13th October 1962: The Beatles and The Shades/ Chants – Joe Ankrah, Eddie Ankrah, Edmund Amoo, Nat Smeda, Alan Harding
One of The Beatles’ favourite Liverpool bands was the all-vocal black harmony group, The Shades, who later became The Chants. The Beatles would, in fact, back them on three occasions in 1962. The group originated in the Liverpool 8 area. I met founding member Joe Ankrah, who told me how it began. (Featured in my book The Fab One Hundred and Four: The Evolution of The Beatles)
“My father was the organist and choir master at the African Churches Mission. My brother Edmund and I were in the choir there. A lot of my upbringing with my dad and the church, I did want to make something of myself.”
Joe attended Upper Park Street Primary School and then went on to Wellington Road Secondary Modern. “When I left school, I wanted to be an artist, as I was quite good at art,” Joe said. “There was a huge gap in opportunities between black people and white people. My dad was good at drawing, and when he was in the army, he was a draughtsman. He did all kinds of rubbish jobs, and ended up as a ship’s fitter over at Cammell Laird.
“Doing our moves”
“So I left school and suddenly, there were no friends and nothing to do. I decided that there was no way I was going to work in a chippy or something like that. So I put my portfolio together and headed for town and tried to get a job as an artist. It was possible back then, because posters and advertising hoardings were all painted by hand. However, of course, that kind of artwork was dying out and being replaced by photography and new ways of printing. So I found myself out of work, and bumming around.
“One of our enjoyments was going to the Rialto, which was a cinema.It also had a ballroom where we used to go and listen to music and dance. So we would head down there on a Monday night, all dressed up, stand around the ballroom, doing our moves.
rock around the clock
There was a movie coming on called Rock Around The Clock. We watched this and I was impressed with them, even though it was really about Bill Haley. I just realised that I wanted to start a group, and particularly a vocal-harmony group. My brother Edmund and I were bumming around. Because my dad had been a choirmaster at the church, I knew about harmony.”
Apart for singing in their cellar, they had performed a few times at Stanley House. This was especially when his mother grew sick of them! There was a gang culture developing in Toxteth, as Joe explained: “There was the J’s and the Shines. The J’s were the John Bull’s (John Bull was a political character who symbolised British culture), the white guys. We were the Shines, because our skin was shiny.
cellars and American g.i.S
Joe continued: “I told them we were going to form a group and we started to practice in our cellar. I knew all the harmonies off by heart and that’s how we evolved. People used to come around to the house and we would be singing on the corner. And even when we would be rehearsing, there would be big crowds standing outside the house listening. Several American singers influenced us, and here we had an advantage. I have three aunties–Grace, Adah and Uzor–who were courting American GIs stationed at Burtonwood, just outside of Liverpool. They would bring their records down to my grandmother’s house and we would listen to them.
“We were bored with it eventually. What were we doing? Where were we going? All we seemed to do was rehearse. During one of those periods where we weren’t singing or performing, I found out that Little Richard was visiting Liverpool.”
“we didn’t know about the cavern”
Joe made an interesting observation about the music scene in Liverpool. This showed how the black and white communities were still segregated in the Sixties. “We didn’t know that there was a live music scene in Liverpool,” observed Joe. “We didn’t know about the Cavern and clubs like that. I wouldn’t have known how to get into the clubs and you wouldn’t see a black person in town then. I had no reason to go into town, so I didn’t know what was going on there.
“I was a big fan of Little Richard and I had some communication with him. He told me he was staying at the Adelphi and to come and meet him. I went down and he spoke to me. ‘Hey man, I’m doing a thing at the Tower, a Mersey show’, so I went to see him live.”
The show was on 12th October 1962 at the Tower Ballroom, New Brighton. One of Brian Epstein’s marketing ideas was to have The Beatles playing second to some of the biggest names around.
“I was backstage most of the time because I came with Little Richard,” recalled Joe. The Beatles were on and Little Richard was doing his famous walking around the balcony, singing all of his songs. So we were back by his dressing room and everyone was around Little Richard. I was just standing there, not trying to get near him. These two guys were there and asked me what I was doing there. So I told them I was there to see Little Richard. I asked them what they were doing there, and they told me they’d be on stage.”
Without realising it, Joe was talking to John Lennon and Paul McCartney. They were also queuing up to meet their hero. Joe didn’t know most of the groups, or even their names. For that reason, he hadn’t recognised John and Paul.
“I suppose I may have vaguely heard of the Cavern,” Joe said. “But even if we went into town at night time and tried to get into any of the clubs, we were turned away. We just accepted it back then. That was how it was, and it was the way it was. We had our photograph taken with Little Richard and The Beatles, plus Derry Wilkie and Sugar Dean.
