Old Paul McCartney Letter Shows Early Search for Beatles Drummer

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Kirsty Wigglesworth / AP

A Christie's employee displays a letter inviting an unknown drummer to audition for The Beatles, at their auction house in London, Monday, Oct. 17, 2011. It is expected to sell at auction for between $11,000 and 14,000.

All it took was for a Liverpool yard sale to show that Paul McCartney was worried about his drummer long before the Beatles landed Ringo Starr.

According to a letter found tucked inside a book at a yard sale by an anonymous antique coin collector (the letter will be auctioned next month at Christie’s in London), an entirely new history of the Beatles’ pre-Ringo days could be written. The letter, dated Aug. 12, 1960, and handwritten by McCartney, invites an unknown drummer for an audition, but only if he was willing to immediately start traveling to Hamburg, Germany, for two months worth of shows.

In the letter, McCartney replies to “Drummer_Young_Free,” who placed an ad in the Liverpool Echo looking for work just four days earlier. McCartney offered an audition and said the drummer needed to prepare to travel to Hamburg for shows with “expenses paid 18 pounds per week (approx) for two months.”

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With no word on if the impending travel requirements scared off the drummer, it isn’t even known if this musician came for the audition. Either way, the Beatles selected Pete Best to take on their travels where the young band played in clubs in Hamburg’s red-light district.

Less than two years later, the Beatles dropped Best and ushered in the Ringo Starr era. Once Starr arrived, the Beatles took off in popularity in England.

A Beatles expert, Bruce Spizer, tells the Associated Press that this letter sheds new light on the Beatles’ search for a drummer other than Best. Also, the letter wouldn’t be to Starr, who was already an accomplished Liverpool drummer by that time, so McCartney wouldn’t have addressed the letter “Dear Sir.”

McCartney, who recently married American Nancy Shevell, may hold more answers, but hasn’t spoken on the letter, which could fetch more than $7,000 during the Nov. 15 auction.

The letter told the drummer to “ring Jacaranda club” if he was interested in an audition and signed off, “Yours sincerely, Paul McCartney of the BEATLES.” We wouldn’t suggest that move now; the Beatles have moved on slightly from 1960.

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Tim Newcomb is a contributor for TIME. Find him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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