Andy White, the Scottish drummer who played on The Beatles’ first EMI single ‘Love Me Do’, has died at the age of 85.
White was born on 27 July 1930 in Glasgow, Scotland. He started playing drums aged 12, and became a session musician at 17.
In September 1962 White was contacted by EMI producer Ron Richards, asking him to attend a Beatles session. The group had recorded for EMI on 6 June and 4 September, but George Martin was unhappy with the drumming by Pete Best and Ringo Starr respectively.
White attended the session on 11 September 1962. The Beatles recorded Love Me Do a third time, with White on drums and Starr playing tambourine. He also played on ‘PS I Love You’ with Starr on maracas, and an early version of ‘Please Please Me’ that later appeared on Anthology 1.
I had already heard of them because I was married to Lyn Cornell of the Vernons Girls, themselves a Liverpool group. They could have been cold towards me but in fact they were very nice, and kidded about. I was impressed because they were doing their own material, whereas most groups at the time were doing covers of American songs or Tin Pan Alley stuff.
The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn
After the session ended, the best takes were mixed into mono and EMI began pressing Love Me Do and PS I Love You as The Beatles’ debut single. Initial pressings, however, featured Ringo Starr on drums from the 4 September session, although these were later replaced by the Andy White version.
I was working in London and doing a lot of TV. One Friday I got a call asking if I could do a three-hour job at EMI on the Monday.That’s all I knew about it. I had heard of The Beatles by then because my first wife Lyn was from Liverpool and had mentioned the name, but I didn’t know much about them.
But those guys were great, and I worked closely with John and Paul while we tried to get the routines all worked out. They hadn’t written anything down as music, so we just worked through it together.
They were great. Ringo and I didn’t have much between us, all my time was taken up learning the routines and he was playing the tambourines so he was only there for the take. I mostly spoke to John and Paul because they were the writers.
It was a really enjoyable experience, and what impressed me was they were doing some really good stuff, but it was all their own stuff and was really new. Everything else at the time was a copy of music from the States, which was very successful, but they were doing something new and you could tell it was something different and very special. But I didn’t know just how special it would become.
White’s version was used on the Please Please Me album, and on the US release of the single in 1964.
White was paid £5 for the session, and 10 shillings for bringing his drum kit. As a session performer he did not receive any royalties from subsequent record sales.
The drummer later worked with musicians including Rod Steward, Anthony Newley and Bert Weedon, and played on Tom Jones’ hit It’s Not Unusual and Lulu’s Shout. He also toured the United States in the 1960s with Marlene Dietrich.
White moved to the US in the 1980s, living in Caldwell, New Jersey, where he taught Scottish pipe band drumming. His car had a bumper sticker which read “5THBEATLE”, a gift from one of his students.
Andy White died of a stroke in New Jersey on 9 November 2015.
Also on this day...
2011: Good Ol’ Freda: documentary on Beatles fan club secretary secures funding
1968: George Harrison produces Is This What You Want? by Jackie Lomax
1965: Editing, mixing: The Beatles’ Third Christmas Record, Michelle, What Goes On, Run For Your Life, Think For Yourself
1964: The Beatles live: City Hall, Sheffield
1963: The Beatles live: Granada Cinema, East Ham, London
1962: The Beatles live: Star-Club, Hamburg
1961: The Beatles live: Litherland Town Hall, Liverpool
1961: The Beatles live: Cavern Club, Liverpool (lunchtime) – Brian Epstein meets The Beatles
1960: The Beatles live: Kaiserkeller, Hamburg
Want more? Visit the Beatles history section.