The Foote Files: The Fifth Beatle


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(CBSDFW.COM) – Have you ever heard of the phrase “The Fifth Beatle?” Until a few months ago, I had not until I heard a song on Sirius XM 21, Little Steven’s Underground Garage, along with a little history.

The reference is informal, coined years ago by various music and entertainment writers, to a person, either on the performing or business side, who was at one time a member of The Beatles or had some very close connection to them. Today the “Fifth Beatles” I am referring to here are: Tony Sheridan, Billy Preston, and Eric Clapton.

Tony Sheridan was British by birth but lived most of his life in Hamburg, Germany. In 1961, the Beatles performed with Sheridan as a backup band and later released an album called “My Bonny” in Germany. The album credits the guys as “Tony Sheridan & The Beat Brothers” because the name “Beatles” sounded too much like the German “Pidels,” slang for a male body part (You get the drift!). Sheridan passed away in 2013.

Billy Preston, who performed with Mahalia Jackson and Little Richard, met the Fab Four in the early 60’s. He played organ on “Let It Be” and “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” and electric piano on “Don’ Let Me Down” and “Get Back”. He appeared in the Beatles movie, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” Preston charted six times on the Billboard Top 40 with two #1 hits: “Will It Go Round In Circles” in 1973 and “Nothing From Nothing” in 1974. Preston died in 2006.

Eric Clapton, the great British guitarist from the blues rock groups Cream, The Yardbirds, John Mayall, and later as a solo artist, performed on the song, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” For a short time in 1969, George Harrison left the band. John Lennon suggested that the band ask Clapton to replace him. The first guitar solo in the song was deemed weak by Harrison and called in Clapton to play the lead. Clapton became one of the few musicians to appear on solo recordings by each member of the Fab Four. Clapton is still very active today in music business.

So what was the song I heard on Sirius XM 21 that prompted all of this? Well here it is: Tony Sheridan & The Big Six with “Shake It Baby!”