records or original version.”

Derek concluded that Pete “is doing something different on virtually every song, and almost playing like the “Prog Rock” drummers were doing in the 1970s.”

“We Wouldn’t Have Used Pete Best” Really?

Junior Engineer Mike Savage commented further on Pete’s drumming: “If Decca was going to sign The Beatles, we wouldn’t have used Pete Best on the records.” (Tune In) 

Interestingly, the only comments we have from Savage pertain only to Pete’s drumming. But what did he think about John, Paul and George? Why do we not have those comments? Neither session producer Mike Smith nor Dick Rowe singled out Pete for particular criticism – the recordings reveal that, at various times, they were all culpable. However, as we will see in a later chapter on the use of session drummers, it wouldn’t have mattered how well Pete Best did that day, because you could virtually guarantee that Decca or Parlophone were going to use a session drummer. That was no insult to Pete, or later, to Ringo.

Mike Smith at Decca

When asked about the Decca audition in the February 2002 issue of The Beatles Monthly, Smith said: “Maybe I should have trusted my instincts and signed them on the strength of their stage show. In the studio they were not good and their personalities didn’t come across. Maybe they were in awe of the situation. Of course I kicked a lot of furniture in the year or two afterwards when The Beatles started to happen for George Martin over at EMI. I would like to have auditioned the group when they had a better range of songs to offer, but NOT after they fired Pete Best. In my humble opinion he was a better drummer than Ringo.”

Smith added that “the one that played the most bum notes was McCartney. I was very unimpressed with what was happening with the bassline.” But he also wanted to qualify that observation, reminding us that “we are talking about four young men in a very strange environment, probably a very overpowering environment.” (Best of the Beatles) This is a fair comment to make about four young men entering a professional recording studio for the first time. It should come as no surprise that they were all affected by nerves. It is only natural.

Decca Sign Pete Best

Mike Savage: “If Decca was going to sign The Beatles, we wouldn’t have used Pete Best on the records.” How ironic that, just over a year later, Decca signed the second-most popular group in Liverpool, Lee Curtis and the All-Stars, whose drummer was, of course, Pete Best. Did they use a session drummer? No. It is also clear from what Smith has said that he was happy with Pete Best, and so he would not support the comments by Savage.

Pete Best in New York with his own band
Pete Best in New York, now with his own band

Decca released two singles, “Little Girl” and “Let’s Stomp” but, unfortunately, neither made the charts. In mid-1963, the rest of the band decided to split from Curtis to form The Original All-Stars. That group became The Pete Best Four, who were also signed by Decca and produced by none other than Mike Smith. And again, no session drummer was used. The Pete Best Four and Pete Best Combo released several singles and albums. But despite Pete’s profile and the songwriting talents of Wayne Bickerton and Tony Wadsworth, success eluded them.

As a former member of Pete’s group, Bickerton was asked about his drumming. “Pete was a good drummer,” Bickerton said. “All the stories of him not being able to play properly are grossly exaggerated. The problem he fought against was being an ex-Beatle, which worked against us. The talent was in the band, but it was secondary to the Beatle-obsessed media and public.” (Spencer Leigh Let’s Go Down To The Cavern) 

In The End?

The Beatles failed the Decca audition as a group, with no single member to blame, be it Pete Best, John Lennon, Paul McCartney or George Harrison. This failed audition could have been the end of the road for The Beatles, not just for Pete.

Brian, however, was not prepared to give up just yet. He took the boys out for a meal and tried to cheer them up. “The boys performed like real troopers when I stressed that this was only the beginning, not the end,” Brian said. “I knew how disappointed and fed up they were.” He felt he had let his boys down, but it was a learning experience for them all.

Thankfully, Decca turned The Beatles down, which meant they got the chance to work with George Martin; a perfect partnership. That Parlophone audition went ok, even if it wasn’t a perfect performance.

David Bedford

Finding the Fourth Beatle CD
Finding the Fourth Beatle CD

GET YOUR COPY OF FINDING THE FOURTH BEATLE NOW WITH THE WHOLE DECCA AUDITION ANALYSED.

Please follow and like us:

The Beatles Decca Audition – 1st January 1962

The Beatles at the Cavern - Pete, George, John and Paul
The Beatles at the Cavern – Pete, George, John and Paul

Were guitar groups really on the way out as Decca producer and executive Dick Rowe supposedly told Brian Epstein? Was that why they failed the Decca Audition? Mike Smith had raved about The Beatles when he visited the Cavern just a couple of weeks earlier, so why would Rowe not like their sound? “When Mike came back,” said Rowe, “I said, ‘Well, what are they like?’ I wasn’t excited, but I was very interested because there was a lot of underground talk about them. Mike said, ‘Oh, they’re great!’ I said, ‘Well, you better bring them down and give them an audition.” (The Beatles: Oral History) 

Finding the Fourth Beatle

In Finding the Fourth Beatle, we decided to analyse the Decca audition in more detail than had been done before. There are so many subjective comments and biases that come through, that we felt we couldn’t just offer another author’s opinion on Pete Best, who seems to get a lot of blame. Was he responsible? Was he a crap drummer as some people think? So, we asked three drummers, of different generations, to listen to the Decca audition and give us their objective opinions on Pete’s drumming. It was very revealing!

