SHE toured with the Beatles, played four gigs a day in Germany and was rumoured to be engaged to Paul McCartney. But drummer Crissy Lee’s relentless schedule took its toll and she eventually collapsed from exhaustion. Having passed out in the arms of her father, the next thing Crissy Lee remembers is waking up in her bed with her mother at her side.

“My poor mum,” says Crissy, 70, remembering the days after she returned from touring with her band, the Beat Chics, in Germany in 1963.

Aged 20 at the time, Crissy, whose real name is Christine Leeworthy, was a talented drummer and sought-after musician.

But playing the Star Club in Germany, a tour the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix had taken too, took its toll and Crissy was left exhausted. She had also lost two stone, dropping down to just six-and-a-half stone.

“My band had secured this contract with the club in Hamburg which was four hours a day. But rather than being four hours in a row we played at 4pm, then again at 9pm, again at about 1am and again at about 4am. Each time for an hour,” explains Crissy, whose band eventually went on to support the Beatles on tour.

“There was always someone selling drugs around there but I never wanted to do drugs. In the end I had to because I couldn’t stay awake.

“I was getting thinner and thinner, from the drugs and from the drumming, which is a really physical job, and when we finished our working day we were on such a high that we would go out drinking, so I was exhausted.“ By the time someone called her parents to collect her from the railway station on her return from Germany, Crissy was on the brink of collapse.

She says: “My mum couldn’t believe what she was seeing, but that was rock and roll.”

Understandably, Crissy’s mum, who passed away in 2011, didn’t want her to go away again, but drumming was in Crissy’s blood.

Starting at the tender age of four, Crissy, who grew up in Lexden, started drumming with the Salvation Army band. Her parents paid five shillings for her first drum kit and Crissy remembers running home from school to play them all evening.

Both her parents supported and encouraged her in her passion, with her father even making the case to allow Crissy to take her drum kit into school for music lessons.

“I must have been a drummer in a previous life,” muses Crissy. “I didn’t have lessons, I just picked things up from other drummers and people I admired.”

At the age of 12 Crissy performed on the Carroll Levis Discovery Show, a talent show on the BBC.

“I remember I was nervous, “ smiles Crissy, who now lives in Peldon. “I dropped the drumsticks during the set and cried, but my dad always said that all publicity is good publicity.

“The next day the Evening Gazette came knocking on our door wanting a photo of me holding my drumsticks. That was the first time I was in the Gazette – 1955!”

By the age of 16, Crissy had moved to London and was touring with a band playing to American soldiers across Europe. To boost her career Crissy’s father travelled to London, making appointments with big agents and pushing Crissy’s talent as a drummer.

But not everyone was as confident in Crissy’s talent as her parents.

Crissy explains: “People in the music industry would say women can’t do this. They used to say I am too small and get some pretty nasty comments from some guys. I was quite an innocent little thing and it made me back off a bit,” says Crissy, who was endorsed by British company, Premier Drums.

“Then I thought I’m not going to let you guys do this to me. When you are a female in this business you have to strive to be better than a man, especially when you play the drums.”

It was when Crissy, who is influenced by big bands and jazz, joined the Ivy Benson Big Band that her career really took off.

Ivy Benson, who retired to Clacton, was hailed as a pioneer for women in music and performed with her big band all over the world, playing to British troops and American GIs.

Crissy laughs: “There were always broken hearts among the girls! There was one guy in particular, an American GI who was half Apache, who wanted to take me out. He was so good looking and he stayed on in Germany so he could see me the next time we toured the country. He kept asking me to marry him.

“But music keeps me together.”

Crissy was engaged to a man from the Isle of Man but it didn’t work out. She has never married.

Crissy performed with the Ivy Benson Band in the Fifties for seven years, after which she freelanced for other bands.

As styles changed Ivy Benson’s big band music with trumpets and trombones was being replaced with rock and roll, so Crissy started her own band – the Beat Chics, a band made up exclusively of women with Crissy on the drums.

“We supported the Beatles on their first tour of Spain,” says Crissy matter-of-factly and out of the blue.

It was 1963.

“I think I was quite overwhelmed,” says Crissy. “We had made it quite big in Spain so we were well known. There were posters of the Beat Chics everywhere, we were chauffeur driven and we had a number one record in the Latin American countries, a cover of Tom Jones’ It’s Not Unusual, sung in Spanish.

“Then when the job with the Beatles came along I nearly passed out! We flew in between cities with them on their private jet – I remember sitting opposite Ringo and George while Paul and John would sit on their own writing songs. Ringo and George would just talk about getting home to see their wives and families.”

She admits Paul was her favourite and while they were on tour rumours flew around that Crissy and Paul were engaged, but it was all hype. However Crissy does lay claim to having slept in John Lennon’s bed in a hotel room.

“He wasn’t there at the time though,” she admits.

Reflecting on her career she says: “I have had a ball. There are other things I want to do – I want to learn to fly,” she says with a twinkle in her eye.

And she probably will.