Jimmie Nicol, Substitute Beatle, to Be Subject of Film

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The Beatles with substitute drummer Jimmie Nicol in 1964

Most hardcore Beatles fanatics are familiar with the name Jimmie Nicol, who temporarily replaced Ringo Starr as The Beatles’ drummer in 1964 when Ringo was sidelined due to tonsillitis and pharyngitis. But few know the details. In 2017, Ashley Hamilton’s 449 Productions and Alex Orbison (son of Roy Orbison), on behalf of Roy’s Boys Films, have optioned the rights to The Beatle Who Vanished from author Jim Berkenstadt. The two will serve as Executive Producers along with Berkenstadt on the project that delves into the Nicol story as told by Berkenstadt in 2013. It is expected that the property will take the form either of a feature film or streaming television series, according to a press release. (Purchase the book here.)

According to the press release, “Nicol’s life changed on June 3, 1964 when he received a call from a desperate George Martin who asked if the drummer could stop everything and go out on the Beatles’ first world tour, conditional on his passing an audition. He would replace Ringo Starr, who has been stricken with tonsillitis and pharyngitis and had been admitted to Middlesex University Hospital. The very next day, the tour departed for Denmark, The Netherlands, Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand, with Nicol spending two weeks as a Beatle, both onstage and off. After Ringo recovered and rejoined the group, Nicol, for all intents and purposes, vanished.”

Orbison said, “It’s a truly compelling story of the man who rescued The Beatles’ first world tour from disaster. His 15 minutes of fame was 13 days and by the age of 25 he seemingly vanished. This is a story that is both intimate and epic.”

Related: Another 1964 Beatles red letter date: when Dylan got them high

Paul McCartney has said, “It wasn’t an easy thing for Jimmie to stand in for Ringo, and have all that fame thrust upon him. And the minute his tenure was over, he wasn’t famous anymore.”

After his 13 days of fame were over, the press release states, “The true mystery of Nicol’s story was riddled with blacklisting, betrayal, substance abuse, bankruptcy and an eventual disappearance that has led many to question whether he is dead or alive. He had become a mysterious footnote in Beatles history until Berkenstadt began his research.”

Nicol is credited by Paul McCartney as having inspired the Beatles’ song “Getting Better.” During his brief time as a Beatles, the others asked him how he was doing and Nicol reportedly said, “Getting better all the time.” Nicol is still alive, now 77 years old.

Watch a 1964 Beatles press conference with Jimmie Nicol on board

If you don’t understand Dutch, skip ahead to the three-minute mark and watch Nicol performing with the group.

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