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When Pete was the Most Popular Beatle
Page 3  (Previous Page | Next Page)

When Pete rejoined Neil downstairs from Brian's office he told him the news that he had been sacked from the Beatles and the two retreated to the Grapes to discuss it over a drink. Neil was furious and threatened to resign as the Beatles' road manager, but Pete told him to stay with the group as they were about to become successful.

When Neil phoned Mo, she was furious and spent the afternoon trying to contact Epstein by phone -- in vain. She then managed to talk to George Martin on the phone and he denied that he had ever suggested sacking Pete. All he would say was that he would prefer having a session drummer that he was familiar with in a recording studio. In fact, this was confirmed when he used a session drummer even after Ringo had joined the group.

Martin actually told Mo: "I never suggested that Pete Best must go. All I said was that for the purposes of the Beatles' first record I would rather use a session man. I never thought that Brian Epstein would let him go. He seemed to be the most saleable commodity as far as looks went. It was a surprise when I learned that they had dropped Pete. The drums were important to me for a record, but they didn't matter much otherwise. Fans don't pay particular attention to the quality of the drumming."

At that point in time it was not uncommon for A&R men to use session drummers. Ringo was to experience something similar when he arrived at the recording studios on Tuesday 11 September 1962. A session drummer, Andy White, was present. White also played drums on P.S. I Love You, while Ringo was handed a pair of maracas.

Martin told Beatles' biographer, Hunter Davies: "He (Ringo) couldn't do a 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."

Ringo himself was to tell Davies how shocked he was to arrive at the session and find another drummer there: "I thought, 'that's the end', they're doing a Pete Best on me."

The decision to sack Pete was not a sudden one. It had been claimed that Paul and George had been overheard talking to Bob Wooler in the Grapes about sacking Pete, once they had John's approval. Their next step was to approach Epstein and tell him.

Epstein then considered Johnny Hutchinson as the best replacement and contacted Hutchinson to offer him the job. Hutchinson turned him down -- he didn't have a good opinion of the group.

Years later, Hutchinson was to tell broadcaster Spencer Leigh: "Brian asked me to join the Beatles and I said, 'I wouldn't join the Beatles for a gold clock. There's only one group as far as I'm concerned and that's the Big Three. The Beatles can't make a better sound than that, and Pete Best is a very good friend of mine. I couldn't do the dirty on him."

On the evening of Best's sacking, Epstein was surprised to find that Pete didn't turn up for the gig at the Riverpark Ballroom. Neil told him: "What do you expect?" Brian got Hutchinson to fill in the three bookings until Ringo was able to join. That evening when Neil questioned Paul and John about it all, he was told: "It's got nothing to you with you. You're only the driver."

The story in Mersey Beat read:

"BEATLES CHANGE DRUMMER!

"Ringo Starr (former drummer with Rory Storm & the Hurricanes) has joined the Beatles, replacing Pete Best on drums. Ringo has admired the Beatles for years and is delighted with his new engagement. Naturally he is tremendously excited about the future.

"The Beatles comment, 'Pete left the group by mutual agreement. There were no arguments or difficulties, and this has been an entirely amicable decision.'

"On Tuesday September 4th, the Beatles will fly to London to make recordings at EMI Studios. They will be recording numbers that have been specially written for the group, which they have received from their recording manager, George Martin."

This official Beatles' comment, issued by Brian Epstein, was false. Pete was to tell Mersey Beat: "The news came as a big surprise to me as I had had no hint that if could happen and didn't even have the opportunity of discussing it with the rest of the group."

Local fans went wild with fury and hundreds of letters and petitions of protest were sent to Mersey Beat. When the Beatles were due to appear at the Cavern with Ringo on Sunday 19 August 1962, the Best fans were out in force. Ray McFall arranged for Brian Epstein to have a bodyguard and, during scuffles, George Harrison was given a black eye by Bruno, a Best fan. Fans were chanting "Pete for ever, Ringo never" and "Pete is Best."

However, the protests didn't last long. George was to write to a fan: "Ringo is a much better drummer and he can smile -- which is a bit more than Pete could do. It will seem different for a few weeks, but I think that the majority of our fans will soon be taking Ringo for granted." To his credit, John Lennon was later to say: "We were cowards when we sacked him."

Added to the devastating news for Pete Best that after two years' unblemished service with the band, he was unceremoniously sacked when they were finally about to achieve success, was the fact that his name was tarnished.

Epstein attempted to soften the harshness of the group's decision by implying that Pete wasn't a good enough drummer. The fellow Merseyside musicians disputed this as did fans who actually heard him play. He genuinely contributed to the Beatles' success and was an integral part of them as they established themselves as the No 1 band on Merseyside. There had never been a single complaint about his drumming and he had developed the 'Atom Beat', which other drummers had copied.

In 1984, Geoff Nugent of the Undertakers was to tell Spencer Leigh: "Pete Best put the Beatles on the map. You'd see two or three girls around Paul and George and John, but you'd see fifty around Pete. I very rarely saw him smile and yet he was always pleasant. If you look at any of the Beatles photographs with Pete Best, the first face you're drawn to is Pete's. I don't care if you're a man or woman."

Instead of seeking to investigate the real motives behind the sacking of Best, writers have merely continued to perpetuate the lie that 'he was not a good enough drummer.' If a lie is repeated enough, people will assume it is the truth.

Pete was to say, "I wouldn't rate Ringo as a better drummer than me -- I'm adamant about that -- and when it happened I felt like putting a stone around my neck and jumping off the Pier Head."

Mo told Epstein, quite frankly, that she believed the reason Pete was sacked was due to the fact that he was so popular locally and would probably have become the most popular Beatle when they achieved success. She put it down to jealousy by the other members of the group -- particularly since a lot of people in Liverpool had been calling the group 'Pete Best and the Beatles.'

She said to Hunter Davies: "They were jealous and they wanted him out. Pete hadn't realised what a following he had till he left. He was always so very shy and quiet, never shot his mouth off, like some people I could mention.

"He'd been their manager before Brian arrived, did the bookings and collected the money. I'd looked upon them as friends. I'd helped them so much, got them bookings, lending them money. I fed them when they were hungry. I was far more interested in them than their own parents."

In some quarters of Liverpool at the time, people suspected that the Beatles wanted to get rid of Pete because his mother was such a strong personality that she would continue to make her presence felt, even though Epstein was now managing the band.

Another reason was that Pete just never quite fitted in personality wise with the other three members of the group. He was taciturn and didn't have the same wacky sense of humour.

>>Continued on Page 4...


This article is Copyright © 2007, Bill Harry, and may not be reproduced on other web sites or in print, in whole or in part, without expressed permission.



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