“it don’t come easy”: how ringo’s debut with The beatles happened
August 1962 was a turbulent month for The Beatles. In trying to find a replacement for Pete Best, Brian had approached Bobby Graham, Ritchie Galvin and Johnny Hutchinson. Ringo, the drummer from Rory Storm and the Hurricanes with whom they had played before, agreed to join The Beatles. His debut was at Hulme Hall in the Victorian Model Village of Port Sunlight, Wirral, on 18th August 1962. The Fab Four was born.
how the beatles got to Hulme hall
In an interview for The Fab one hundred and Four, Ian Hackett had suggested The Beatles for a previous dance. His father, Harry, booked the group for that legendary debut appearance of the first Fab Four line-up in August 1962. “Our home overlooked the Dell, a particularly lovely landscaped part of the village,” recalled Ian. “It was just a few yards from Hulme Hall, the Bridge Inn and the Men’s Club. While selling the Liverpool Echo outside Lever’s, Monty Lister, one of my customers, approached me. He was the editor of the Port Sunlight News, with an offer I couldn’t refuse.
“Back in the spring of 1962, Harry, as Captain of the Golf Club, organised the Club’s annual dance. He chose Hulme Hall as the venue, July 7th as the date and The Modernaires, as the main band. Then he asked me if I could think of a band to fill in during the Modernaires’ break. I suggested The Beatles.
“On 7 July 1962, the Golf Club Dance came,” recalled Hackett, the first of four appearances by The Beatles.
“They went down really well with my friends, although dad got some complaints about The Beatles.” In spite of those complaints, they booked The Beatles to appear again on 18th August 1962. Little did they know how significant this day would be.
“we want pete”
“By having The Beatles headliners at Hulme Hall on August 18th, this showed that not all the adults were hostile. But there was a mass female chanting of ‘We want Pete!’ when they introduced their new drummer.
“The make-up of the audience was different for this show,” recalled Ian, “as there were more young people than locals. The problem was that the local people were angry as the young interlopers wanted to show support for Pete Best. The Beatles never stood a chance. I was glad for this one that my dad took the flak, and not me!”
In spite of the audience reaction, Ian was impressed with The Beatles that night. “I loved their treatments of ‘Twist and Shout’ and ‘Besame Mucho’” he said. “John’s harmonica in general was great, but especially on Bruce Chanel’s ‘Hey Baby’. At that stage, they weren’t playing that many original songs.”
No photos are known to exist of The Beatles at Hulme Hall. However, I discovered a photo of Gerry and the Pacemakers performing there later in 1962.
ringo in the toilet!
Ringo, because of the animosity in the crowd, was not enjoying the night of his debut. “I ran into a miserable-looking Ringo in the gent’s toilet during the break,” recalled Ian. “I tried to cheer him up with a smile and an optimistic comment: ‘Don’t worry about tonight. Things can only get better.’ And it was not long before they did.” (David Bedford interview in The Fab one hundred and Four)
You can still visit the hall, though the stage is no longer there.
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.
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?
“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
“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
“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.
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.
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.
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 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, 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
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…