Andy White, a Beatle for less than 5 minutes, dies at 85

Session drummer Andy White, who replaced Ringo Starr at a 1962 recording session with the then-unknown Beatles.

Session drummer Andy White, who replaced Ringo Starr at a 1962 recording session with the then-unknown Beatles.

(Michael Norcia / REX Shutterstock / AP)

When the Beatles first went into the studio, the band’s debut single proved more than drummer Ringo Starr could handle.

Enter Andy White.

The veteran session drummer was summoned to Abbey Road where he joined John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison for the group’s first release, “Love Me Do.”

The song, all 2 minutes and 22 seconds of it, was a hit, but after the session, White never played with the Beatles again.


White, who played on songs by Tom Jones and Herman’s Hermits, among others, died Monday at his home in Caldwell, N.J., after suffering a stroke days earlier, said his wife, Thea. He was 85.

The Scottish-born White was already an experienced musician when he was asked to come to studios in London in 1962 and help with a session by a new band from Liverpool. The Beatles were recording “Love Me Do” and producer George Martin was unsatisfied with the work by Starr.

Two versions of the song were released — one with White on drums and Starr on tambourine, and one with Starr on drums — and each has appeared numerous times over the decades.

A simple, punchy ballad, “Love Me Do” was a top 20 hit in England in the fall of 1962 and made it to No. 1 in the U.S. two years later, at the height of Beatlemania. White also played drums on the song’s original B-side, “P.S. I Love You” (2 minutes, 4 seconds), which featured Starr on maracas.

The session lasted just a few hours. White received a small fee and never played with the Beatles again.


“He didn’t talk about it very much, except to joke about it,” Thea White said. “He liked to say: ‘It could have been anybody. It just happened to be me.’ ”

Born in Stranraer, Scotland, and raised in Glasgow, White was playing drums in a bagpipe band by age 12, an affinity he would retain to the end of his life. He moved to London in his early 20s and found work with the Vic Lewis Orchestra, touring in the U.S. with Bill Haley and the Comets and mastering the rock ‘n’ roll style.

After his day with the Beatles, White continued to have a diverse and productive career, whether backing Jones on his hit “It’s Not Unusual” or touring with Marlene Dietrich and her musical director, Burt Bacharach.

Steve Van Zandt of the E Street Band and “The Sopranos” fame recruited him as a consultant for the film “Not Fade Away,” a 2012 release about a ‘60s rock band in New Jersey that Van Zandt executive produced. White also recorded with the New Jersey-based group the Smithereens, was an instructor for bagpipe bands and on occasion judged bagpipe competitions.

He emigrated to the U.S. in the 1980s after marrying Ruth, a voiceover artist. His survivors include four nieces and six nephews.


White may not have thought about his Beatles work often, but Starr would long brood over his temporary demotion. In 1998, he finally recorded a rowdy version of “Love Me Do,” featuring himself on vocals and, of course, drums.

“For the last 35 years, I’ve never let George Martin forget it,” Starr said at the time.


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