Pete Best (born Randolph Peter Scanland, 24 November 1941) is an English musician, principally known as the original drummer for the Beatles from 1960 to 1962.
Best was born in the city of Madras, then part of British India. After Best’s mother, Mona Best (1924–1988), moved to Liverpool in 1945, she opened the Casbah Coffee Club in the cellar of the Bests’ house in Liverpool. The Beatles (at the time known as the Quarrymen) played some of their first concerts at the club.
The Beatles invited Best to join on 12 August 1960, on the eve of the group’s first Hamburg season of club dates. Ringo Starr eventually replaced Best on 16 August 1962 when the group’s manager, Brian Epstein, dismissed Best under the direction of John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison, following their first recording session at Abbey Road Studios in London.
After working in a number of commercially unsuccessful groups, Best gave up the music industry to work as a civil servant for 20 years, before starting the Pete Best Band. He has been married for over 50 years to Kathy Best; they have two daughters, Babs and Bonita, and four grandchildren.
Best’s family lived for a short time at the family home, “Ellerslie” in West Derby, until Best’s mother fell out with her sister-in-law, Edna, who resented her brother’s choice of wife. The family then moved to a small flat on Cases Street, Liverpool, but Mona Best was always looking for a large house—as she had been used to in India—instead of a smaller semi-detached house, which were prevalent in the area. After moving to 17 Queenscourt Road in 1948, where the Bests lived for nine years, Rory Best saw a large Victorian house for sale at 8 Hayman’s Green in 1957 and told Mona about it. The Best family claim that Mona then pawned all her jewellery and placed a bet on Never Say Die, a horse that was ridden by Lester Piggott in the 1954 Epsom Derby; it won at 33–1 and she used her winnings to buy the house in 1957. The house had previously been owned by the West Derby Conservative Club and was unlike many other family houses in Liverpool as the house (built around 1860) was set back from the road, had 15 bedrooms and an acre of land. All the rooms were painted dark green or brown and the garden was totally overgrown. Mona later opened the Casbah Coffee Club in its large cellar. The idea for the club first came from Best, as he asked his mother for somewhere his friends could meet and listen to the popular music of the day.
Best passed the eleven plus exam at Blackmoor Park primary school in West Derby, and was studying at the Liverpool Collegiate Grammar School in Shaw Street when he decided he wanted to be in a music group. Mona bought him a drum kit from Blackler’s music store and Best formed his own band, the Black Jacks. Chas Newby and Bill Barlow joined the group, as did Ken Brown, but only after he had left the Quarrymen. The Black Jacks later became the resident group at the Casbah, after the Quarrymen cancelled their residency because of an argument about money.
During 1960, Neil Aspinall became good friends with the young Best and subsequently rented a room in the Best’s house. During one of the extended business trips of Best’s stepfather, Aspinall became romantically involved with Mona. Aspinall fathered a child by Mona: Vincent “Roag” Best, Mona’s third son—who is Best’s half-brother. Aspinall later became the Beatles’ road manager, and denied the story for years before publicly admitting that Roag was indeed his son.
In 1960, Allan Williams, the Beatles manager, arranged a season of bookings in Hamburg, starting on 17 August 1960, but complained that they did not impress him, and hoped that he could find a better act.
Having no permanent drummer, Paul McCartney looked for someone to fill the Hamburg position. Best had been seen playing in the Casbah with his own group, the Black Jacks, and it was noted that he was a steady drummer, playing the bass drum on all four beats in the bar, which pushed the rhythm. In Liverpool, his female fans knew him as being “mean, moody, and magnificent”, which convinced McCartney he would be good for the group. After the Black Jacks broke up, McCartney convinced Best to go to Hamburg with the group, by saying they would each earn £15 per week. As Best had passed his school exams (unlike Lennon, McCartney and Harrison, who had failed most of theirs), he had the chance to attend teacher-training college, but he decided that playing in Hamburg would be a better career move. Best had an audition in the Jacaranda club, which Williams owned, and travelled to Hamburg the next day. Williams later said that the audition with Best was unnecessary, as the group had not found any other drummer willing to travel to Hamburg, but did not tell Best in case he asked for more money.
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