Paul McCartney offers audition to mystery drummer

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Paul McCartney wrote to a drummer on this day offering an audition to join The Beatles on their first trip to Hamburg.

Letter from Paul McCartney to unknown drummer, 12 August 1960

Dear Sir,

In reply to your advertisement in Echo, Wed. night, we would like to offer you an audition for the position of drummer in the group.

You will, however, need to be free soon for a trip to Hamburg (expenses paid £18 per week (approx.) for 2 months.)

If interested, ring Jacaranda club, Slater St. [ROYAL 65'64] and ask for either a member of the 'BEATLES', Alan Williams, or else leave a message, stating when you will be available.

Yours sincerely,
Paul McCartney of THE BEATLES

At the time it was written, The Beatles had four members: McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison and original bassist Stuart Sutcliffe. They had played with a series of temporary drummers in 1960 including Tommy Moore and Norman Chapman, but needed someone more permanent for their Hamburg shows.

McCartney misspelt Allan Williams' name in the letter, which was written on 12 August 1960 in response to an advertisement placed in the Liverpool Echo.

The unknown drummer had placed the advertisement in the newspaper's classified section on 8 August 1960. It read "Drummer - Young - Free", and was accompanied by a post office box number.

It is not known if the audition took place, but on 6 August 1960 The Beatles had already asked Pete Best to join. Best's audition took place on 12 August, the same day the letter was written.

It is likely that if the mystery drummer ever replied to McCartney, The Beatles would already have been in Hamburg.

McCartney's letter was discovered in 2011, folded up inside a copy of antiques price guide What's It Worth?. The book was bought at a car boot sale in Bootle, Merseyside for just 50 pence.

The anonymous purchaser was a coin and antique collector from Bootle. He initially took it to the Beatles Shop in Liverpool, where he was offered £3,000, but took it to the Beatles Story museum to see if they would offer more to put it on display.

The museum declined to offer a valuation on site, but put him in touch with Christie's. It was auctioned in London on 15 November 2011 and sold for £34,850 pounds ($55,000).

One of the best aspects of my work is the rare occasion when, out of the blue, you are made aware of the existence of something so extraordinary, it alters the knowledge of your specialist field. This letter has proved to be such a case.

My initial reaction was one of disbelief, but on seeing the item and being able to research the significance of the date and its content as well as conferring with renowned Beatles historians, it has turned out to be much more significant than mere words on paper.

Neil Roberts, director of popular culture, Christie's
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