Was There More Than Four Beatles?
There was no single ‘5th Beatle’, rather many people were dubbed “the 5th Beatle” at various times: Stuart Sutcliffe, Brian Epstein, Billy Preston, George Martin, and more. Generally, many contributed to the Beatles, some in bigger ways than others, and many were called the ‘5th Beatle’ because of it.
The Origin of the Term 5th Beatle
Almost as soon as the Beatles starting getting press, the term ‘5th Beatle’ began to be used. The term was first popularized in an incident where George Harrison jokingly dubbed ‘Murray the K’, a New York disc jockey the ‘fifth Beatle’.
A recording of Murray the K, the first person to be dubbed the 5th Beatle, interviewing the Beatles.
Since that time nearly 40 individuals have been referred to as ‘the 5th Beatle’, some more appropriately than others.
Who Were the 5th Beatles?
The 5th Beatle(s) include early group members, producers, management, and guest musicians who were instrumental in the Beatles’ career. Some of these people were dubbed the 5th Beatle at the time, while others were referred to as a 5th Beatle later in history.
It’s worth noting that Paul McCartney said on the BBC, “If anyone was the 5th Beatle it was George Martin.” Billy Preston was the only artist credited on a Beatles single “Get Back” (and played on many more). Stuart Sutcliffe and Pete Best were both actually in the Beatles, and Jimmie Nicol played drums with the Beatles for a few shows. Brian Epstein also deserves more credit than others listed below because of his close relationship with the Beatles early in their career before his death. Also, Klaus Voormann, Eric Clapton, and Harry Nilsson (not even listed, but listed as the Beatle’s favorite American band at the time) all had big roles in the Beatle’s life’s specifically (more so than Jimmie Nicol).
A documentary on the 5th Beatles
List of 5th Beatles
Below is a partial list of individuals who have been referred to as a 5th Beatle at one point or time.
Early group members
- Stuart Sutcliffe
- Pete Best
Business, management, and production
- Brian Epstein
- George Martin
- Neil Aspinall
- Derek Taylor
- Tony Sheridan
- Billy Preston
- Jimmie Nicol
- Eric Clapton
Other notable mentions
- George Martin
- Klaus Voormann
- Murray the K
- George Best
- Little Richard
- Jimmy Tarbuck
People who may have also deserved the title
- Phil Spector
- Brian Epstein
- The studio musicians who worked with the Beatles (especially the ones who did the orchestration on their later albums)
The Mitch Benn List
In 2014, Mitch Benn performed an Edinburgh Festival Fringe show where he counted up everyone claimed to be the fifth Beatle and tried to arrange them, “in descending order of Beatledom”, including himself.
Stuart Sutcliffe (6th), Tony Sheridan (7th), the rest of the original Quarrymen (8th-12th), Andy White (13th), Jimmie Nicol (14th), Billy Preston (15th), Eric Clapton (16th), Brian Epstein (17th), George Martin (18th), Derek Taylor (19th), Mal Evans (20th), Neil Aspinall (21st), Badfinger (22nd-25th), Jeff Lynne (26th), Monty Python (27th-32nd), Neil Innes (33rd), David Catlin-Birch (34th), Neil Harrison (35th) and Elvis Costello (36th).