The Tremeloes

Surely, if they were a three-part harmony, guitar-based group like Brian Poole and The Tremeloes. The sound was comparable, so was it simply a case of the two bands being too similar? On the surface, the answer is yes. However, when you dig a bit deeper, you can see why Dick Rowe didn’t sign The Beatles which, thankfully, meant that they were paired with George Martin and not Rowe.

So why has Dick Rowe been blamed for turning down The Beatles? Is the criticism justified? Was it simply a north-south divide problem? Was he biased against Liverpool artists? History shows that Rowe was responsible for the first no. 1 record by a Liverpool artist, even if it was “(How Much Is That) Doggie In The Window” by Lita Roza in March 1953. He also recorded “Halfway To Paradise” and “Jealousy”, two hits by Merseyside’s first rock ‘n’ roll star Billy Fury. The handsome singer-songwriter hailed from Liverpool, so wouldn’t that work in The Beatles’ favour?

So what was it? Did Dick Rowe make the decision, or did The Beatles make the decision for Dick Rowe? Put yourself in Rowe’s place; whom would you have signed? As you will see, it wasn’t a straight comparison between the two groups after all.

1st January 1962: Crying, Waiting, Hoping – The Story of The Audition

Let’s examine The Beatles’ Decca audition in more detail, song-by-song. Bear in mind that they performed these fifteen numbers in less than an hour, probably getting only one shot at each. Mike Smith has said that he expected them to reproduce the great performance he’d seen at the Cavern, and encouraged them to “play the whole spectrum of music” he’d heard.

Even though the songs were regularly performed in their act, they weren’t really representative of The Beatles’ sound. Brian was keen to demonstrate their wide range of talents, both individually and as a group, and to show their musical versatility. In hindsight, it was probably a mistake. But Brian didn’t impose the songs on them.

George and Paul

As George recalled: “In those days a lot of the rock ‘n’ roll songs were actually old tunes from the ‘40s, ‘50s or whenever, which people had rocked up. That was the thing to do if you didn’t have a tune; just rock up an oldie. Joe Brown had recorded a rock ‘n’ roll version of ‘The Sheik of Araby’. He was really popular on the Saturday TV show Six-Five Special and Oh Boy! I did the Joe Brown records, so I did ‘Sheik of Araby’. Paul sang ‘September in the Rain’. We each chose a number we wanted to do.” (Anthology) 

Pete thought that, in hindsight, they shouldn’t have allowed Brian to have as much say in the songs they performed: “It was a strange dish to set before the recording kings, with the emphasis on standards which, I remember, was mainly at Brian’s insistence. Really, we were doing little that was different.” (Beatle! The Pete Best Story) John later said that the group “should have rocked like mad in there and shown what we’re like when we’re roused.” (The Beatles: The Biography, Spitz) 

The Audition

Morning arrived all too soon – but not that early, as Brian Epstein noted: “At 11 am…we arrived at Decca in a thin bleak wind, with snow and ice afoot,” he said rather poetically, carefully omitting the detail. (Cellarful of Noise) 

Pete recalled Brian’s wrath after he’d warned them about staying out past ten: “When we got to the Decca studios the next day, we were late. Seems to be our history, being late, and Brian of course, was there before us. He was absolutely livid. He tore a strip off us left, right and centre. John just basically turned round and said, ‘Brian, shut up. We’re here for the audition, right.’” (Beatles at The BBC 2012)

Use Our Own Amps?

For some unexplained reason, The Beatles had taken their own amplifiers, as if they were turning up for a live gig. That was the first problem. Their cheap amps may have been passable for performing in clubs, but the hum the amplifiers emitted in the recording studio was an issue. When the hum proved far too audible to the sound engineers, they had to be changed for Decca’s own studio amps. “They didn’t want our tackle,” said Neil. “We had to use theirs. We needn’t have dragged our amps all the way from Liverpool.” (The Beatles. Hunter Davies) 

True! This clearly shows how ill-prepared and ill-informed they had been. Adding more headaches to their groggy condition, they also had to cope with a huge, open, icy-cold studio. Decca had been closed for the Christmas period and, consequently, there was little or no room heat.

The boys were accustomed to close interaction in their live performances, but the recording studio was quite another story. The unfamiliar layout meant they could not communicate in the usual way. To avoid sound bleeding into other microphones from the drums, Pete was situated behind a studio ‘baffle’, an isolation screen. This made direct eye contact with the others almost impossible for Pete as all four struggled to keep cue off each other.

Recording Separation

Don Dorsey, an engineer who has worked at Abbey Road, explained why this would be a problem: “A recording studio environment is quite different to a live environment. In a live hall, all band members are relatively close together and all their sound output mixes in the environment – the drummer hears everything. In a recording studio, it would be customary for the drummer to be separated from the rest of the band with a large wall-like sound baffle. The purpose of baffles is to keep sounds from one player intruding too much into the microphones of the others. As a result, to hear other band members well, headphones must be used and the sound would be nothing like a live appearance.” (Liddypool DB 2007)

The physical separation was new to The Beatles; the setup at the Hamburg recording sessions had been completely different. They also noticed for perhaps the first time the vast difference between playing to a control booth and performing in front of a live audience. As the top group in Liverpool and Hamburg, they had learnt to “mach shau” – to “work” the audience. This time around, the chance to recreate the magic of the Cavern, which Mike Smith had enjoyed so much, was impossible. On top of everything else, they had a classic case of audition nerves which affected their delivery of even the most familiar songs. No assessment of the Decca audition can be done without taking into consideration all these factors, both external and internal.

