Mysteries in the Music: Case Closed by Jim Berkenstadt
by Jude Southerland Kessler
Believe it or not, summer is waning and autumn’s soft slanted light is already showing its face. Time to
pack your bags and head to the mountains or the shore and relax one last time before falling leaves,
football games, holiday shopping and preparations, and winter snows start filling our days again. This
month, you get a bit of Louisiana lagniappe: two, two, two books in one!
First, the Rock and Roll Detective, Jim Berkenstadt, talks to us about his best-selling book The Beatle
Who Vanished which is currently being made into a feature film! It’s the gripping story of a talented
young musician who was actually a Beatle for 13 days at the height of their popularity! Then, he
vanished! Quite intriguing.
Additionally, we have a brand-new offering by Berkenstadt, who carefully and meticulously uncovers the
truth about Manson and The Beach Boys, the hidden clues in Nirvana’s Nevermind, Bob Marley’s arrest,
the (gasp!) the FBI’s investigation into the lyrics of “Louie Louie,” and so much more! All of these quandaries are revealed in Berkenstadt’s book Mysteries in the Music: Case Closed. And it’s a winner! Known for his unfailing quest for the truth, Berkenstadt finally puts to rest rumors that we’ve wondered about for years.
I sat down with The Rock and Roll Detective® a few weeks ago to conduct this interview. But if you’d like
to hear Jim talk about his work in person, here’s a link to an interview that Lanea Stagg of The Recipe
Records Series of rock’n’roll cookbooks and I did with Jim on our “She Said She Said” podcast:
Jude Southerland Kessler: Jim … or should I say Mr. Rock and Roll Detective® … thanks for taking time out from your hectic writing and film schedule to be with our 318Central readers today. You know I’m a huge fan of your work, and I’m thrilled to be able to chat with you and let others know about your upcoming projects.
Berkenstadt: Thanks, Jude. It’s an honor to be speaking with John Lennon’s preeminent biographer. I always enjoy our chats. I can’t wait for your incisive questions.
Kessler: Well, Jim, thanks to your extremely thorough scholarship and detective work! You always “get it right.” Before we jump into your new book, Mysteries in the Music: Case Closed, I want to congratulate you on having your best-seller, The Beatle Who Vanished, made into a feature film! Please tell us a little about the central figure in that book, Jimmie Nicol, the talented drummer who substituted for Ringo during the first 13 days of The Beatles’ 1964 World Tour. Why Nicol was called upon to “sit in” for Starr … and why Jimmie was chosen?
Berkenstadt: Back in the middle Sixties, a World Tour was completely unheard of in the pop music world. The legal and insurance industries had yet to anticipate issues related to tour cancellations. Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein had spent a year corresponding with promoters to arrange deals for multiple concerts across the globe. It was all done via mail correspondence. All the merchandise was on the shelves; new Beatles 45 RPM singles were ready for release in each country of the tour. Scores of plane flights, hotels, equipment rentals, and warm-up bands were set to go in each city. There were no “out” clauses in legal concert agreements. If The Beatles had cancelled their World Tour, due to Ringo’s sudden illness, they would have been sued by promoters worldwide who had already pre-sold tickets for hundreds of thousands of dollars. They would have likely lost thousands more in cancelled hotel and airplane bookings. Most significantly, their reputation would have been ruined, before they’d even had a chance to conquer the world as the greatest pop band ever! Thus, the phrase, “The show must go on.”
Jimmie Nicol was not the first drummer asked to sub in for Ringo. And he wasn’t even the second! I will leave the details of that frantic search (with less than 24-hours until the tour) to readers of the book. However, Bobby Graham, a session drummer, suggested Nicol to Beatles manager Epstein. Brian Epstein had been to a Decca session a few months earlier, and had seen Jimmie Nicol’s professionalism in the studio. Epstein called George Martin and asked him to call Jimmie. Why Jimmie was chosen was more luck than anything. However, what The Beatles, Epstein, and Martin did not realize, was how lucky they were to choose Jimmie. As readers will discover, Nicol already knew Ringo Starr’s drum parts for all of the songs in The Beatles’ concert set. He was ready to go on tour. How? It’s all detailed in the book!
Kessler: So, despite remarkable days with The Beatles in The Netherlands, Hong Kong, and Australia, Ringo did return to the World Tour Tour in Melbourne to relieve Jimmie and to resume his rightful place in the band. What happened to Jimmie Nicol at that point, Jim?
Berkenstadt: When Ringo returned to the band, it was like the group of “brothers” quickly closed ranks, and Jimmie felt like he was now on the outside looking in. Jimmie promptly realized that his dreams of joining the band were crushed.