“come down to the cavern”
“I told John and Paul that I was in a band and they laughed and asked what we played. I told them we don’t, we just sing. They couldn’t quite grasp it. ‘Why don’t you come down to one of the afternoon sessions at The Cavern, and we’ll listen to your band.
the beatles at EMI Studios, Abbey Road – How Did They Do It?
Ringo was now The Beatles’ drummer. But that was just the start to his career with the group. All was going smoothly until the first EMI recording session on 4th September 1962, just after his debut. The new Fab Four headed to the EMI Studios in Abbey Road to record their first single.
Brian Epstein reported for Mersey Beat, and his story, carried anonymously at his request. He told how they had met together at Liverpool Airport at 8.15am for their flight to London. Neil drove the equipment van on that long journey to the capital, though not in the midst of a snowstorm. This time, it was just torrential rain, but still not for the faint-hearted. Brian even had his “boys” pose for a group photograph on the tarmac, but none of them looked impressed.
Ringo sported his now-famous grey streak and George tried to appear oblivious to his black eye. The flight was not very smooth due to the weather, which did little to comfort George. He had a aversion to flying. They eventually arrived in London and checked into their hotel in Chelsea before heading to EMI Studios in Abbey Road.
Beatles! How Did You Do With It?
There was an important aim for the day, and it wasn’t to make a record. After the June session, it wasn’t just Pete’s drumming George Martin didn’t like. He wasn’t impressed with the songs or the arrangements, and the overall quality from the group was below-par. George Martin had told The Beatles to work over the summer on “How Do You Do It?”. (The Mitch Murray song George had sent them in late July) and “Love Me Do”.
Was This A Recording Session?
The normal practice was that a session drummer would only be hired when a song was ready to record. On 4th September, The Beatles were nowhere near ready to record! It therefore made no economic sense to pay for a session drummer to stand around all day. Session drummers usually worked on three-hour sessions and, in that time, they could learn and record up to four songs. For producer Martin, there was still a lot of work to do with the group; they weren’t ready to record the songs yet: they didn’t even know which songs they were going to record.
Possibly of more importance was the fact that Dezo Hoffman had been booked to photograph The Beatles. Irrespective of Ringo turning up, George Martin would still be hiring a session drummer for the record. It wouldn’t matter how well Ringo performed. The evidence therefore suggests that this was not a recording session from which a record would result.
How Should We Do It?
The Beatles walked into the studio and were met by their trusted roadie ‘Nell’. There was also their ‘headmaster’ George Martin and producer Ron Richards, the latter two having contributed to Pete Best’s downfall. The Beatles must have been nervous as they readied themselves for the session. “And so the moment came when all was set to make a first disc. A first disc with the world’s greatest recording organization,” said a proud Brian Epstein. No pressure on the boys, then.
The afternoon session, a three-hour rehearsal slot which ran from 2pm to 5pm. This was followed by another three hours of recording between 7pm and 10pm. According to Brian, it wasn’t an easy afternoon for The Beatles. “The rehearsal part of the session began,” he recalled. “It was a long and hard afternoon’s work. Six numbers were considered and eventually two were selected for the actual recording session in the evening.” They definitely would have rehearsed “How Do You Do It?” and “Love Me Do”, though the identity of the other four songs was not noted. They are thought to be “Ask Me Why”, “P.S. I Love You”, “Please Please Me” and a new original song in their repertoire, “Tip of My Tongue”. All apart from the first song were Lennon/McCartney originals. Their mission was clear: record their own songs. And this is where the conflict arose.
“how do you do it?”
George Martin wanted them to release the Mitch Murray song “How Do You Do It?”, which the group had been working on over the summer. But they were equally intent on recording only their own songs. They had been working on “Love Me Do” as Martin had asked them to do. Plus, they had “Love Me Do”, which had been recorded in June, but was now improved. What resulted was a much brighter, more marketable song. But there were other songs in contention, too, which they wanted to perform for Martin.
the beatles session in june 1962
The June session had to be scrubbed as far as making a record was concerned. However, George Martin still included those four songs in their total of six to record per the contract. This explains why no session drummer was present that day. They only had two songs left to fulfil the terms of the contract. He wasn’t going to squander money for a session drummer when they hadn’t even decided which songs they were going to release.
George Martin knew he had to start again and Ringo seemed to confirm this. “The response to us at EMI was okay, because we’d done the auditions and George Martin was willing to take a chance. On my first visit in September, we just ran through some tracks for George Martin. We even did ‘Please Please Me’”. Norman ‘John Lennon called me Normal’ Smith, who had been involved in the June session, returned for this session. He remembers that “it was really all John and George and Paul. Ringo had just joined and was put right at the back, being used rather like a puppet.” What mattered at this session was having John, Paul and George up to speed on the songs. George Martin was still planning to hire a session drummer.
who was andy white replacing?
