The Paul McCartney Project

Johnny Hutchinson

Part of the following line-ups • The Beatles (August 16-17, 1962)

Born:
Jul 18, 1939
Died:
Apr 12, 2019

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From The Independent, April 25, 2019:

Every music fan in the world can reel off the names of The Beatles. Yet instead of John, Paul, George and Ringo, the Fab Four might well have comprised John, Paul, George… and Hutch.

Johnny Hutchinson, who has died at the age of 79, was the drummer with the Liverpudlian group The Big Three who rivalled The Beatles for popularity before the Mersey sound became a national and international phenomenon in the early Sixties. Known to friends and fans as Hutch, or Johnny Hutch, he filled in on drums behind Lennon, McCartney and Harrison in both 1960 and 1962. Later he claimed he was offered the opportunity to become Pete Best’s successor in the soon-to-be-world-conquering mop-tops before Ringo Starr was given the job.

[…] With bandmates Adrian Barber (later a producer for Atlantic Records) and Johnny Gustafson (a future member of Roxy Music) he formed The Big Three in 1961 with the intention of playing rhythm and blues. Hutchinson, who had turned down a two-year contract with Johnny Kidd & The Pirates in order to stay local, took lead-vocal duties.

The trio were noted for their loud, aggressive live performances. During the summer of 1962, they played a month-long residency at Hamburg’s Star Club, where The Beatles had honed their stage act. On their return to the relentless circuit in the northwest of England, Hutchinson was asked by Brian Epstein, the Beatles’ manager, to play with the group that night. He had just sacked Best, who, after initially agreeing to fulfil the date, unsurprisingly changed his mind. 

Hutchinson had already answered one emergency for Epstein’s favourite clients. In 1960, when pop impresario Larry Parnes and his protege Billy Fury auditioned five Liverpool acts as a possible backing group, he was persuaded to rescue the then Silver Beetles when drummer Tommy Moore failed to arrive on time. Now, two years later, he agreed to sit in at their Chester gig and shows in Birkenhead and New Brighton the following night. […]

Larry Parnes audition in 1960, with “Hutch” behind the drums.

From The Sun, April 5, 2016:

I was 23 and playing with The Beatles in Chester. Brian was there and kept looking at me strange. I got off stage after the gig and had to zoom off. Brian said, ‘I was looking at you to see how you’d fit with The Beatles’. I joked, ‘I don’t really.’ He said, ‘You do, I want you to join The Beatles.’

Johnny then remembers telling a shocked Brian:

I don’t want to play for The Beatles, Brian — I’ve got my own group. I would not join The Beatles for a gold clock. There’s only one group as far as I’m concerned and that’s The Big Three. The Beatles can’t make a better sound than that and Pete (Best) is a very good friend of mine.

Johnny adds:

They were lucky to be playing with me. I used to walk around Liverpool and think, ‘I own this city’. Paul McCartney wouldn’t come near me. I told Brian I couldn’t do the dirty on Pete but he said, ‘John, The Big Three is limited but for The Beatles the world is their oyster.’ I’ll never forget him saying that. He was a very clever man. […]

From The Independent, April 25, 2019:

[…] Many Beatles historians acknowledge the veracity of Hutchinson’s story while noting that Ritchie Galvin (of Earl Preston & The TTs) and Londoner Bobby Graham (Joe Brown and The Bruvvers) and were also invited to fill the vacancy. However, 24 hours after the New Brighton date, Ringo – to whom Hutch had once sold a car for £75 – left Rory Storm & The Hurricanes and immediately began his Beatles career at Port Sunlight. […]

Last updated on April 26, 2019

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