Perhaps the most compelling case for fifth Beatle is that of Pete Best. From August 1960 to August 1962, It was John, Paul, George and Pete. From Hamburg to the Cavern in Liverpool, Pete was the back beat of the Beatles. Pete’s Mom, Mona was a huge supporter of the Beatles from the very beginning, opening the fabled Casbah Coffee Bar in her own home in Liverpool. The earliest iteration of the Beatles known as the Quarrymen, played the Casbah as did the Beatles with Best on drums.
Pete, a member of the Black Jack’s at the time, was enlisted by Paul McCartney to join the Beatles, at the last minute, for their first trip to play the Kaiserkeller in Hamburg, Germany in 1960. Up to this point a number of individuals has sat in on drums. Paul had even sat in as drummer, but refused the position on a permanent basis preferring to be “up from” playing guitar and singing harmony with John and George.
Pete Best appeared on the Beatle’s first recording for Polydor Records in Germany where the supported Tony Sheridan, under the unfortunate name Tony Sheridan and the Beat Brothers. By this time, April 1961, Stu Sutcliffe had left the band to pursue his art and Astrid, leaving McCartney on bass. While Pete was considered “mean, moody and magnificent” and had many female fans, he was, from all accounts a barely adequate drummer. Such was the case that, the producer of the Tony Sheridan sessions took most of his drum kit away from for the session leaving him with a snare and high-hat only.
Things got worse after a NewYear’s Day audition with Decca Records in London. Brain Epstein was sure that Decca would come through with a contract. But the session had been nerve wracking for the band and Pete’s drumming, which tended to slow down and speed up didn’t help matters. After four songs were recorded by the band at EMI’s Parlophone label on Abbey Road, George Martin, who would eventually sign and produce the Beatles, told the boys that they would need to bring a session drummer in when it came time to record.
During the two years that Pete was in the band he never quite gelled with the others. When John, Paul and George, adopted the Beatle haircut, Pete didn’t follow. They didn’t socialize either. Even in Hamburg where they were playing 8 hour shifts at the Kaiserkeller or the Top Ten Club. When they left the stage, Pete went off on his own. In the mean time George had become good friends with the drummer for Rory Storm and Hurricane’s. John and Paul were also fans of the flamboyantly stylish drummer known for the rings he wore on both hands.
Sadly, John, Paul and George, left the dirty work up to their recently hired manager Brian Epstein. Epstein knew how popular Pete was with the fans and was fearful that a dismissal of the drummer could impact their following. Epstein, who had signed a contract with the band attempted to place Best with another Liverpool group, one in which Best be the lead. Though he initially refused, Best joined Lee Curtis & the All Stars, which Later became Pete Best & the All Stars. The group signed, ironically with Decca, and released one single that failed to chart.
Pete never felt that he was given sufficient reason for being sacked. One rumor was that the others were jealous because he was better looking. The other three would eventually regret the way Pete was let go, but agreed equally that as a drummer he was not up to it.