55 Years Ago: Pete Best Joins the Beatles
By the middle of 1960, the Beatles were getting pretty well known around Liverpool and, under a different name, had played some gigs backing Johnny Gentle in Scotland. But after the departure of Tommy Moore, they were without a drummer. They filled that hole on Aug. 12, 1960, when they auditioned and hired Pete Best at Liverpool's Jacaranda Club, which was owned by their manager at the time, Allan Williams.
Best's mother, Mona, owned the Casbah, a coffee bar located in the basement of her house in West Derby. The Beatles, known then as the Quarrymen, played there regularly in 1959, as did Best's group, the Black Jacks. Hiring Best was an easy call, and the Beatles didn't even bother to audition anybody else because they didn't have time to spare.
Williams had booked them into a residency at Hamburg's Indra Club slated to begin on Aug. 17. The group's third guitarist, Paul McCartney (John Lennon's friend Stu Sutcliffe was the bassist at the time), had been playing drums when they couldn't get anybody else. But Williams had been told by the club owner to bring a five-piece band.
"We knew of a guy, and he had a drum kit," Lennon matter-of-factly said in Anthology. "So we just grabbed him, auditioned him and he could keep one beat going for long enough, so we took him."
But there was a side benefit to having Best in the group. "He was a very good-looking guy," McCartney said. "And out of all of the people in our group, the girls used to go for Pete." Best's reputation proceeded him; he was known around Liverpool as "mean, moody and magnificent."
Now with a regular drummer, the Beatles began to steadily become bigger. In June 1962, they passed an audition with Parlophone Records, but label head George Martin wasn't happy with Best's playing and would use a session drummer for their upcoming studio dates. The other Beatles, and new manager Brian Epstein, decided to fire Best. He was given the news on Aug. 16, 1962, two years to the day they left for Hamburg.
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