If you grew up listening to The Beatles - and who didn't - you can name the iconic Fab 4 off by heart. There's John Lennon on guitar, Paul McCartney on bass, George Harrison playing lead guitar and Ringo Starr on the drums. But what about Jimmie Nicol - the 5th Beatle?
Over the years lots of performers and crew members who worked with the band have been dubbed the 5th Beatle. While the group's longtime manager Brian Epstein and music producer George Martin have both been called the band's 5th member, the name is usually associated with Pete Best.
Best was the band's original drummer, and played with them during their early years in Hamburg and Liverpool before losing his seat to Ringo just before the band hit their big break. But he wasn't the only early member of the band to leave just before The Beatles became a household name.
Bass player Stuart Sutcliffe performed with the Beatles in Germany, but didn't follow them back to England. While he was described as just a "so-so" musician, he came up with the band's iconic mop-top haircut.
But only the biggest Beatles fans remember the ordinary studio musician who lived as a global celebrity for 2 weeks and played with the greats - then lived to regret it.
Click to the next page to learn his story!
With the success of early singles like "Love Me Do," "She Loves You," and "I Want to Hold Your Hand," the band was already being mobbed by teenage fans wherever they went. The Beatles were preparing for their first world tour - with millions of tickets already sold in Hong Kong, Australia, and New Zealand - when Ringo collapsed at a photo shoot.
The drummer had a bad case of tonsillitis, and couldn't make the first dates of the tour. Terrified of cancelling the sold-out shows, manager Brian Epstein searched for a replacement drummer. Jimmie Nicol, a 24-year-old from London who had recorded covers of the band's early songs, was chosen for the job.
After getting a matching hairdo and putting on Ringo's suits (yes, really), Nicol toured with the band for 13 days. He got the best of both worlds, because he was an instant celebrity any time he stood with the band, but could also wander the streets without being chased by fans.
Ringo caught up with the band in Australia once he was feeling better, and Nicol's wild ride was suddenly over. After making £2,500 a show, becoming a lowly studio musician again was heartbreaking. “Standing in for Ringo was the worst thing that ever happened to me," Nicol said. "Until then I was quite happy earning £30 or £40 a week. After the headlines died, I began dying too.”
Nicol flew home alone the night Ringo arrived, without saying goodbye to the other Beatles, who were asleep in their rooms. He only stayed in the music business for a few years before retiring in 1967. At the airport that night, Epstein gave him a gold watch with the inscription “From The Beatles and Brian Epstein to Jimmy– with appreciation and gratitude.”
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