Despite popular belief, it was not always John, Paul, George, and Ringo who made up the Fab Four. Initially, they weren’t even known as The Beatles. They started life in 1956 as The Quarrymen, whose original members were John Lennon, Pete Shotton, Eric Griffiths, Bill Smith, Rod Davis, Len Garry and Colin Hanson. Paul McCartney joined the band in 1957 and George Harrison in 1958. In 1960 and following changes to the line-up, the name was dropped in favour of The Beatles.
The Beatles original members? Initially, the Beatles’ set members were Lennon and McCartney, then George Harrison, Stuart Sutcliffe, and Pete Best. Drummer Ringo Starr joined two years after the group had become a quartet and were officially performing under the moniker of The Beatles.
How did the final set-up of the group become what it was? How did the Fab Four settle on the members that would ride the wave of superstardom to its heights and have to deal with the fallout of fame and success?
More importantly, what happened to Sutcliffe and Best? Let’s take a look into exactly what happened to those other two original members of The Beatles.
The Beatles 1957 – 1961
Once John and Paul began playing together, they decided to round out their sound. John played guitar and sang, and Paul played bass and sang. In 1958, George Harrison was brought in to be the lead guitarist.
In 1960, Sutcliffe was added to the band. He was a painter but was encouraged by his friends to buy and learn how to play a bass guitar or to start hauling around a set of drums to join, and the group needed both. Not wanting to have to lug around a drumset, he chose to buy the bass.
Pete Best was the last one to join up as the much-needed drummer. From 1960 on, they began playing and moving up through the music scene known as “beat music.”
They traveled around Liverpool and, in 1960, began playing in Hamburg.
Exit Sutcliffe and Best
There was no significant fallout between Sutcliffe, Best, and the three Beatles. Sutcliffe never really had his heart in the music scene and stayed behind as trips kept getting longer, with his fiancé and to pursue his love of art.
Best was not a trained musician and didn’t have the same raw talent as Harrison, Lennon, and McCartney. As the band developed, their producer, and unofficial “fifth Beatle” George Martin decided to get a more polished drummer.
They found Richard Starkey – better known as Ringo Starr, and the rest would go down in history.
Best’s Unceremonious Dismissal.
Pete Best was the drummer who began with the Beatles, and when he was let go, it was not done in the best way. Best had no clue it was coming until one day, shortly after they began recording with EMI, he was told that he was being replaced in the group.
At the time, the band’s manager was Brian Epstein, he called Best into his office one day in August of 1962. He told Best that he was fired. There was no discussion and no reason to give.
Rumors would fly that this was because Best was the prettiest of them and had a different hairstyle. The truth was that George Martin told the rest of the group that Best was not good enough to keep up with them in recording sessions and requested a drummer for all sessions going forward.
That pretty much began the end of Best’s career with the band. Though Martin started the end, he would eventually express shock that Best was let go – he had said he was good enough for live performances and expected the group to keep him with them for that, primarily because of his looks.
Best never spoke to any of his original bandmates or Ringo again, and he did not lay down quietly either, giving many an interview at the side of his mother – in whose coffee shop the group got a lot of their first exposure in.
Sutcliffe’s Early Demise
Sutcliffe was not just a prodigy or an unimportant player in the history of The Beatles at all. Stuart Sutcliffe is the one who came up with naming themselves the Beetles with John Lennon, and it was Lennon who would decide to play on that name and music using The Beatles (as in a music beat) instead.
They came up with changing their name from the Quarrymen to the Beetles because of their deep admiration of Buddy Holly and his band the Crickets.
On their first trip to Hamburg, Sutcliffe met Astrid Kirchherr, a photographer. They fell for each other fast, and eventually, they became engaged. As mentioned earlier, she played a big part in his decision to leave the band.
Staying in Hamburg with Kirchherr and enrolling in the Hamburg College of Art, Sutcliffe began exploring many styles, including abstract expressionism. He found a quick mentor in Eduardo Paolozzi, who would become a famed pop artist in the decades to come. Paolozzi later would pen a report calling Sutcliffe one of his best students ever.
As he studied and lived in Germany, Sutcliffe started to complain about light sensitivity and intense headaches. In February of 1962, while in an art class, he complained of a severe headache – and collapsed not too far after. He had a lot of studies conducted on his head, and there were no answers.
On April 10, 1962, Sutcliffe collapsed again and passed away in the ambulance en route to the hospital. He was found to have died from a brain hemorrhage in the right ventricle of his brain.