Seeing Red – Songs in the Key of Fraught Nerves and Temper Tantrums

Tensions had simmered from the moment The Beatles arrived, gathering even more momentum when the ever-punctual Brian became angered by the late arrival of the Decca staff. Culprit-in-chief was Mike Smith who, like the four lads, was also hung over from the night before. Brian took it personally. “Mike Smith was late and we were pretty annoyed about the delay. Not only because we were anxious to tape some songs but because we felt we were being treated as people who didn’t matter.” (Cellarful of Noise) Here, Epstein reveals his inner insecurity by letting slip his overblown sense of grievance about being treated as someone of importance.

In reality, The Beatles were no doubt relieved that they weren’t the only ones to arrive late, or the only ones to rattle Epstein’s code of behaviour. Dick Rowe avoided the flack this time. The man responsible for the final decision wasn’t at the session. That was left to Smith, who would report the feedback to Rowe later. In the meantime, with everyone finally in place, studio equipment was set up, levels were taken by the engineers in the control booth, and they were off. The scary red light came on, and in the silence and isolation of the Decca studio, the audition began.

Red Light Area

Although the use of the red light was customary to let everyone know that they were ready to record, it was a distraction. “They were pretty frightened,” said Neil. “Paul couldn’t sing one song. He was too nervous and his voice started cracking up. They were all worried about the red light. I asked if it could be put off, but we were told people might come in if it was off. ‘You what?’ we said. We didn’t know what all that meant.” (The Beatles. Hunter Davies) To add to the confusion, the group knew very little about all the microphones, booms and controls. The boys were truly in uncharted territory.

Part 2 coming next

Please follow and like us:

Liverpool International Beatleweek 2019 – What to do

Visit the statue of John Lennon at St George's Hall, Liverpool
Visit the statue of John Lennon at St George’s Hall, Liverpool

What to do in Liverpool at International Beatleweek 2019

Coming to Liverpool this week for the Liverpool International Beatleweek? Then there are certain things you need to do on this visit:

Statue of John Lennon

Statue of John Lennon on display in St George's hall until the end of August
Sculptor Laura Lian with her sculpture of John Lennon on display

Inside St. George’s Hall, whicb is worth a visit anyway, is a new statue of John Lennon, only on display until the end of August. Don’t miss it! You will be able to hear my interview with Laura on our podcast, Liddypod, next week.

Double Fantasy at Museum of Liverpool

Double Fantasy exhibit at the Museum of Liverpool
The amazing Double Fantasy exhibit at the Museum of Liverpool

An absolute must is the Double Fantasy exhibit at the Museum of Liverpool at the Pier Head. With many exhibits from Yoko Ono, this unique exhibition about John and Yoko has to be seen. Uniquely curated for Liverpool, it is ending in November. An incredible exhibition.

BBC RADIO MERSEYSIDE – Sunday 8.30am

On Sunday morning at 8.30am on BBC Radio Merseyside, I have recorded a 30 minute programme about The Beatles and religion/spirituality, listening to some great Beatles songs too. It is on 95.8 FM.

Convention at the Adelphi

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

Don’t miss the convention at the Adelphi on Sunday. I will be there with a few copies of Liddypool, some Fab one hundred and Four plus my new book, Finding the Fourth Beatle.

Find out about the 23 drummers who put the Beat in The Beatles!

And, if you haven’t discovered my crime faction book yet, “Inspector Rocke”, I will have a few copies of that one too.

Come and say hello!

Other Must-Do Must-See places

Don’t forget to do the Ferry cross the Mersey, the Beatles Story (Royal Albert Dock) and the British Music Experience at the Pier Head, which has the “Lost Beatles Tapes” this weekend.

There is also the Magical Beatles Museum on Mathew Street, with many great exhibits linked to the Casbah (which is celebrating its 60th anniversary this weekend!)

Of course, I have to mention The Cavern, who continue to put on an incredible Beatles festival every year. Well done everyone involved.

Plus the many wonders of Liverpool itself!

David Bedford

Please follow and like us:

The Beatles are Dead! Long Live the Fab Four!

The Fab Four - John, Ringo, George and Paul
The Fab Four – John, Ringo, George and Paul

Were The Beatles and the Fab Four different? Much has been made of the drumming skills of Pete Best and Ringo Starr, and opinions are often at odds. Each has been praised for his talent, or criticized for his lack of it.

Pete Best was removed from The Beatles because of George Martin’s comments at the end of their June 1962 audition. Was it a clash of personalities, haircuts and the myriad other reasons given for Pete’s “dismissal”? Or was there something more fundamental going on which may have gone unnoticed? David Harris, Brian Epstein’s lawyer, confirmed that when Pete Best left, The Beatles effectively disbanded and then re-formed with Ringo. Was this more than just a legal sleight of hand that happened in the blink of an eye?

There are certain crisis points in Beatles history where the evolution of the group required a personnel change.