Was Andy White booked to replace Pete Best? No. White confirmed that he was only called in after the 4th September session. This 4th September was a test session, and George Martin probably had a plan for a final recording date. That is when the session drummer would be employed. That date became 11th September. In Martin’s mind, the session drummer was still going to be brought in to replace Pete. However, it was suddenly Ringo, not Pete, who was the problem. As it turned out, Andy White was booked to replace Ringo. However, just as Pete was kept in the dark about the Decca failure, nobody thought to inform Ringo when he was being replaced.
First Rehearsal Session: 2pm – 5pm
As the clock headed towards 2pm, they were ready to start rehearsing. The afternoon session of six songs included “How Do You Do It?” and “Love Me Do”, plus “Please, Please Me” as Ringo had mentioned, “P.S. I Love You” and probably “Ask Me Why” and “Tip Of My Tongue”. They were intent on winning over George Martin, especially with their own songs.
But despite their efforts, Martin was still not impressed with “Love Me Do”, even with their changes. He didn’t hold back in his judgment of “Please Please Me” either. “They played me ‘Please Please Me’ but it was very slow and rather dreary. I told them if they doubled the speed it might be interesting”. And so George Martin’s influential role with The Beatles had begun. “I told them what beginning and what ending to put on it,” Martin added.
How Did We Do It?
After the three hours of rehearsal, George Martin took The Beatles out for a meal. He got to know them better as people. More than their songs, he liked their personalities, and regaled them with tales about recording the Goons. But there was still work to be done on the four songs set to be recorded. However, Martin considered only two songs sufficiently progressed enough for recording: “How Do You Do It?” and “Love Me Do”.
The recording of “How Do You Do It?” was completed quite quickly, in only a couple of takes. Though it was a good performance, it lacks enthusiasm and belief. There is no soul in the singing and playing, and they are clearly not interested in the song.
“LOVE ME DO”
“Love Me Do” was a different matter, Brian observed, as the song was “no simple matter. Everyone was anxious to attain a perfect sound, which would reproduce The Beatles’ unique qualities exactly”. As in June, this Lennon/McCartney original was causing problems for the recording engineers. Brian recalled it took around 15 takes to record, and that “John’s mouth (on harmonica) was numb with playing”. In fact, there were more than 15 takes for just the rhythm track, with the vocals added separately.
Why Should We Do It?
Once they had completed several takes of “Love Me Do”, there was a confrontation which has been remembered in different ways by those present.
It was Lennon, as group leader, who confronted George Martin. “Look, George, I have to tell you, we really think that song is crap”. Martin’s face was obviously shocked, so John qualified his statement. “I mean, it may be all right, but it’s just not the kind of thing we want to do”. George Martin quickly responded: “Well, exactly what is it you want to do?” Lennon realised this was his chance. “We want to record our own material, not some soft bit of fluff written by someone else”. Martin, who was obviously fond of the Liverpudlians, gave a wry smile. “I’ll tell you what, John,” he replied. “When you can write a song as good as that one, then I’ll record it.”
They’ve Got some cheek
What could Lennon say? Norman Smith was obviously amused by it all. “They’ve got some cheek, that lot,” he said. “I reckon that’s what got them this far, though?”
Paul and John were later to tell US journalist Larry Kane, what they felt about their choice. “‘Love Me Do,’ Larry, wasn’t the best song we ever wrote. But it really put us out front,” McCartney told Kane on the 1965 Beatles tour. John was also emphatic. “In Hamburg we clicked. At the Cavern we clicked. But if you want to know when we knew we’d arrived,” Lennon said, “it was getting in the charts with ‘Love Me Do.’ That was the one. It gave us somewhere to go.”
“Um, Without Ringo”
Norman Smith remembered the session, too. “They started to do ‘Love Me Do’ again, this time with George Martin”. Smith looked back at the session from June, and the problem again was the drummer. “Ringo Starr’s drumming did not impress. And so Ringo was taken off and replaced by a session drummer.” This explained why it took more than 15 attempts to record “Love Me Do”.
george martin didn’t like ringo
Paul explained what happened. “Horror of horrors! George Martin didn’t like Ringo. Ringo at that point was not that steady on time.” Were they in a better place than with Pete? “Now he (Ringo) is rock steady,” Paul stated some thirty years later. “It’s always been his greatest attribute. But, to George (Martin), he was not as pinpoint as a session guy would be. So, Ringo got blown off the first record.” Actually, no he didn’t!
