In June of 1964, Ringo Starr collapsed when he came down with a case of tonsillitis. The Beatles were just about to go on a tour that take them to Holland, Denmark, Australia, and Hong Kong. For The Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein and producer George Martin – no, not the Game of Thrones writer, though that would be awesome – not going was not an option.
So what did they do? They called up professional (though unknown) drummer Jimmie Nicol.
Jimmie had recently worked on an album of cover songs called Beatlemania, which consisted of all of the Beatles’ top songs and was aimed at teenagers who couldn’t afford an actual Beatles album (apparently that was a thing before piracy). So he knew all their songs and arrangements.
While Lennon and McCartney quickly signed onto the idea, George Harrison took some convincing. While not necessarily against the idea of playing with a temporary drummer, he didn’t want to leave Starr behind. “If Ringo’s not going, I’m not going. You can find two replacements.”
Of course, Epstein and Martin were able to convince Harrison, though not without guilting him into it. Martin recalled: “They nearly didn’t do the Australia tour. George is a very loyal person. It took all of Brian’s and my persuasion to tell George that if he didn’t do it he was letting everybody down”.
Once Harrison was convinced, everything happened very quickly for Nicol. He received a phone call on June 3rd, the same day that Starr collapsed. Immediately after receiving the offer, he drove to Abbey Road Studios to have a combined audition-rehearsal with the rest of of The Beatles.
27 hours hours later, he was playing at his first concert with the band in Copenhagen.
Ten days and eight shows later, Ringo rejoined The Beatles in Australia and Jimmie got on a plane back to Britain. He is rumored to have been paid £23,000 pounds for his time on the tour, which works out to about $500,000 in 2011 dollars based on MeasuringWorth’s online calculator.
If anything could instantly propel you into instant fame, you’d think it would be playing with The Beatles in the ’60s. Unfortunately for Nicol, this didn’t turn out to be the case. He declared bankruptcy only nine months after his time with the band. While a short stint with the Swedish The Spotnicks proved mildly successful, he left the group in 1967. After moving to Mexico, he had a son (who went on to become a BAFTA-award-winning sound engineer) and became a businessman. A Daily Mail article from 2005 found Nicol living in Britain as a recluse.