The Quarrymen in the parade on 6th July 1957
The Quarrymen, including John, on the wagon during the parade on 6th July 1957

John lennon needs paul mccartney

On 6th July 1957, Paul McCartney watched The Quarrymen perform a mixture of country, rock ‘n’ roll and skiffle. Yet rock ‘n’ roll would always remain John’s first love. The Quarrymen lacked the expertise to make that musical leap from a skiffle group to rock ‘n’ roll. John knew that if they were going to become a rock ‘n’ roll group, they needed more skilled musicians. Thankfully, Ivan Vaughan introduced him to his mutual friend Paul McCartney. All John had to decide was whether they would continue playing just for fun, or take themselves more seriously. Should they bring in a musician who had the talent to improve them?

By inviting Paul to join The Quarrymen, John knew that most of his friends would soon be leaving. Rock ‘n’ roll bands didn’t need a banjo, washboard or tea-chest bass. That reality hastened the departures of Rod Davis, Pete Shotton and Len Garry.

john and paul need George harrison

Paul McCartney, John Lennon and george Harrison as Japage 3
Paul McCartney, John Lennon and george Harrison as Japage 3

What John and Paul realised after Paul botched his solo on “Guitar Boogie” was that they needed a lead guitarist. Thankfully, Paul knew someone who could amply assume the role: George Harrison. Five months after John met Paul, George had replaced Eric Griffiths, and Rod, Pete and Len had departed. Only Colin Hanton, the drummer, remained. The nucleus of The Beatles was in place; John, Paul and George were now together.

The Quarrymen Are Dead: Long Live The Silver Beatles/Silver Beats/The Beatals

Rod Murray and Stuart Sutcliffe
Rod Murray and Stuart Sutcliffe copyright Rod Murray

John, Paul and George were desperate to have their own rock ‘n’ roll group. They offered a spot in the band to Rod Murray or Stu Sutcliffe, depending on who could get a bass. Stu joined the group when he purchased a bass with the proceeds from the sale of one of his paintings.

john, paul, George and stu need a drummer

The Beatles - John Lennon, George Harrison, Pete Best, Paul McCartney and Stuart Sutcliffe in Hamburg 1960
The Beatles – John Lennon, George Harrison, Pete Best, Paul McCartney and Stuart Sutcliffe in Hamburg 1960

As they ditched the Quarrymen name, John, Paul, George and Stu needed a drummer. Their new manager, Allan Williams, recruited Tommy Moore, and, at long last, they were a rock ‘n’ roll group. Through Tommy first, then Norman Chapman, the boys were able to convince Williams to get them bookings. Later, with new drummer Pete Best on board, to send them to Hamburg.

The Silver Beatles/Silver Beats/The Beatals Are Dead: Long Live The Beatles

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

With Pete now in the group, The Beatles became the greatest rock ‘n’ roll group Liverpool or Hamburg had seen. As Beatles promoter Sam Leach observed; “When The Beatles came back from Hamburg, they were the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band anyone had seen. Only those of us on the scene then saw The Beatles at their best: they were pure rock. They lost some of that when Brian put them in suits, but it worked, and you can’t argue with it.” 

there was nobody to touch us in britain

As John Lennon said: “We were four guys. I met Paul and said, do you want to join my band, and then George joined and Ringo joined. We were just a band who made it very,  very big; that’s all. Our best work was never recorded. In Liverpool, Hamburg and around the dance halls, and what we generated was fantastic when we played straight rock. There was nobody to touch us in Britain, but as soon as we made it, the edges were knocked off. Brian put us in suits and all that, and we were very successful, but we sold out. Our music was dead before we even went on the theatre tour of Britain.” (Rolling Stone Interview).

The Beatles did their best work in Liverpool and Hamburg. John is acknowledging that the group was at its best with Pete on drums. This is a point easily confirmed by any fan who saw the band perform in Liverpool or Hamburg. There was no one to touch them. However, John’s comments need to be taken in context. He loved those early days playing rock ‘n’ roll, but his words shouldn’t be viewed as a criticism of Ringo.  

john, paul, George and pete don’t need stu

The Beatles at the Cavern - Pete, George, John and Paul
The Beatles at the Cavern – Pete, George, John and Paul

This transitional period also saw a crucial change on bass guitar. Although Stu Sutcliffe was a decent rock ‘n’ roll bassist, they needed Paul McCartney. With Paul on bass, they could take it up a notch.    

1962: Rocked in: Popped Out – The Beatles Are Dead: Long Live The Fab Four

What we witnessed during the summer of 1962 was the end of The Beatles. They were the great rock ‘n’ roll group that had conquered Liverpool and Hamburg. Through Pete Best’s driving beat, Paul’s thumping bass, John’s fiery rhythm and George’s infectious rock ‘n’ roll guitar licks. What we then witnessed, with the introduction of Ringo, was the birth of the Fab Four. This new pop group would conquer the world. In 1962, they rocked in the year, but ‘popped’ it out in the charts with their new brand of music. They were at last achieving Brian Epstein’s vision of a polished, theatrically-astute and aesthetic pop group.

When Brian first saw them on at the Cavern, they were scruffy rebels in black leather. They were rocking the joint while eating, drinking, smoking and clowning around. When they were presented to the music press in 1962, they were four polite, cheeky, suited Liverpool lads. Brian’s vision of musical theatre was coming to fruition. His “boys” were now presentable in stage costumes with a rehearsed script and a set list. They even bowed at the end of their performances, much like a curtain call for a play. Their shows became carefully-crafted pieces of musical theatre. This was a huge leap into the unknown for the band, but one fully-orchestrated by Brian. The Beatles had evolved into the Fab Four. We couldn’t have both; one of them had to go, and the old style Beatles took the fall.

