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Left to right: George Harrison, John Lennon, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. 29th November 1963. (Photo by Syndication/Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty Images)

Former Beatles Bandmate Stuart Sutcliffe Named Band After Another Rocker’s Band

The Beatles weren’t always The Beatles. John Lennon first led the band The Quarrymen. When he met Paul McCartney, the lineup that became The Beatles began to form. But it was their unofficial “5th Beatle” Stuart Sutcliffe who gave them their name, and it was inspired by another insect themed rock and roll band.

Beatles historian and author David Bedford appeared on the Beatles City podcast on Aug. 23, 2020 to discuss Sutcliffe. At the time, Bedford was also running Sutcliffe’s fan club. Here’s the story of how The Beatles got their name.

Stuart Sutcliffe named The Beatles before he left the band

Sutcliffe was the original bass player for The Beatles from 1960 – 1961. Sutcliffe ultimately left the band to pursue his art, before his untimely death in 1962 of a brain hemorrhage. He didn’t leave before naming the former Quarrymen, though.

“Of course, Stuart was the guy who came up with the name Beatles,” Bedford said on Beatles City. “They used the name Quarrymen for so long they thought, ‘We need a different name.’”

Stuart Sutcliffe riffed on Buddy Holly’s band name

The Beatles is a clever wordplay on the insect beetle. By changing the second E to an A, their name referred to the beat of the music. However, the insect motif came from Buddy Holly.

“The other thing was Buddy Holly was their absolute idol,” Bedford said. “Their band was The Crickets. So Stuart said, ‘If they’re The Crickets, we can be Beatles.”

A brief year with The Beatles

Beatlemaniacs may know all about “the 5th Beatle” but Bedford laid out the history for Beatles newbies. Lennon and Sutcliffe met at Liverpool College of Art.

“Stuart was already at art college when John joined in September ‘57,” Bedford said. “They became friends during ‘58. By the end of ‘59 they were looking at we need a bass player because John was hanging out at the Percy Street flats and obviously spending so much time at Gambier Terrace as well. That friendship really developed and so John wanted his new best mate in the band. So John said to Stuart and Rod Murray, ‘We need a bass player. Whichever one of you can get a bass can join the band.’”

Murray tried to carve his own bass out of wood. Stuart earned enough money from an art show that he could buy a bass, but now without some convincing from Lennon and McCartney.

“The Cazbah Club one night, John and Paul pinned Stuart into a corner and the whole night saying, ‘You’ve gotta buy a bass guitar,’” Bedford said. “He said, ‘I’ve got to buy cameras, paints, pencils.’ ‘No, you’ve got to buy a bass’ the whole night until Stuart said, ‘Okay, I’ll get a bass guitar.’ That’s why Rod never finished his because Stuart got the money and he bought his bass. It’s only 1960 that the Beatles as a rock n’ roll band really came together. It started with John, Paul and George [Harrison]. Then they added Stuart. Then in May they get Tommy Moore as their first drummer.”

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