Skip to main content

Before Ringo Starr joined The Beatles, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison worked with a different drummer. Pete Best traveled to Germany with The Beatles when they played in Hamburg. Best never reaped the prolific benefits of the band’s success, though. They fired him just before hitting it big, which McCartney described as one of the most difficult things they ever had to do.

Paul McCartney said The Beatles had to make a difficult decision 

In 1962, The Beatles auditioned for producer George Martin. While Martin saw potential in the band, he didn’t see a path forward for them with Best. He asked them to consider finding a new drummer.

“He agreed to audition us, and we had a not-very powerful audition in which he was not very pleased with Pete Best,” McCartney said in The Beatles Anthology. “George Martin was used to drummers being very ‘in time,’ because all the big-band session drummers he used had a great sense of time. Now, our Liverpool drummers had a sense of spirit, emotion, economy even, but not a deadly sense of time. This would bother producers making a record. George took us to one side and said, ‘I’m really unhappy with the drummer. Would you consider changing him?’”

A black and white picture of The Beatles playing a show with Pete Best as their drummer.
The Beatles | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

McCartney said they did not want to betray Best by firing him. Still, they worried this could be their only chance to get a record deal. They decided it would be best to find someone new.

“It was a big issue at the time, how we ‘dumped’ Pete,” McCartney said. “And I do feel sorry for him, because of what he could have been on to; but as far as we were concerned, it was strictly a professional decision. If he wasn’t up to the mark (slightly in our eyes, and definitely in the producer’s eyes) then there was no choice. But it was still very difficult. It is one of the most difficult things we ever had to do.”

The band grew to regret the way they fired Pete Best

Lennon didn’t seem to feel as bad about firing Best as McCartney did. He said Best had never fit in well with the band because he wasn’t as quick-minded as the rest of them. Still, he felt guilty about their method of firing him. Rather than speaking to him as a band, they had their manager, Brian Epstein, let him go. Best never got to talk to his bandmates about it.

“We were cowards when we sacked him,” Lennon said, per The Beatles: The Authorized Biography by Hunter Davies. “We made Brian do it. But if we told Pete to his face, that would have been much nastier than getting Brian to do it. It probably would have ended in a fight if we’d told him.”

Paul McCartney and the other Beatles avoided Pete Best after his firing

The Beatles added insult to injury when, after firing Best, they did everything they could to avoid him. They played in the same show as him, and they asked for protection in case he tried to hurt them.

“[McCartney] said, ‘Will you walk John and me onstage when they do the change?’” promotor Sam Leach recalled in the book Paul McCartney: A Life by Peter Ames Carlin. “I asked why, and he said, ‘Pete might give us a smack.’”

A black and white picture of Paul McCartney, Pete Best, George Harrison, and John Lennon wearing suits.
The Beatles | Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The Beatles’ Record Label in America Said the Band Was Bad and Wouldn’t Sell 

Leach said he felt terrible about it, as it was clear Best wouldn’t have done anything to retaliate.

“I knew Pete wouldn’t do anything, he’s a gentle guy,” Leach said. “And when they did pass in the hallway, Pete just put his head down. And I just felt rotten.”