The Beatle’s first drummer was Pete Best. He was an absolute protagonist of The Beatles’ residency in Hamburg and extremely popular among the girls, Pete Best was fired from the Beatles days before their big break in 1962.
It’s important to stress the fact that Pete Best was the band’s first drummer before they achieved success. After the departure from the Beatles, he started his own band and would go on to be an addition to a few other ones as well.
After legal battles with his former mates and decades spent far away from the music industry, Pete Best managed to scroll off the “failed Beatle” label people had put on him, forming a band of his own and touring the world with his original songs.
But how did it all start?
The Casbah Coffee Club
Randolph Peter Scanland was born in Madras, British India, in 1941. When his father died and his mother remarried Johnny Best, Pete decided to take his stepfather’s family name. There’s no doubt: Best is quite a good name for an aspiring musician!
The family soon relocated from Madras to Liverpool, where his mother Mona opened the famous Casbah Coffee Club.
This tiny yet crowded room soon became a hot spot for musicians and music lovers all around Liverpool. That’s where the young Beatles, still known as the Quarrymen, performed for the first time in 1959 and later secured a steady gig.
At that time, Pete Best was playing the drums in a band called Black Jacks, who became the regular Saturday performers at the Casbah Coffee Club after the Quarrymen project failed.
Between the end of 1959 and the beginning of 1960, Quarrymen became The Beatles, with the addition of George Harrison, but, right after Tommy Moore resigned from his role, they were left without a drummer.
A real shame, considering that their manager Allan Williams, had secured the band a series of gigs at the famous Indra Club in Hamburg. The request of the venue owner, however, was for a five-piece band.
Lennon, McCartney, Harrison, and original bassist Stuart Sutcliffe needed a drummer, as Paul’s attempts at filling in for the missing member weren’t as successful as they had hoped.
The day before departing for Hamburg, they auditioned the only drummer they knew would be available. That’s how Pete Best left the Black Jacks and became the first Beatles drummer.
Life in Hamburg
Lennon, McCartney, Harrison, Sutcliffe, and Best played their first gig in Hamburg on August 17th, 1960. This was the first one in a rich series of long, tiring shows, happening at least six nights a week and leaving the band members exhausted and nervous.
After a short break in Liverpool, the band got back to Hamburg in 1961. Sutcliffe, who had decided to remain in Germany after the end of their first residency, was no longer part of the band.
Pete Best, on the other hand, was gaining a lot of popularity.
Some old footage shows that, at some point, Best had moved his drum kit on the front of the stage, pushing Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison to the back.
Moreover, in 1962, while reporting the news of the band’s first record, the Mersey Beat paper featured him on the front page, in the representation of the whole band. This popularity caused some jealousies and tensions within the band, especially between Best and McCartney.
Brian Epstein and Richard Starkey
Back in Liverpool, the band started to play at the legendary club The Cavern, gathering more and more fans. Brian Epstein noticed them and offered to become their manager.
This was the chance the band had waited for: Epstein instantly took their career to the next level, making them sign with EMI and introducing them to the legendary producer George Martin.
At this point, Martin showed some doubts about Best’s drumming.
All the other members, who wouldn’t get along with him, took advantage of these doubts to dismiss him, inviting in Richard Starkey, also known as Ringo Starr. The rest is history.
A strange goodbye
Pete Best, interviewed by David Letterman in 1982, stated that his former bandmates never explained why they decided to fire him. In other interviews, he often said he was shocked to hear their decision.
In the mid-60s, the pressure deriving from the role Best had had in the band led him to a severe depression, that culminated in an attempted suicide. The other band members never tried to reconcile with him. But what were the real reasons that pushed Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison to get rid of Best?
By analyzing interviews and statements from different people involved with the band at that time it is possible to isolate four possible reasons behind the decision to fire Best.
First of all, Best was quieter and more “conventional” than the other three Beatles. He didn’t socialize much with his bandmates, apart from the time spent together during concerts. Harrison highlighted that Best would often call sick and not show up at gigs either.
Secondly, his mother Mona had assumed quite a prominent role on the band’s managerial and promotional side after their time in Hamburg. This led to contrasts with Epstein, once he officially became the band’s manager. Other band members, besides, thought that Mona was acting only to her son’s benefit, without considering the career of the band as a whole.
The third point involves Lennon and McCartney’s jealousy towards Best. He was surely the most handsome one and the most successful with girls, but this theory was (of course) strongly contrasted by the other three Beatles.
Lastly, some statements by Lennon and George Martin simply refer to Best’s drumming ability, which was considered inadequate compared to the professional level the other musicians in the band had reached by 1962.
What’s the right answer? Nobody knows.
It makes sense to think that all of these reasons equally contributed to the final decision.
Where is Pete Best now?
In 1988, after twenty years working as a clerk, Pete Best got back to the showbiz, founding his band The Pete Best Band, with which he still records original songs and tours the world.
In 1995, the remaining Beatles released their first Anthology, containing, among others, My Bonnie, Ain’t She Sweet, Love Me Do, and other songs featuring Best on drums. The ex Beatle, therefore, managed to acquire millions of dollars in royalties.
Pete Best was a former Beatles drummer who was kicked out of the band in 1962. There were many rumors behind him being kicked out of the band. He has done pretty well for himself after his career in the Beatles, so whatever they did to him didn’t affect him negatively. Hopefully one day we’ll know why he got kicked out of the band.
Pete Best was dumped by the most famous rock band of all time, but his story has quite a happy ending, as he managed to get back to playing drums professionally and get his slice of the Beatles’ multi-millionaire cake.