Paul continued: “George (Martin) did the ‘Can I see you for a moment, boys?’ ‘Yeah?’ ‘Um… without Ringo’. He said, ‘I would like to bring another drummer in for this record’. George got his way and Ringo didn’t drum on the first single.” Norman Smith said: “I’ve a feeling that Paul wasn’t too happy with Ringo’s drumming, and felt that it could be better. He didn’t make too good a job of it. I remember too that there was a fair bit of editing to be done.”
“paul was starting to get annoyed with him”
Geoff Emerick remembered the problems surrounding the recording of “Love Me Do”. “The Beatles seemed to have a lot of trouble getting this one (“Love Me Do”) right, though,” he said. They obviously hadn’t rehearsed it as much as the other song. “Ringo was having difficulty maintaining a steady beat”. More telling was the dissention in the group, as “Paul was starting get annoyed with him”. They hoped that each take they finished would be good enough for George Martin. However, Emerick witnessed the conversations between Martin and Smith, where Martin criticized Ringo’s “unsteady drumming.”
When the session was finally over, George Martin appeared to be frustrated. Norman Smith then turned to Geoff Emerick to discuss the session. Smith said, “George has decided to bring in a session drummer when they come in again next week, so we shouldn’t have those problems again.”
“i didn’t rate ringo very highly”
George Martin’s opinion was based on what he had seen and heard. “I didn’t rate Ringo very highly,” he said. “He couldn’t do a drum roll – and still can’t – though he’s improved a lot since. Andy was the kind of drummer I needed. Ringo was only used to ballrooms. It was obviously best to use someone with experience.”
Ron Richards and George Martin hadn’t liked Pete Best’s drumming in June. Now, three months later, Martin and Norman Smith cared little for Ringo’s drumming. The Beatles knew there was one more recording session in which they could make their debut single. However, it would be without Ringo on drums. Was this really due to Ringo’s drumming quality? Or because it was record company practice to use session drummers at first? George Martin’s mind was made that he would be using a session drummer.
We shouldn’t be too harsh on Pete or Ringo, even if the producer had reservations about both drummers.
Ringo was in for a shock
After the 4th September session, there were two important decisions to address. First, a session drummer was still needed to make the record. And second, another Lennon/McCartney original was needed to replace “How Do You Do It?”. They had a week to prepare for their final session, but nobody thought to inform Ringo of George Martin’s decision. He was in for a very big shock.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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
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
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 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.
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…
August 1962 – Ringo Starr Nearly Becomes a Pacemaker
While Ringo Starr was with Rory Storm and The Hurricanes, EMI granted The Beatles the audition which lead to their contract offer. While the band was heading for the toppermost at EMI on 6th June 1962, Ringo felt he was going nowhere. But then, three offers arrived at once. First, Gerry Marsden asked Ringo to join The Pacemakers, but not as a drummer. “Gerry wanted me to be his bass player!”
Ringo on bass?
“I hadn’t played bass back then or to this day,” said Ringo, “but the idea of being up front was appealing. That you’d never played a particular instrument before wasn’t important back then!” After that, Ted “Kingsize”Taylor offered Ringo the drummer’s job in his group; Kingsize Taylor and The Dominoes.
August 1962 – A King-sized Offer for Ringo
Ringo’s second offer was from Kingsize Taylor, who promised him £20 per week to drum for his group, The Dominoes. “Ringo was a rare commodity on Merseyside,” said Taylor, “as drummers at this time were very hard to come by. I only asked him to join The Dominoes out of desperation, as Dave Lovelady could not go back to Hamburg .”
Some irony, with this being the reason The Beatles hastily offered Pete the position in August 1960. “Yes,” Taylor continued, “I did, off the top of my head, offer him 20 quid (£20) a week. He accepted it, even though ever liked Hamburg when he was last there.
Along came The Beatles, and the rest is history. Ringo was not a better drummer than Pete; too much of a swing in his rhythm and liked himself more than his music.” (David Bedford interview)
no offer from The Beatles yet
Why did Ringo initially accept Taylor’s offer? Because he had no offer to join The Beatles, and there were no guarantees it would happen. He knew he wanted to leave the Hurricanes, and joining Kingsize Taylor and the Dominoes was a step up.
They’re thinking of getting rid of you
But just when it looked as though his future was clear and that he would join Taylor in September, along came the offer to join The Beatles. But first, The Beatles told Brian to get rid of Pete. Although there had been hints as far back as June, when somebody said to Pete; “they’re thinking of getting rid of you, you know.”
Pete laughed it off, and Brian appeased him. And then, in early August, Pete had his heart set on buying a new Ford Capri car. He mentioned it to Paul, who responded; “If you take my advice, don’t buy it. You’d be better saving your money.”
one more drummer
The Beatles asked one more drummer to replace Pete, on the same day that Pete received the bad news, and the day after Ringo had been offered the job.
Ringo Starr was certainly not first on the list to replace 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
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.'”
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.”
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!
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