EXPIRED: 06/09/10 – Ken Brown, 70, should have been a Beatle. In fact, if it wasn’t for Ken Brown, there might never have been the Beatles at all. (You can thank him next time McCartney sings Silly Love Songs in concert.)
In the late 50’s, Liverpool businesswoman Mona Best opened the Casbah Coffee Club as a place for kids to hear live music and drink some cold drinks. She hoped to support her family ad keep an eye on her son Pete in the process. She hired the Les Stewart Quartet, a little known Liverpool-based skiffle band which featured both Brown and a very young George Harrison as guitarists, to be the house band.
When Brown missed rehearsals to help decorate the club for the opening on August 29, 1959, Les Stewart refused to play. Mona needed a band, and quickly. So Brown and Harrison recruited locals John Lennon and Paul McCartney to help them fulfill the residency, and the four played under the name The Quarrymen.
With no drummer, and just one microphone between them, they played 7 Saturday nights in a row for 15 shillings per person per night. Little more than halfway through the residency, on October 10th to be precise, Brown injured his leg and rather than play on stage, he stayed upstairs and sold tickets. John, Paul and George played the set alone, the first time the Beatles (sans a drummer) ever played a gig together, really.
When Mona still gave Brown 15 shillings, even though he didn’t play, McCartney lost it. What’s fair is fair and Brown got the boot..
Brown later formed a band called the Blackjacks with Chris Newby and Mona’s son Pete Best on drums and took up residency when the Quarrymen were done. But the Quarrymen became the Silver Beatles, and then the Beatles, and then were headed to Hamburg, Germany, and needed a drummer. Could Best fit the bill?
Best joined the Beatles. The Blackjacks disbanded. Brown moved to London and basically quit the music business having missed the swell of the Liverpool frenzy that was to follow. Had he stayed he might have become a household name. Instead he died from complications of emphysema in his home, alone. His body was said to have been undiscovered for about 5 days after he died.
And he was supposed to play a concert at Liverpool’s Casbah with old bandmate Pete Best this upcoming August.
Sure it would have paid more than 15 shillings.