Andy White, the British session drummer who became a part of Beatles history by sitting in for Ringo Starr and drumming on the songs “Love Me Do” and “P.S. I Love You” in studio recording sessions at the request of the group’s producer George Martin, has died. His age was reported to be 85. The New York Metro Pipe Band wrote up his death on their Facebook page Wednesday and said he had died on Monday. Beatles Examiner also heard directly from other sources Tuesday night who had reported he had died. (Update: The BBC has now confirmed White’s death after a stroke on Monday.)
White was born in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1930. He began drumming in a bagpipe band at age 12, and went professional at age 17. He played in swing and trad jazz bands in the 1950s in the UK. He drummed on Billy Fury’s “Sound of Fury” album in 1960.
He was asked to fill for Ringo Starr on the Beatles recording session on Sept. 11, 1962, because producer George Martin wasn’t happy with Ringo’s drumming at a previous session and according to accounts, this one had to be right. Mark Lewisohn in “The Beatles – All These Years, Volume 1: Tune In,” quoted Ringo saying he did not take it well. “I was highly upset – highly upset. It blew my brain away,” the Beatles drummer said.
Paul McCartney explained the situation in another Lewisohn book, “The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions.” “George Martin didn’t think that Ringo was a very good drummer,” he said. “So Andy White was the kind of professional drummer that we weren’t really used to, and George obviously thought that Ringo was a little bit out of time, a little bit unsteady on tempo. We never really had to be steady on tempo. We liked to be but it didn’t matter if we slowed down or went faster, because we all went at the same time. So that was a major disappointment for Ringo.” Ringo played tambourine through 18 takes of “Love Me Do” at this session. He also played maracas on “P.S. I Love You.”
“I was working in London and doing a lot of TV. One Friday I got a call asking if I could do a three-hour job at EMI on the Monday,” White told the UK Daily Record in 2012. “I had heard of The Beatles by then because my first wife Lynne was from Liverpool and had mentioned the name, but I didn’t know much about them.”
He said he enjoyed the session, for which he was only paid £5 for three hours of work. “They were great. Ringo and I didn’t have much between us, all my time was taken up learning the routines and he was playing the tambourines so he was only there for the take. I mostly spoke to John and Paul because they were the writers.”
Besides the Beatles, he also played on records by Herman’s Hermits, Chuck Berry, Rod Stewart and Tom Jones, notably “It’s Not Unusual.” He also toured with Burt Bacharach and Marlene Dietrich. White moved to America in the 1990s. When asked about the massive worldwide success of the Beatles, he told the Newark Star-Ledger in 2012, “Good for them.”