Saturday, April 17, 2004

EDP24 News

McCartney autograph auction

by Mark Nicholls

It was May 1963, The Beatles were at number one in the hit parade and had just gone down a storm at one of Norwich's top venues.

But young bass player Paul McCartney still showed a little uncertainty over his new-found fame.

When signing his autograph, he felt the need to put 'Beatles' in brackets after his name.

Even then, no-one really had to be told who he was, or who the other three musicians were who scribbled their names on the back of the business card of the support band on that night in Norwich 41 years ago.

Yet "Macca" still had to shake off the modesty that surrounded the early hits, including From Me To You, which topped the charts when they played The Grosvenor on Prince of Wales Road on May 17 that year.

Along with John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, he had signed what was the business card of local band, Ricky Lee and the Hucklebucks.

Now, one of those business cards from that night is about to go up for auction at Christie's in London and could raise as much as £3,000.

Where it came from is a closely-guarded secret.

But according to Richard Harwood, once Ricky Lee of the Hucklebucks, there's not many in existence.

"I've got one of the band's business cards signed by all of the Beatles," he said, "and most of the boys in the band will have had the same card, which they also got autographed.

"Apart from that the manager and a couple of girlfriends got the autographs and that was it.

"There can only be seven or eight maximum in existence."

As Lot 139, the signed card goes under the hammer on May 5 and is expected to create a good deal of interest amid several other items of Beatles memorabilia.

But Ricky, who still lives in Norwich, isn't going to be tempted to sell his.

"I was offered £1,250 for mine a few years ago but I wasn't interested. I don't think many of the other boys would be either, it was a special night and I have fond memories of it."

Ricky doesn't keep in regular contact with many of the other members of the band, though a few still live locally, while one emigrated to Australia.

However, it does frustrate the singer that after all these years, his band – which toured regularly and worked hard performing at US bases and clubs across the East and the Midlands – are forever tagged "the group that supported the Beatles."

But there is demand for memorabilia from that night at The Grosvenor. A signed ticket from that Beatles gig in Norwich sold a year ago in Australia for around £4,300. Another was sold to a Japanese buyer for £3,000.

Christie's say the signed business card could appeal to a wide range of collectors but in the greater scheme of Beatles memorabilia is not among the rarer items on the market.

Pop specialist Sarah Hodgson said: "There are a lot of autographs on sale and the prices tend to go higher depending on how interesting the object that has been signed is.

"Most treasured would be an album like Sgt Pepper that the four Beatles had signed because it was at a time that they would not be together that often. It would fetch £40,000.

"Signed photos, particularly on the front, are popular. This business card is not that rare an item but it may appeal to collectors who aim to buy autographs from particular years such as 1963.

"What makes this a little more interesting is that Paul McCartney still felt the need to put the word Beatles in brackets."

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