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When Pete was the Most Popular Beatle

Page 4  (Previous Page)

Still upset by the turn of events, Epstein, who had had a sleepless night prior to sacking Pete, then told him, that he wanted to continue managing him and would place him with another band -- the Mersey Beats. Pete didn't want to remain with Epstein after what had happened and certainly didn't want to start at the beginning again with an unknown group.

Behind the scenes, Epstein arranged for Joe Flannery to approach Pete about joining Lee Curtis and the All Stars. Pete had had numerous offers to join other bands, but decided to give the All Stars a shot and made his debut with them at the Majestic Ballroom, Birkenhead on Monday 10 September 1962. On Saturday 24 November, Pete was again appearing at the Majestic with the All Stars and also celebrating his twenty-first birthday. Compering the show, Bob Wooler read out a telegram that had arrived for Pete: "Congratulations. Many happy returns. All the best, John, Paul, George, Ringo and Brian."

Epstein probably sent this as the relationship between Pete and his former colleagues was now a difficult one. Pete commented: "We played on the same bill as the Beatles on two occasions. One was at the Cavern when we were second on the bill to the Beatles. The other was in the Mersey Beat Pollwinners' concert. On both occasions we were on just prior to the Beatles, and we had to pass one another face-to-face, yet nothing was said."

In fact, Lee Curtis & the All Stars were voted into second place in the second Mersey Beat Popularity poll -- and this was entirely due to the fact that Pete had joined them.

Lee Curtis & the All Stars comprised Lee Curtis (vocals), Tony Waddington (rhythm), Wayne Bickerton (bass), Frank Bowen (lead) and Pete Best (drums).

Pete began to pick up the pieces of his life and in August 1963 he married his girlfriend Kathy.

Lee Curtis signed with Decca, but recorded without the band. Decca then offered the group a separate deal. Pete said; "Decca suggested we push my name, so we became the Pete Best Four." Ironically, Mike Smith, who had recorded the Beatles' original audition for Decca, produced their debut record.

The single, 'I'm Gonna Knock On Your Door' was released in June 1964, but it didn't register and Decca dropped the band.

On Monday 30 March 1964 Pete appeared as a guest on the American TV show, 'I've Got A Secret'.

Pete was to say, "Magazines, both in Britain and across the Atlantic, have been printing far-fetched stories that I had quit the Beatles because of illness and that Ringo was called in only because I was too sick to play."

In fact, this sort of falsification of the facts came to a head when a Beatles' interview in Playboy magazine in February 1963 had a quote from John saying: "Ringo used to fill in sometimes if our drummer was ill, with his periodic illness." Ringo commented, "He took little pills to make him ill." Pete sued and a few years later an out-of-court settlement was eventually reached.

To counter the accusations that he was always taking time off due to illness, Pete confirmed that during the entire two years he was with the group, he was only off on two occasions and had given the group an advance warning. Other members of the group had spent as much time away from the band with illnesses.

Pete and his wife Kathy were living in Haymans Green, but one night when Kathy was visiting his mother, Pete became terribly depressed and attempted to gas himself. His brother Rory, smelled the gas, battered down the door and, together with Mo, spent several hours reviving him.

Mo became manager of the group and they appeared in Hamburg and recorded with Joe Meek - although the Meek recordings were never released.

They were offered the opportunity of recording in America by an independent A&R man, Bob Gallo. By this time, Tommy McGurk had replaced Bowen, but McGurk left before their American trip. The band added two sax players -- Trevor and Bill -- and, as a quintet known as the Pete Best Combo, they flew to the States, along with the Undertakers.

The Pete Best Combo appeared on television, toured Canada with Roy Orbison and cut almost 40 numbers in the recording studios. The American producers attempted to capitalise on the Beatles association and some of the releases included 'Best Of the Beatles', 'The Beatle That Time Forgot' and 'My Three Years (sic) As A Beatle'.

Tony Waddington revealed to Record Collector magazine:

"In the summer of 1965, we were due to audition for the Monkees TV show -- Pete Best could have been a Monkee! We'd been told what sort of show it was going to be and what it was all about, and we were going to fly out to Hollywood. By then, we'd split with the Gallo camp and we had a manager called Chick Petri, who was wealthy and influential."

However, it wasn't to be. They had been in America so long that they either had to return to England and re-apply for a work permit, or become American citizens. If they became citizens, they would be eligible to be drafted for Vietnam, although it seemed an unlikely prospect. They returned home in July 1966 to appear at the Cavern and disbanded soon after that. By 1969, Pete had left the world of music and settled down to become a civil servant for the employment service in Liverpool.

In 1978, Dick Clark invited him to appear on a television reunion with various other veteran musicians. Then Clark invited him to be the technical advisor on a TV movie called 'The Birth of the Beatles', although the producers reportedly ignored the advice of Pete and other Mersey Beat veterans, such as Bob Wooler.

In 1984 his first autobiography, written in collaboration with Pat Doncaster, was published. In 1990, together with Billy Kinsley, a former member of the Mersey Beats, he recorded a Rick Wakeman song, 'Heaven'. He also formed a new band and recorded a live album of their appearance at the Beatles convention in Liverpool in 1991. Pete's younger brother Roag also plays drums with the band.

Pete was then invited to tour cities throughout Japan and became a guest at several international Beatles conventions. He took early retirement in 1994 and resumed his musical career with his outfit, the Pete Best Band. His CD of rock 'n' roll favourites from the early Beatles repertoire, released in 1993, was called 'Back To The Beat' and the same year, he set out on a year-long world tour of 20 countries, which included Britain, America, Belgium, South Africa, Russia and Duabi.

Pete then received an unexpected piece of good fortune when it was revealed that the Beatles new 'Anthology' double CD, set for release in November, would contain several tracks on which Pete made an appearance. These included the Bert Kaempfert Hamburg recordings, tracks from the Decca audition and the initial Parlophone audition recordings. His reward, reputedly, was for an undisclosed seven-figure sum.

I was to collaborate with Pete on another biography, 'The Best Years of the Beatles', published in Britain in 1996 and a DVD 'Best of the Beatles' was issued in 2005.

Paul McCartney, in his 'Wingspan' documentary, was finally to admit that the reason why Pete was sacked had nothing to do with his ability as a drummer.

Bill Harry, born in Liverpool, attended Liverpool College of Art with John Lennon and Stuart Sutcliffe. He coined the phrase Mersey Beat and launched a newspaper of that name. He later moved to London where he became personal press officer to over 30 major acts including Hollies, Kinks, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin. He was the first person ever to write regularly about the Beatles and has written more about the group than anyone else in the word.

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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