Roy Orbison‘s son Alex has acquired the movie rights to The Beatle Who Vanished, a book about Jimmie Nicol, the drummer who briefly filled in for a tonsillitis-ridden Ringo Starr during the Beatles‘ 1964 tour.
“The arc of Jimmie Nicol as a person and the overall ride of his intersection with that historic high point of what seemed to be the beginnings of Beatlemania,” Alex Orbison told Billboard after purchasing the rights to Jim Berkenstadt’s 2013 book.
The day before the Beatles were scheduled to embark on a world tour in June 1964, Starr was hospitalized with tonsilitis and pharyngitis. Unable to postpone the trek, the Beatles hired, on George Martin’s recommendation, 24-year-old Nicol to fill in for Starr; Nicol previously drummed on a cash-grab Beatles covers album and thus already knew the songs, the Beatles Bible writes.
Nicol’s tenure with the Beatles lasted 13 days, 10 concerts and one TV appearance before Starr rejoined the group in Australia. Beatles manager Brian Epstein gave Nicol a £500 check, a watch inscribed “From The Beatles and Brian Epstein to Jimmy – with appreciation and gratitude” and a ride to the airport.
“When I first saw it, just the fact that Jimmie Nicol was invited behind the curtain and was a legit Beatle able to do interviews and get all the perks and just be in and then to be dropped off back off at the airport,” Orbison told Billboard. “The second half of the story turns into a mystery. It seemed to have such a mass appeal.”
Following Nicol’s brief time as a “fifth Beatle,” the drummer continued to perform music, although he never came close to matching the boisterous receptions he was greeted with during the Beatles’ tour. By 1967, Nicol had moved to Mexico and receded from the spotlight. Not much is known about his whereabouts today, but he is believed to be living in London; Berkenstadt hinted to Billboard that the second edition of The Beatle Who Vanished would feature updates on Nicol’s story.