Enlightening History Behind The Beatles’ First Recording Contract

Although the Beatles are known for their wildly popular songs, which played a large part in transforming an entire era of music, the beginning was not exactly easy for them. Like any garage band starting out, the Beatles had their ups and downs, and they may not have made it but for a series of fortuitous events.

According to the Fredericksburg, it’s a little known fact that the Beatles had their first taste of success in Germany. Ulf Kruger, an expert in all things Beatles, explains how the band got its start.

“Not many people know that the Beatles started their careers in Germany. The Beatles had their longest stint in a club in Hamburg at the Top Ten Club. They played there three months in a row, every night. The style [the Beatles] invented in Liverpool, they cultivated in Hamburg.”

The Beatles played in Hamburg between 1960 and 1962. At that time, Ringo Starr was not a member of the Beatles. The Beatles included Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, and drummer Pete Best.

The Beatles’ first recording contract, which included Pete Best, is being auctioned at Heritage Auctions in New York on September 19, the Fredericksburg further reports. The consignment director for music memorabilia, Dean Harmeyer, called the Beatles a “ramshackle, amateur band” in those early days. He said it was “crazy luck” that the Beatles were invited to Hamburg, where they learned to hone their talent.

“Without this contract all of the pieces wouldn’t have fallen into place. They were probably a C class in the pantheon of Liverpool bands.

“It really is where they honed their musical skills to become the Beatles. They set about learning new material, they worked on their instrumental abilities.”

This first recording contract saw the Beatles, minus Ringo Starr, playing as a backup band for British singer and musician Tony Sheridan. They recorded a rock song called “My Bonnie,” which was a fresh version of “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean.” The first contract did not mention the Beatles’ actual name. It was credited to Tony Sheridan and the Beat Boys.

During this time, Ringo Starr was playing with a band, also from Liverpool, called Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. Ringo met the Beatles in Hamburg in 1960 while both groups were performing there. In August of 1962, he was asked to join the Beatles as their new drummer.

So what happened to Pete Best? Reports are conflicting concerning the reason he was fired from the Beatles. Pete has always believed it was his popularity with the women that caused the Beatles to fire him. Indeed, in an interview with Parade magazine, Larry Kane seems to share his belief.

“But the evidence is growing that Best, the most popular Beatle in the early days, was sacked because of his good looks. An episode in Manchester stands out: Pete was accidentally lacerated by a wild fan trying to take scissors and get a piece of his shirt. Frightened, Pete returned to the tour bus, where he was lectured for ‘showing up the boys.’ Two months later, under pressure from Paul and George Harrison, Pete was out. Ringo was in.”

However, Ultimate Classic Rock paints a different picture. This version of the Pete Best firing maintains that George Martin was less than pleased with his drumming skills, and the remaining members of the Beatles did not believe his moody personality meshed well with their more upbeat and sunny dispositions.

Ringo Starr was asked to join the Beatles, and the rest, as they say, is history. The photo above is of the Beatles performing with Pete Best, taken before their first recording contract was signed.

[Image via Hulton Archive/Getty Images]