Ashley Hamilton’s 449 Productions and Alex Orbison, on behalf of Roy’s Boys Films, have optioned the rights to The Beatle Who Vanished from author Jim Berkenstadt who is known in music circles as the “Rock and Roll Detective®.” The two will serve as Executive Producers along with Berkenstadt on the project that delves into a heretofore-unknown chapter in Beatles’ history that was chronicled in Berkenstadt’s book The Beatle Who Vanished, first published in 2013. It is expected that the property will take the form either of a feature film or streaming television series.
Jimmie 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 Star 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. Drummer/producer Butch Vig, who has worked with Paul McCartney, Nirvana, Foo Fighters and Garbage called The Beatle Who Vanished “a fascinating and mysterious read for anyone who wants to understand the meteoric rise to pop stardom and subsequent crash landing.”
Hamilton commented, “We are thrilled to be partnering with Jim Berkenstadt to expand his vision to another medium and expose a whole new audience to his riveting and previously untold Beatles’ story.” Orbison added, “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.” Orbison and Hamilton are hoping to foster the creation of an unprecedented soundtrack that will re-create the music from The Beatles’ tour with Nicol and from his entire musical career.
Paul McCartney summarized the enigma that was Jimmie Nicol “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.”
During the tour, McCartney was aware of the pressure that Nicol was under and would inquire as to how he was getting on. Putting on a brave face, Nicol’s stock response was “It’s getting better,” the recurring comment providing the inspiration for the Sargent Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band track “Getting Better.” Unfortunately, the opposite would hold true with Nicol. After his 13 days of fame were over, 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.
Berkenstadt is the author of Classic Rock Albums: Nirvana – Nevermind (with Charles Cross) as well as Black Market Beatles: The Story Behind the Lost Recordings (with Scott Belmo Belmer). He is founder of Rock and Roll Detective® LLC, a company dedicated to providing production, publishing, writing, research, social media and content creation for the entertainment industry. He has consulted to the late George Harrison, The Beatles and Martin Scorsese.
Ashley Hamilton is an actor/singer/comedian and long time friend of Alex Orbison and his family; he is the son of actors George Hamilton and Alana Stewart. Orbison is one of the principals of Roy’s Boys LLC, the Nashville-based family company owned by the sons of Roy Orbison to administer their father’s catalog and safeguard his legacy. Alex Orbison served as both Executive Producer and writer of the recent Mystery Girl – Unraveled documentary. It should be noted that the Beatles, with Ringo on board, were Roy Orbison’s opening act on a 21 date UK tour in 1963. Years later Orbison would collaborate with the Beatles’ George Harrison as well as Tom Petty, Bob Dylan and Jeff Lynne in The Traveling Wilburys.