Things didn’t quite work with Pete, even though he was perfect for The Beatles were doing at the time. The Beatles were playing covers of other artists’ songs. There were certainly no documented issues raised prior to George Martin’s comments at EMI in June 1962. Ringo wasn’t even the first choice to replace Pete. What would The Beatles have been like had they hired Bobby Graham, Ritchie Galvin, Johnny Hutchinson ?

the fab four is born

Beatles drummer Ringo Starr joined The Beatles in August 1962
Beatles drummer Ringo Starr joined The Beatles in August 1962

Whatever magic potion he possessed, Ringo fit in perfectly with John, Paul and George, and it worked; history confirms that. As with any team, The Beatles proved that the whole was greater than the sum of its parts. All that mattered was how they worked together. The group would always be greater than the individuals, regardless of talent. None of the Beatles was considered to be the best at his chosen instrument in Liverpool. Together they were greater than any musical team had even been, and likely will ever be. 

john, paul and George ask ringo

“Pete Best was good, but a bit limited,” said Paul. “You can hear the difference on the Anthology tapes. When Ringo joins us, we get a bit more kick, a few more imaginative breaks, and the band settles. So the new combination was perfect: Ringo with his very solid beat, laconic wit and Buster Keaton-like charm; John with his sharp wit and his rock ‘n’ rolliness, but also his other, quite soft side; George, with his great instrumental ability and who could sing some good rock ‘n’ roll. And then I could do a bit of singing and playing some rock ‘n’ roll and some softer numbers.” (Anthology).

Was Pete Best a Good Drummer?

In “Finding the Fourth Beatle“, we have analysed Pete’s drumming on the Tony Sheridan recordings from June 1961. On the accompanying CD, you can also hear the Decca audition from January 1962. Pete was a more-than-capable player. Extensive research conducted with various Merseybeat drummers about Pete’s drumming resulted in high praise from so many of them.

pete was a great drummer

Billy Kinsley played in the Pete Best Band. He is adamant that they didn’t get rid of Pete because he was a poor drummer. “You ask drummers who were around at the time,” said Billy, “and they say that Pete was a great drummer. I never had a problem at all with Pete. He was great, absolutely superb. Nothing against Ringo, but there was nothing wrong with Pete. However, John, Paul and George knew nothing about the recording business, and nor did Brian. If you saw any of those gigs at the Cavern , all the girls were screaming for Pete. That’s what The Beatles was all about; those three crazy guys and the moody guy who didn’t smile or was quiet, but it worked. Getting rid of him didn’t make sense to us.

From You To Me

So if fellow musicians didn’t see a problem with Pete, what was it? Was there a power shift within The Beatles from John to Paul. Paul’s repertoire and more eclectic song choices would appeal to a wider variety of audiences. Theywere better suited to a group who wanted to make, and sell, records. When it came to covering some of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll and R&B songs, The Beatles with Pete were second to none. John admitted that.

from rock to pop, beatles to fab four

However, for a group writing its own commercial pop songs, a change of direction was needed, and that meant a drummer who was used to playing a more varied song selection. They found that drummer in Ringo Starr, who had performed with Rory Storm and The Hurricanes at the Butlin’s holiday camps, entertaining audiences other than those at the Cavern and the clubs of Liverpool. Brian Epstein was desperately trying to get The Beatles away from those clubs, and John, Paul and George knew that.  

The Beatles John Paul George and Ringo - The Fab Four
The Beatles John Paul George and Ringo – The Fab Four

So, when Ringo joined the group, they went from being The Beatles, the rock ‘n’ roll kings, to the Fab Four, the greatest-ever pop group. It is possible that, by changing drummers, John was trying to suggest that The Beatles were dead; long live the Fab Four. Both were great bands in their own right, and each had a great drummer in his own right. Pete Best helped The Beatles conquer Liverpool and Hamburg, and also secure Brian Epstein, the manager who would make them famous and attain the record deal they craved. For his contributions, Pete Best should be celebrated and thanked.

Read the full story in Finding the Fourth Beatle.

It is ok to celebrate and like both Pete Best and Ringo Starr; The Beatles were dead: Long Live the Fab Four.

David Bedford

Please follow and like us:

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

Please follow and like us:

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

Follow Liddypool on Facebook for more articles like this.

Please follow and like us:

How Ringo Starr became the Beatles Drummer – In His Own Words

The Fab Four - George, John, Ringo and Paul. This was Ringo's first photo shoot after he became The Beatles drummer
The Fab Four – George, John, Ringo and Paul

Ringo becomes The Beatles drummer

Over the years, the story of how Ringo Starr became The Beatles drummer has been told in so many ways. It has taken on mythical proportions and so created an amalgam of scenarios that, if you look hard enough, is the truth. We have to investigate and piece the events together as best we can with exact times and dates. As more “facts” emerge, it retells more versions of the events, confusing the story even further.

Ringo sits in with The Beatles for Pete Best

No evidence exists to show that The Beatles offered Ringo the drumming job in The Beatles before August 1962. On the few occasions when Pete Best couldn’t make it, Ringo was their go-to drummer. This meant that they got to know each other a little better, musically. They first made a record together in Hamburg back in October 1960. Ringo next sat in with The Beatles was at their Christmas Party on 27th December 1961. On this occasion, Best had asked him to play in his place.

