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Jimmie Nicol Portfolio

In June 1964, the Beatles were to tour Scandanavia, Holland, the Far East and Australia. On June 3, the day before the tour, Ringo Starr collapsed at an early morning photo session for the Saturday Evening Post at a portrait studio in Barnes, London. He had a 102-degree fever and tonsilitis and was rushed to the hospital. Ringo didn't have his tonsils out till the Christmas break later in the year, but this bout with tonisillitis in June necessitated a stay in hospital and then back at home recuperating for a few days.

During this time, Ringo was temporarily replaced for the Denmark and Holland concert dates by shy 24-year-old session drummer Jimmie Nicol. Beatles producer George Martin suggested Jimmie because Nicol had recently recorded at EMI with Tommy Quickly and he'd also recently become familiar with Beatles numbers while drumming on a recording session for an album called Beatlemania.

Jimmie Nicol started his career as a drum repairer for Boosey & Hawkes. He was briefly a member of the Swedish group, the Spotnicks, then Georgie Fame's Blue Flames, and then formed his own band, the Shubdubs.

At first, George Harrison didn't want Ringo to be replaced and refused to go on the tour without him, but Brian Epstein and George Martin convinced him. Paul McCartney thought he was okay for the tour, but that the fans would definately know the difference if he recorded with them. And Brian thought it was a good choice because he thought he "looked like a Beatle and not an outcast".

During the tour, every time one of the Beatles asked Jimmie how he was getting on, if he was liking it and was he managing okay, all he ever replied was "It's Getting Better". The others used to make fun of this, and later in 1967, it inspired Paul to do a song called It's Getting Better on the Sgt. Pepper's album.

[SOUND] This is a recording of a live Beatles concert in Holland while Jimmie was with the band. Although this is an extremely poor Beatles recording, it's a great example of Jimmie's playing, as that's what's foremost in the recording, obviously made by someone with a tape recorder in the audience.

Ringo was discharged from the hospital on June 11, and he rejoined the group in Melbourne on June 15, 1964.

After his time on the tour, Brian Epstein sent Jimmie and a gold Eternamatic watch enscribed: "From the Beatles and Brian Epstein to Jimmie -- with appreciation and gratitude."

Upon Jimmie's return, his group the Shubdubs issued the single Husky/Don't Come Back, but it failed to chart. Pictured below is another of their rare singles, Humpty Dumpty/Night Train. The Shubdubs later disbanded, after which Jimmie moved to South America. He also lived in Australia for a time.

In Their Own Words

On fitting in with the Beatles, Jimmie said:

"The boys were very kind but I felt like an intruder. They accepted me but you can't just go into a group like that -- they have their own atmosphere, their own sense of humor. It's a little clique and outsiders just can't break in."

About after the Beatles, Jimmie said:

"I had a band and Brian put us on the same bill with the Beatles and the Formost one night. Backstage, we talked, but the wind had changed since we last saw each other. They were pleasant."

[The Shubdubs played with the Beatles on July 12, 1964 at the Hippodrome Theatre in Brighton.]

[SOUND] Jimmie Nicol is interviewed during the Holland tour, and talks about replacing Ringo.

[SOUND] George and Ringo remember their feelings when Jimmie replaced Ringo.

More in Jimmie Nicol's own words

Biographical info from The Beatles by Hunter Davies, Shout! by Philip Norman, The Ultimate Beatles Encyclopedia by Bill Harry, and The Beatles Anthology.

This page updated December 20, 2007.

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