Pete Best is sacked from The Beatles

George Martin was impressed enough by The Beatles' debut session for EMI on 6 June to offer them a recording contract. However, he was less pleased with the band's drummer, Pete Best.

The Beatles with Pete Best, 1962

Getting rid of Best was not an easy decision. The Beatles' manager Brian Epstein had asked Cavern DJ Bob Wooler if it was a good idea, but Wooler told him that the handsome Best was too popular with the fans.

Brian Epstein told me that Pete Best was going to be sacked. I could imagine it with someone who was constantly late or giving him problems, but Pete Best was not awkward and he didn't step out of line. I was most indignant and I said, 'Why are you doing this?' but I didn't get an answer.
Bob Wooler
The Cavern, Spencer Leigh

Best had been with the group since 12 August 1960. He was never given a reason for his dismissal, which took place at 10am on this day at Epstein's NEMS record shop. Best was dropped off at 10am by the group's driver, Neil Aspinall, who was in a relationship with Best's mother Mona.

Neil drove me into town and dropped me off in Whitechapel. I found Brian in a very uneasy mood when I joined him in his upstairs office. He came out with a lot of pleasantries and talked anything but business, which was unlike him. These were obviously delaying tactics and something important, I knew, was on his mind. Then he mustered enough courage to drop the bombshell.

'The boys want you out and Ringo in.'

I was stunned and found words difficult. 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. Then I asked: 'Does Ringo knew about this yet?'

'He's joining on Saturday,' Eppy said.

So everything was all neatly packaged. 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...

Epstein went on to what for him was simply next business at this shattering meeting. 'There are still 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 Best
Beatle! The Pete Best Story, by Pete Best and Patrick Doncaster

Best and Aspinall repaired to the Grapes pub on Mathew Street to take in the shocking news.

'All I want to do is try to get my thoughts together,' I told him. He was really upset and as disgusted as I was at this sudden, stupefying blow. He began to talk about quitting his job as road manager.

'There's no need for that,' I told him. 'Don't be a fool - The Beatles are going places.' ...

Once I was home at Hayman's Green, I broke down and wept. My mother already knew what had happened that morning in Brian's office, as unknown to me Neil had slipped away at some stage to telephone her. She had been trying in vain to contact Epstein only to find that he was 'Not available'.

When I was sufficiently recovered from the initial shock, I realised that I had promised to carry on as a Beatle until Ringo's arrival and that we were due to play Chester that night. Now I knew I could never face it. I had been betrayed and sitting up there on stage with the three people who had done it would be like having salt rubbed into a very deep wound. If they didn't want me, they would have to get along without me from this moment on and find another drummer..

Pete Best
Beatle! The Pete Best Story, by Pete Best and Patrick Doncaster

John Lennon later said of the dismissal, "We were cowards. We got Epstein to do the dirty work for us."

News of Best's sacking from The Beatles was greeted with surprise by many in Liverpool.

I remember seeing Ringo, we called him Ritchie then, outside a chemist's and he said that he was going to join The Beatles. I said, 'There was no way they will sack Pete Best, man, He's a moody guy but all the girls would go waah!' It was a shock when Ritchie got the job. The next time that I saw Pete he was managing the job centre in Green Lane. I signed on and gave him my dole card and he said, 'Is this your name and address?' 'Yes.' 'Sign here.' I don't think he wanted to acknowledge me.
Sugar Deen, Liverpool musician
The Cavern, Spencer Leigh

A fan of the group later headbutted George Harrison at the Cavern, giving him a black eye, and for weeks the band were subjected to chants of "Ringo never, Pete Best forever!"

The decision caused ructions within The Beatles' camp too. Their assistant and road manager Neil Aspinall was reportedly furious, but was told by the group: "It's got nothing to do with you - you're only the driver".

Also on this day...

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23 responses on “Pete Best is sacked from The Beatles

  1. mojo filter

    I suppose I should make an effort to find an original recording with Pete (I suppose the Love Me Do from the Decca session might be a candidate). If Pete had chops and was let go despite this, one might think there was something a bit under-handed about the change. He’d been in the trenches with the band for some time, and perhaps this was forgotten. Hard to dispute GM’s judgement though, and Ringo definitely fit musically.

    1. Joe Post author

      He’s on several of the Anthology 1 tracks. IMO he wasn’t by any means a terrible drummer, and it was probably mainly his personality that made The Beatles want rid of him.

      1. mojo filter

        I read somewhere that his success with female fans led to some conflicts with the other band members, though it may be a bit more complicated than that. I can imagine Pete’s awful predicament as he witnessed their rise to fame and fortune while he sat on the sidlines. At least John admits to feeling bad about their inability to face him personally and do the deed themselves.

      2. Nick Cipollone

        Respectfully, but strongly, disagree. Pete wasn’t a terrible drummer- but he clearly wasn’t good enough, either. Compare the three recorded versions of “Love Me Do”- Pete’s drumming is pretty plainly not as good as either Ringo’s, or Andy White’s. His reserved personality, and lack of emotional cohesion with the rest of the band didn’t help- but it was his limited drumming skills that got him fired.

        (Mark Lewisohn goes into a lot of detail on this in vol. 1 of his Beatles bio. Lewisohn is pretty hard on Pete in this, maybe too hard- I didn’t think that Pete’s work on “My Bonnie” was all that bad. But I can’t imagine Pete being as good as Ringo on tracks like “Rain”, or “A Day In The Life”.)