The Beatles at the Cavern - Pete, George, John and Paul. Ringo replaced Pete Best as The Beatles drummer
The Beatles at the Cavern – Pete, George, John and Paul

Ringo also played on 5th February at the Cavern, plus 26th March at The Cavern at lunchtime. He then joined them at the Kingsway Club in Southport in the evening. They knew what he was like to play with, and enjoyed playing with him in the group. This must have been a significant factor.

Examining The Evidence

Although some suggest that it would always be Ringo, the evidence says otherwise. Whatever transpired before Ringo Starr became The Beatles drummer, he was the right choice.

How did it happen? How did Ringo become the Beatles drummer? The Fourth Beatle? There are countless stories and multiple, often conflicting, versions of events. What does the evidence tell us?

Ringo explains how he joined The Beatles

In November 1962, Ringo told music journalist Chris Hutchins of the New Musical Express how he became The Beatles drummer. This interview, complete with relevant times, dates and locations, took place just three months after Ringo had joined the group. This interview appeared in my book, The Fab One Hundred and Four: The Evolution of The Beatles.

Ringo sat in with The Beatles on four occasions over the previous year, with conversations about him joining the group. There is no evidence that The Beatles offered Ringo the job before the weekend of 10th August 1962. In the interview, Ringo made no allusions to this, even a short time after joining them. The evidence only supports Ringo’s version.  

Friday, 10th August 1962: 10, Admiral Grove

John and Paul asked George to contact Ringo to invite him to join The Beatles.

 Richy (Ringo) with his mother, Elsie. From playing the accordian, he became The Beatles drummer
Young Richy (Ringo) with his mother, Elsie

In an interview with Mersey Beat, Ringo’s mother Elsie recalled this as the first time she had met George Harrison. She explained why he had called. “Ringo was at Butlins when George came up to the house—I hadn’t met him before—and asked if Ritchie was home,” she said. “I told him he wasn’t, and he said, ‘Tell him we’re trying to get him to join us.’” 

George Harrison explains

George corroborated this. “I went round to Ringo’s house when he was playing at Butlins, sat and had some tea with his mother and said, ‘Next time, tell your Ringo to call me up because I want him to be in our group’.”  

Elsie’s comments confirm that she hadn’t met George before, so there is no evidence of a close friendship between George and Ringo at that point.

Ringo seems to verify this: “I found it harder to get close to George Harrison. As the youngest Beatle, he backed off rather than try to compete for the limelight with the extrovert John and Paul. George was the original Little Boy Lost.”  

Saturday, 11th August 1962: The Odd Spot Club and The Blue Angel

Ringo (centre) with Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. Ringo explains how he became The Beatles drummer
Ringo (centre) with Rory Storm and the Hurricanes

Ringo had returned to Liverpool from Butlin’s and later recalled how The Beatles asked him to join on this day. “One Saturday morning,” Ringo said, “Elsie said that George Harrison had called and would I go down to see them at the Hot Spot (sic)?” This was actually The Odd Spot in Bold Street, Liverpool. 

“It was my night off and I couldn’t think of a better way to spend it. During the break, John, Paul, and George invited me to join them at the Blue Angel later on. Pete Best wasn’t coming, they said. At the Blue Angel, they introduced me to Brian Epstein. We shook hands, and he seemed a bit surprised by my appearance. I had a beard and a gray streak in my hair then.” 

Ringo at the back, with the Eddie Clayton Skiffle Group. Roy Trafford explains how Ringo became The Beatles drummer
Ringo at the back, with the Eddie Clayton Skiffle Group. Roy Trafford, centre

Ringo, as he always did, discussed the offer with his best friend, Roy Trafford. “When Ringo was asked to join The Beatles, it was a surprise to him and he didn’t know which way to go,” Roy related, “so he asked me, ‘What do you think?’ I told him ‘what have you got to lose? Have a go. I don’t know whether I made a difference to his decision, but it definitely worked out for the best’.” (Read David’s full interview with Roy in Finding the Fourth Beatle) The key phrase is that ‘it was a surprise’ to Ringo showing that he had no expectation of joining The Beatles.

Tuesday, 14th August 1962: The Drive To Butlin’s?

Did Paul and John drive to Butlin’s to see Ringo? It is possible, but it was a long way—around 180 miles each way, and before there were motorways—with very little time to spare. We can’t be sure if they made the trip.

johnny guitar remembers

Johnny Guitar and Ringo.
Johnny Guitar and Ringo

There are eyewitnesses though as Johnny Guitar from the Hurricanes remembers seeing them there. “John and Paul knocked on the door to our caravan about ten o’clock one morning, and I was very surprised because John hated Butlin’s. Paul said, ‘We’ve come to ask Ringo to join us.’ We went into the camp and Rory said, ‘What are we going to do because this is mid-season and we can’t work without a drummer?’ Paul said, ‘Mr. Epstein would like Pete Best to play with you.’ We couldn’t stand in Ringo’s way ‘cause we knew The Beatles would be big. We went back to Liverpool and saw Pete, but he was so upset that he didn’t want to play with anybody’.”

