'Best' Beatles Drummer Dumped Just Before Fame
Best first met the Beatles in the late 1950s when they were still called The Quarrymen and played the opening night gig at a Liverpool cafe owned by Best's mom. At the time, the band consisted of a revolving cast of musicians, including several drummers. It wasn't until 1960 that the core group of John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison had coalesced into the Beatles and needed a drummer for a series of gigs in Hamburg, Germany.
They asked Best, who had drummed for his own Liverpool band, The Blackjacks, to come along. The Beatles' time in Hamburg was transformative for the young rockers. They found their trademark blues-infused sound and amassed crowds of giddy fans. Best felt like he became close to the other boys while living in ramshackle apartments in Hamburg's red light district.
But Best was in for a rude awakening when the band returned to England in 1962. Right before the Beatles were scheduled to record a few singles for record label EMI, the band's manager Brian Epstein called Best into his office and broke the bad news.
"He said, 'Pete, I don't know how to tell you this. The boys want you out' — those were the words — 'and it's already been arranged," recalled Best in an interview with the Financial Review. Various reasons have been posited for the sacking, but most likely it was simply that the others bonded better with replacement Ringo Starr.
Best took it hard, even attempting suicide in the 1960s, before coming to grips with his short-lived time as a Beatle. In 1968, while the Beatles were still riding high, he was working at a bread factory to support his family, later becoming a civil servant. But he eventually started his own band and finally received a fat royalty check from "The Beatles Anthology," released in 1995, which included early demos with Best behind the drums. But he never spoke to John, George or Paul after he was sacked [source: Connolly].