Nicol returned to London highly confident. He had a record deal to record and release songs under his group Jimmy Nicol and the Shubdubs. (Note: Nicol spelled his name Jimmie. However, record labels and the media incorrectly spelled it Jimmy.) He paid his session buddies to join his band on tour. Their first gig was an extended top-of-the-bill show series replacing the Dave Clark Five, as Dave had also gone into the hospital. In 1965, he formed another band called, The Sound of Jimmy Nicol. By the middle of 1965, however, Nicol had no label deal, was bankrupt, unemployed and getting a divorce. It was at this point that he vanished … but not for the last time.
Kessler: Well, “having read the book” (Beatles fans will “get” that allusion), I know the end of the story … and it’s quite amazing. But I won’t give the end of Jimmie’s disappearance away. People will just have to read the book and go see the film when it comes out. Tell us a little about the movie, Jim.
Berkenstadt: The Beatle Who Vanished is currently in development with Ecosse Films in England. The film option rights were purchased by Alex Orbison (son of Roy Orbison, aka Lefty Wilbury) and Ashley Hamilton (son of George Hamilton and the ex-step-son of Rod Stewart). Many Beatles fans may remember that this studio produced a John Lennon film called, Nowhere Boy. Ecosse specializes in UK historical bio pictures. I am serving as a Co-Executive Producer and script consultant. Currently, the story is being outlined, and a script is being written. When completed, the film will be released worldwide and will also appear on one of the streaming services.
Kessler: Now, we know that the Rock and Roll Detective® hasn’t been resting on his laurels as the movie was being made. As I stated in the introduction, you have a brand-new book on rock’n’roll mysteries that remained unsolved for years. Could you share a couple of those mysteries that you solve in the book?
Berkenstadt: Absolutely, no resting! My new book is entitled, Mysteries in the Music: Case Closed.
Mysteries in the Music: Case Closed examines the secrets, myths, legends, hoaxes, and wildly inexplicable events that are such an intriguing part of rock and roll history. As the Rock And Roll Detective®, I have spent decades researching the mysteries hidden within the music and the people who made the music. This anthology of popular music’s most intriguing stories,investigates original evidence and primary source materials in order to challenge some of rock’s most enduring legends. In many cases, original stories were hastily prepared or even fabricated by the media; and just as often these legends became frozen in time, mired in hasty or flawed conclusions. This book solves the mysteries once and for all.
The Foreword was written by Grammy Producer Butch Vig (Nirvana, Foo Fighters, Paul McCartney, Green Day, Smashing Pumpkins, Garbage …).
Some of the mysteries touch upon artists such as Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Nirvana, Traveling Wilburys, Bob Marley, Bob Dylan, and The Beach Boys, to name a few. Some of the first-hand interviews I conducted include eyewitness accounts from this intriguing group: Jann Wenner, Bobby Whitlock, Glyn Johns, Butch Vig, Rod Davis, Al Cooper, the late Hal Blaine, Jim Keltner, David Gold, Stephen Desper, Nick Grillo, the late Jerry Dennon, Jack Ely, David Leland, Alex Orbison, Roy Orbison, Jr., Julia Baird, the late Derek Taylor, Klaus Voormann, the late Scotty Moore, Dinah Gretsch, Colonel Oliver North, and Phil Kaufman.
After many decades, the back-stories of pop and rock music lore are finally unearthed, and the truth is revealed. If classic rock was the soundtrack of your youth – or if you wish you had lived through these moments in time – or if you are just plain curious about rumored events you have heard about over the years…then, this book is for you! “Let me take you down, ’cause we’re going to” … Mysteries in the Music: Case Closed.
The new book is an Amazon Bestseller and recently won the Gold Medal Award for Best Non-Fiction Book in Pop Culture. I am currently shopping the book in Hollywood as a TV docuseries. My producing partner in the TV show is Paul Barrosse (VH1 Behind the Music & SNL) and I hope to see some of your readers in person August 12-14 at the Chicago Fest for Beatles Fans at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare. I’ll be signing books and speaking about Mysteries in the Music: Case Closed as well. I love to connect with readers in person and make new friends. It would be great to have a contingent of Louisiana people there!
Kessler: Jim, so that our readers can keep up with the release of the film and Mysteries in the Music: Case Closed as well, how can they follow you on social media?
Berkenstadt: First of all, thanks, Jude, for the opportunity to reach out to your friends in Shreveport/Bossier, Alexandria/Pineville, Mansfield, Minden, and all points in between! I loved visiting the South when I was the Featured Author for Beatles at the Ridge in Walnut Ridge, Arkansas, a few years ago, and I know the tremendous role that the South has played in producing great rock’n’rollers such as Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Fats Domino, Charlie Daniels, Marshal Tucker, ZZ Top, the Allman Brothers, and of course, Elvis … and so many others. It’s an honor to be with you all.
Here are some of the places I can be found and contacted:
www.thebeatlewhovanished.com (Free download excerpt and signed books available)
New Book: www.MusicMysteryBook.com (under construction)
Readers who want to be placed on my e-mail newsletter can just send me an email with their full name, and I will add them to the list.