Beatles drummer Andy White passed away on Monday, November 9, in New Jersey, at the age of 85. The cause was a massive stroke.
White, a professional drummer, famously became part of the Beatles’ world when he was hired to play drums at the recording of their first single, “Love Me Do” backed with “P.S. I Love You.”
White’s death comes just two after John Lennon’s Gibson J-160E—the guitar he used to write “Love Me Do”—sold at auction for a record $2.4 million.
The group had originally recorded “Love Me Do” on September 4, 1962, with drummer Ringo Starr. But producer George Martin was unhappy with Starr’s performance and hired White to play drums on a remake, recorded September 11. Starr was relegated to tapping a tambourine.
White received five pounds for the three-hour session, but his role remained largely unknown until the Eighties, when Mark Lewisohn released his tome The Beatles: Recording Sessions and revealed White’s participation. Both versions of “Love Me Do” were eventually released, but it’s easy to tell which is which: White’s recording has the tambourine, Starr’s doesn’t.
Though Starr quickly proved his skills to Martin, years afterward he recalled of White’s session, “I was devastated that George Martin had his doubts about me. I came down ready to roll and heard, ‘We’ve got a professional drummer.’ He has apologized several times since, has old George, but it was devastating—I hated the bugger for years; I still don't let him off the hook!”
As a session drummer, White performed on numerous tracks by other artists, including the 1975 Tom Jones hit “It’s Not Unusual” and cuts by Rod Stewart and Chuck Berry.
White eventually moved to the U.S., where he taught drums. Among his students were the E Street band’s Steven Van Zandt.