The Quarrymen disbanded in January 1959. John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison had gone their separate ways. The Liverpool trio had actually recorded a demonstration 78 RPM “In Spite Of All The Danger” composed by McCartney & Harrison, but sung by Lennon in July 1958. The genesis of the most infamous rock and roll band had given up on reaching the topper most of the popper most.
Mona Best had placed a bet on a horse Never Say Die at the Epsom Derby in June 1954 and won. With those winnings, the Best family bought Hayman’s Green, a manor house in West Derby. Her son Pete Best persuaded his mum to launch a music venue in the basement open for membership as the Casbah Coffee Club. The premiere was set for August 29, 1959, but then the Les Stewart Quartet pulled out from appearing on the scheduled debut evening.
Harrison and Ken Brown were members of the defunct unit. Harrison decided to ring up John and Paul and ask them to regroup as The Quarrymen for this auspicious occasion. The new quartet helped to prepare and paint the basement of the Casbah Coffee Club and would establish a residency at the venue through October. A dispute one weekend over earnings with Brown and Best brought their appearances to a close.
The Fab Five before Fame & Fortune
Lennon, McCartney and Harrison as The Quarrymen were now on a reinvigorated path reunited in their desire to play rock and roll music. Lennon and McCartney began regularly composing music together. After selling a painting, Lennon convinced his friend Stuart Sutcliffe to buy a bass guitar and join the group as its bassist. The Quarrymen always had trouble retaining a drummer.
It was Stu who suggested the new band name Beatals. However, Lennon would later christen the fledgling group as The Silver Beatles paying homage to The Crickets. When manager Alan Williams offered them a residency in Hamburg at the Indra Club, the lads had to scramble to secure a drummer. It was McCartney who called Best and invited him to audition as drummer for the Silver Beatles on August 15, 1960.
Just as the entourage embarked for Hamburg, the lads announced henceforth they would be known as The Beatles. The premiere performance of The Beatles was in Hamburg on August 17, 1960. Photographer Astrid Kirchherr was in the audience one night and fell in love with Sutcliffe and the two became inseparable. The Beatles began honing their craft as seasoned live musicians playing extended sets.
Incredibly, John, Paul & George all on electric guitar were tasked to record a demo of “Summertime” with drummer Ringo Starr and bassist Lu Walters who sang vocals at Akustik Studio on October 15, 1960. Anyone who recovers one of the missing acetates of this recording will instantly be holding the most valuable piece of vinyl in music history. The two were members of Rory Storm and the Hurricanes also alternating on stage with The Beatles in Hamburg.
The Legend of The Beatles Begins
The Beatles fortunes took an unpleasant dive as McCartney and Best were arrested for alleged arson after lighting a condom on fire tacked to the wall when retrieving their belongings in the dark. German authorities deported them both and then Harrison for being underage unable to receive a work permit. Sutcliffe remained behind in Hamburg with his new girlfriend and Lennon eventually returned to Liverpool for the holiday season.
The Beatles delivered their British debut at the Casbah Coffee Club in West Derby on December 17, 1960. With Sutcliffe absent, the quartet were joined by Chas Newby on bass guitar from The Blackjacks, Best’s former bandmate. Remarkably, these Mersey Beaters impressed the West Derby audience after having been playing incessantly for months in Germany.
The Beatles had a new empowered raw sound that elevated the impact of their performance and everybody noticed the change in sound and delivery. Best behind the skins had developed his Atom Beat. The popularity of The Beatles began to spread as they now secured a residency at the Casbah Coffee Club. The Beatles would return to Hamburg for a new residency in March 1961.
The Beatles had begun to draw audiences because of their raucous rock ‘n roll performances and learnt their craft as engaging stage musicians while playing hours on end in Hamburg. It was here that the Liverpudlians met vocalist Tony Sheridan. They all became friendly mates with The Beatles being asked to support Sheridan as his backing band (without Sutcliffe) on several studio tracks. The Beatles recorded their second original composition released in January 1962, an instrumental “Cry For A Shadow”, that was written by Lennon & Harrison.
Sutcliffe subsequently left the band to study art, compelling McCartney to switch to bass guitar in 1961. Sadly, Sutcliffe would die from a brain hemorrhage on April 10, 1962. The Beatles recorded four demos with Best on drums at EMI Studios in June 1962, but producer George Martin wanted to use a professional studio drummer. Best would be dismissed from the Fab Four in August 1962, and Ringo Starr would be installed on the drums as his replacement.
Commercial Success Achieved Decades Later
Born Randolph Peter Scanland at Madras, India, on November 24, 1941, his father was killed in WWII and his mother remarried. Pete Best struggled to achieve musical brilliance after departing the Fab Four. His new group, The Pete Best Combo recorded and toured the USA, but were unable to generate any substantial attraction. Best quit show business is 1968, and later was coaxed out of retirement by Dick Clark to act as a consult on the first Beatles biopic in 1979.
Best appeared on a live Dick Clark musical special playing drums and began performing in public again alongside his younger brother Roag Best. The Pete Best Band recorded a live album in 1988, but was issued in 1992. The Pete Best Band began to elevate its cross Atlantic profile touring the USA and Canada while releasing a few more studio and live albums. Finally in 2008, the Pete Best Band release Haymans Green, a stunning studio album achievement that garnered a nomination for a Grammy award.
Chas Newby had been a member of The Blackjacks, a band formed by Pete Best once The Quarrymen abandoned their residency at the Casbah Coffee Club in October 1959. Best obtained his own drumkit and was joined by Bill Barlow on guitar, Ken Brown on guitar, and Chas Newby on bass guitar. This new combo began their own residency at the Casbah Club until Best was poached by The Silver Beatles to become their drummer and travel to Hamburg in August 1960. A Blackjacks reunion at the Casbah Club was included as a feature on Best of The Beatles, a DVD released in 2005.
Chas Newby now performs as the new bassist for the reformed Quarrymen, having joined the skiffle group just a few years ago. The Quarrymen have been an active unit performing live, touring globally and occasionally recording since celebrating their 40th anniversary reunion in 1997. The Quarrymen recently recorded their first live album in March 2020, The Quarrymen Live in Penny Lane, featuring 19 tracks comprised of the repertoire John Lennon use to sing as its lead vocalist from sixty years ago.
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Timothy Tilghman is a Columnist for NRN. Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Tilghman earned a Master of Arts degree in verbal and visual communications in December 2002. He has hosted a weekly radio program since June 2010. He has been a contributing Reporter to the Northern News since July 2013, which publishes weekly in Carroll County. Tilghman has written for two collegiate campus newspapers and published several independent newsletters.