Spencer Leigh verified with Johnny Guitar that John and Paul visited Butlin’s, Skegness. “Yes, Rory got a big shock when Ringo said he would leave, and so did I,” Johnny said. “It is possible that Ringo had been tipped the wink on his last visit to Liverpool, but we had no inkling of what was going on.”  This would fit with the visit to Liverpool the previous weekend, as Ringo described.

ringo doesn’t remember

However, Ringo denied seeing them at Butlin’s. “I don’t remember John coming over, which was in somebody’s book.” John hasn’t mentioned it, and Paul doesn’t have any clear recollection of it either. Neil Aspinall told author Mark Lewisohn that Paul McCartney The Beatles’ van to see Ringo at Butlin’s, Skegness, though this couldn’t be verified. If it happened, then this was a follow-up to the conversation that John, Paul, George and Ringo had on Saturday 11th August when they took him to meet Brian. If this was the case, then the only day for this drive was 14th August when they were not playing during the day.

waiting for brian Epstein to call

So Ringo was on standby now to receive a phone call from Brian Epstein, and to join The Beatles.

Ringo Starr became The Beatles drummer, but there was a further twist to come…

David Bedford

Full Story in Finding the Fourth Beatle

Follow Liddypool on Facebook for more articles like this.

Please follow and like us:

Beatles History: A Second Drummer is asked to replace Original Beatles Drummer Pete Best

Ringo Starr was certainly not first on the list to replace Best

Beatles drummer Pete Best
Beatles drummer Pete Best

After the Beatles took the decision to replace Pete Best as their drummer, Brian Epstein approached Bobby Graham first of all to offer him the job. As unbelievable as it would seem in retrospect, Graham turned The Beatles down.

Ritchie Galvin is asked to join The Beatles

Ritchie Galvin on drums was asked by Brian Epstein to replace Pete Best in The Beatles
Ritchie Galvin on drums was asked by Brian Epstein to replace Pete Best in The Beatles

The second drummer that Epstein approached was Ritchie Galvin, drummer with Earl Preston and the TTs, as featured in the book Finding the Fourth Beatle. As with all stories connected to The Beatles, can this be corroborated? Let’s explore.

Ritchie didn’t like john lennon’s sarcasm

Ritchie Galvin was born Ritchie Hughes, but chose to adopt the name Galvin from the group he was fronting, The Galvinisers. Spencer Leigh spoke to Galvin’s girlfriend, and later his wife, Ann Upton. “Brian Epstein asked Ritch about joining The Beatles and he went to see Ritch’s dad as he was still under age,” Upton said. “Bob Wooler was with him, too. Ritch said that he didn’t agree with Pete being replaced and he didn’t like John Lennon’s sarcasm as he thought that they would fall out. Also, to my credit, he didn’t want to be leaving me as they would be working away from Liverpool quite a lot. He never regretted it and he said, ‘No, I wouldn’t have you and I wouldn’t have my kids and I wouldn’t have this life.'”

Ritchie Galvin on drums, who was asked to join The Beatles. Bass player Mike Kinney confirms the story
Ritchie Galvin on drums, who was asked to join The Beatles. Bass player Mike Kinney confirms the story

Brian Epstein and bob wooler

Galvin told many fellow musicians – like Earl Preston (Joey Spruce), Phil Brady, and Mike Kinney – the exact same story, how Brian Epstein and Bob Wooler, DJ at the Cavern, approached Ritchie and offered him the job with The Beatles, but he turned it down, especially because he didn’t like John Lennon – a common theme!

Galvin decided to settle down with his girlfriend, and stick with Earl Preston, as well as later playing with many Liverpool bands. He was a highly respected musician on the circuit.

Would Galvin have been good for the beatles?

“Ritchie produced a powerhouse of sound on the drums, and was nicknamed ‘thunder foot’,” said Kinney. “He was a great friend with a fabulous sense of humour, and an incredible drummer. When he set the tempo, he never moved either way. As a bass player it’s exactly what you need from your drummer. He was one of the most respected drummers on Merseyside right up until he died. I shed many a tear when he passed.”

Finding the Fourth Beatle
Finding the Fourth Beatle

You can read the full story in “Finding the Fourth Beatle“. Galvin was the second drummer to turn The Beatles down, but he wouldn’t be the last, before Ringo Starr agreed to join them.

How different things could have been!

If you enjoyed this story, please give it a share on Facebook.

David Bedford

Purchase your copy of Finding the Fourth Beatle and David’s other books

Please follow and like us:

Beatles History: The Beatles’ Final Appearance at The Cavern on 3rd August 1963

From The quarrymen to the beatles

The Beatles first appeared at The Cavern when they were just The Quarrymen, back in early 1957. It wasn’t until February 1961 that as The Beatles, thanks to Mona Best, made their first appearance at the legendary Cavern Club on Mathew Street. It was a lunchtime session, and it wasn’t long before they made their debut in the evenings too. It was later in 1961 that Brian Epstein walked into The Cavern and saw The Beatles: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Pete Best. Within weeks he had signed them and arranged an audition for them at Decca. 

Between their first appearance and their last appearance on 3rd August 1963, they played nearly 300 times. Their final show did not go without incident.

The Cavern Club, Mathew Street, where The Beatles played nearly 300 times
The Cavern Club, Mathew Street, where The Beatles played nearly 300 times

The fab four: “please please me”

The Beatles were by now nationwide stars, and touring the country after the success of their singles and number one album, “Please Please Me”. The Fab Four were moving away from Liverpool, and setting up home in London, where the national media was located.  That last night at The Cavern would be their last, even though they didn’t realise it at the time.