  2. John

    There was 2.5 months from the on day recording session at Abbey Rd to Best being fired. If Harrison (the hawk), McCartney and Lennon had approached Best of his drumming and talked about it and Epstein approached George Martin, Best would have remained the drummer. They had been turned down by all record companies and were on a knife edge. They clearly panicked. Naivety is the word.

    BTW,the contract between Epstein and The Beatles was signed in Best’s house.

    Saying all that. Best was too shy. He always held his head down and turned his eyes upwards, as if he didn’t want to be in the public eye. He never said much. Imagine him in the Press interviews in the USA that made the Beatles stand out as personalities. He was not outwards and witty like Starr. Starr was in the end the perfect man for the job.

    1. J Nagarya

      It was either contract or Best. And he was — in total contrast to the others — non-social.

      The Beatles had got to know Ringo in Hamburg. And they increasingly hung out together. And in jam sessions, he’d sat in. He had the personality. And his drumming was perfectly suited.

    2. Steve

      Nail on the head. THAT interview is what cemented the bands image and personality in the eyes of the American public. This was the reason Martin signed them. Listen to him in his own words. He states that tbe tape Epstein brought to him was frankly ‘pretty awful’ there was nothing about their music which made them stand out. He further states that if he had known that they had been rejected by every record company in London , he would have told Brian thanks but no thanks. However he didnt know this and as Epstein was being so persistent he agreed to meet the band in person and see if he would reconsider. Reconsider he did and the reason again was NOT their music but their personalities. His impression was that after he had met them they had made him feel good and he thought if they can have that effect on me they can have it on the public. Thats the reason they got signed and thats the reason Pete got ditched.

  3. FrankDialogue

    Best got done dirty, but eventually became a millionaire from the ‘Anthology’.

    This was due to Neil Aspinall, who had a relationship and a child with Mona Best, Pete’s mom.

  4. fkilmore

    In Hamburg, Best didnt turn up to every gig (anthology) so they had to use no drummer, or Ringo when he was there with Rory storm…says it all..

    1. Alex Elias

      That’s not entirely fair……he missed about 2 gigs the whole time they were in Hamburg. Either due to illness or some other important reason that was out of his control. George also missed a few gigs and John was nowhere to be found at one performance. You gotta remember they were young lads in a very “naughty” part of the world, god knows what they got up to. At least they had a great time doing it!!!!

  5. Bill

    51 years ago today, Pete Best was sacked from The Beatles. 36 years ago today, Elvis Presley died. Interesting to see how the same calendar day was very significant in 2 of the biggest acts in rock & roll history. Nobody was bigger than Elvis & The Beatles, & it’s likely that no one ever will be…

  6. Goji

    I have read that Paul used to get Pete to try to do anything different with the kick drum instead of just the 1-2-3-4 beat he layed down for all songs. I have been drumming for close to 40 years and can say from the little drumming available to hear of Best, he is not very good at all. While Ringo is not technically good, he is light-years ahead of Pete in terms of driving a song.

    1. Alex Elias

      There are literally HUNDREDS of Videos on YouTube, both vintage and contemporary of Pete Best drumming…….all over the world. I saw him performing with his band at The Casbah in 2010 and he’s a great drummer, certainly good enough to have played and recorded with The Beatles in 1963 and beyond. To know most of the TRUE STORY behind Pete’s sacking u should watch a video called:
      Pete Best Of The Beatles – The Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Story Never Told -DVD NEW. It has interviews with the major players of the era including DECCA & Parlophone executives. The whole George Martin “reason” given that he wasn’t good enough was blown out of proportion and has been used out of context for many years. It was just the “excuse” they used to kick him out. The video tells 90% of the story and that’s only b’coz Pete was never given a/the real reason(s) for his dismissal.

  7. borderman

    Imagine a group called the Beatles featuring 2 drummers. Light years ahead of other groups like say the Allman Brothers in the 70s. Just IMAGINE. There was room for Pete. This was obviously a group shafting.I’ve always believed cream will rise to the top no matter, and any fear of not getting”signed” to a label was lame at Best. No pun intended. Just a thought. … loved the guys but feel this was horribly inexcusable. Can only chalk it up to their gullibility from above. The whole music business was obviously getting to John the way he criticized everything later on. Carry on…….

  8. Julie

    “I know we went about saying we were going to be ‘bigger than Elvis’, but I didn’t believe it and I don’t think the others did either.”

    THAT’s why they sacked you Pete. They DID believe.

    Also, he was a boring drummer with no feel. Listen to the Decca auditon from New Years 1962 and then listen to Live @ Star Club recorded less then a year later. Tell me that isn’t a MASSIVE improvement in energy.

    I hear there was somehow a debate over who actually played drums on it but to anyone that’s a musician or has played drums… it’s very obviously a completely different person with a completely different style.

    Also, I gotta chuckle at the whole “they were jealous of his looks and attention from girls” myth that he started. For the record, I don’t think he was particularly more attractive then the rest. Looks like he plucked his eyebrows to perfection though. Stu was much better looking then Pete without trying. 😛

    The truth is Pete was damn lucky to have been able to play with them at all, which is more then the rest of us ever will. He was at the right place at the right time and was there when they were desperate… and his mum had money and influence in the neighborhood.

    How many of us have accepted subpar musicians starting out cause you got gigs to do and there’s no one else available? lol

    1. Dave M.

      Interesting debate by all. Personally I think it was both the mediocre drumming and inability to fit in that made a change necessary. And Ringo developed into the perfect fit.

      If Pete was interested in succeeding, he would have been more compliant with Brian’s wishes for their direction as well as lose the ‘moody’ cloak.

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