The Cavern was a jazz club before The Beatles played rock n roll music there
The Cavern Jazz Festival as they began to have Beat Nights before long

“The crowds outside were going mad. By the time John Lennon had got through the cordon of girls, his mohair jacket had lost a sleeve. I grabbed it to stop a girl getting away with a souvenir. John stitched it back on. They may have altered their style elsewhere, but they didn’t do it at the Cavern. They were the same old Beatles, with John saying, “Okay, tatty-head, we’re going to play a number for you.’ There was never anything elaborate about his introductions.” Paddy Delaney, Cavern Club doorman

Brian Epstein promised they would return

Tickets for the final show had gone on sale at 21 July at 1.30pm, and sold out within 30 minutes. The fees for their last Cavern show were £300, a lot more than they received for their first appearance. By then, The Beatles could command almost any fee they wanted. With only 500 people there, at 10 shillings each, it was impossible for The Caverb to make money that night. Brian Epstein promised the club’s compère Bob Wooler that The Beatles would return, but they never did.

The Beatles at the Cavern Club in 1961; Pete Best, George Harrison, John Lennon and Paul McCartney
The Beatles in The Cavern in 1961; Pete Best, George Harrison, John Lennon and Paul McCartney

“The Beatles were very professional: there was no larking around and they got on with it. We all felt it was their swan song and that we would never have them at the Cavern again. Brian Epstein still owes the Cavern six dates for The Beatles as he kept pulling them out of bookings by saying, ‘You wouldn’t stand in the boys’ way, would you, Bob?” Bob Wooler

“When i’m sixty-four”: The first live performance

The show lasted from 6pm-11.30pm and The Beatles were joined on the bill were The Escorts, The Merseybeats, The Road Runners, Johnny Ringo and the Colts, and Faron’s Flamingos. However, during The Beatles’ set, there was a power cut – which was not unusual at the Cavern – and so they couldn’t use any of their equipment. As the show must go on, Paul McCartney moved over to the piano, and played a song the crowd hadn’t heard before, and wouldn’t hear on record for a few years: ‘When I’m Sixty-Four’ from the legendary Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Having shown that The Beatles had outgrown this primitive club, Lennon was not happy:

The Fab Four: Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, who last played at The Cavern on 3rd August 1963
The Fab Four: Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, who last played at The Cavern on 3rd August 1963

“We were on just before The Beatles and we were delighted with our reception as everybody was cheering and going mad. The Beatles all had long faces and John Lennon was saying, ‘We never should have come back here.” Tony Crane, The Merseybeats

Although this was the last Cavern appearance, it wasn’t their last Liverpool appearance, which happened in December 1965 at the Empire Theatre.

A Cavern Club membership card
Cavern Membership Card

Hello, goodbye

But for those Cavernites, it was the last time they saw their hometown heroes, The Beatles, in The Cavern.

David Bedford

Please follow and like us:

27th July 1962 in Beatles History: Bobby Graham is asked to replace Pete Best

On Friday 27th July 1962, a conversation was about to set in motion a chain of events that would lead to Pete Best leaving The Beatles and eventually being replaced by Ringo Starr.

Bobby Graham
Bobby Graham

Beatles History was about to Change – Dramatically

On Friday 27th July 1962, a conversation was about to set in motion a chain of events that would lead to Pete Best leaving The Beatles and eventually being replaced by Ringo Starr.

The Beatles were playing on the same bill as Joe Brown and the Bruvvers at the Tower Ballroom, New Brighton, a show promoted by Bob Wooler. As featured in Finding the Fourth Beatle, Bobby Graham was the first drummer to be approached to replace Pete and, in the estimation of John, Paul and George, ideally suited for The Beatles and more than adequate for George Martin’s needs. After all, the producer’s problem with Pete had nothing to do with his live performances, but rather his drumming in the studio. Graham had extensive studio experience and, as would be proved, was one of the top session drummers in the ‘60s. Unfortunately for Brian, Graham turned him down.  

As Graham recalled: “He said that they needed a change. I said, ‘No thanks’ as The Beatles hadn’t had any hits and anyway, I had a wife and family in London. I don’t think he had even discussed it with The Beatles, as surely they would have wanted someone from Liverpool.”

“I turned him down”

In a further interview with Spencer Leigh, Graham elaborated further on the discussion. “Brian Epstein invited us back to the Blue Angel after the show. He called me to one side and said he was having trouble with Pete Best’s mum and he wanted him out of The Beatles. He asked me if I would take his place. Although I liked The Beatles, I turned him down because I didn’t want to come to Liverpool. Besides, I liked Joe Brown, who was having hit records.”

It has been suggested that Bobby Graham wasn’t offered the permanent job. According to Mark Lewisohn in TuneIn: “He (Brian) can’t have been offering the position permanently – John, Paul and George were clear they wanted Ringo – but Ringo was at Butlin’s until early September…. Brian wondered if Graham could bridge the gap between Pete’s departure and Ringo’s return.” However, this is a speculation and there is no evidence to support this theory.

Four Drummers were Asked

Finding the Fourth Beatle
Finding the Fourth Beatle

Bobby Graham was one of four drummers asked to replace Pete Best: Ringo was the one who accepted the job, and became The Fourth Beatle.

The full story is in Finding the Fourth Beatle. To purchase this, and David’s other books, go to www.beatlesbookstore.com

David Bedford

Please follow and like us: