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SI22. A Handwritten Letter Signed By All 4 Beatles While On The 1966 U.S. Tour
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SI22. A Handwritten Letter Signed By All 4 Beatles While On The 1966 U.S. Tour

In the late fall of 1966, a charity LP called "Beatleviews-66" was released. The record contained interviews conducted with the Beatles while on their 1966 tour of North America.  The narrator of the LP was Ken Douglas, a deejay from radio station WKLO in Louisville, Kentucky. In the mid-1960s, Douglas was somewhat of an anomaly among deejays in America. He was British. As might be expected, amid all of the fan frenzy surrounding the Beatles and other British groups, this made Douglas (and his accent) very popular among listeners of WKLO. Never mind that he had long hair, vaguely resembled George Harrison and wore clothes that looked to be straight out of Carnaby Street.

The London-born Ken Douglas had migrated to the United States in 1964 on the heels of the British Invasion, having been exposed to America through his earlier career as the athletic director on a cruise ship. From New York, he traveled to Louisville to visit friends and met up with a man who had a men's clothing store that happened to be across the street from WKLO. Douglas got a job at the clothier and in 1965, through the store's proximity to the radio station, had a chance encounter with program director Mitch Michael.  Michael invited him to the station, gave him a tour, introduced him to the staff and, seeing the potential in having a Brit on the air, asked him if he'd like to sit in with one of his deejays and talk about London life, fashion and music. Douglas did the gig for about two months, and was soon offered his own show. For "The Ken Douglas Show", he would make frequent trips to London to interview all the top British stars, and before long, he was the top jock at WKLO.  By early 1966, the much in-demand Douglas had his own fan club with a devout following of over 1,400 members.

An encounter with Beatles press officer Tony Barrow led to a meeting with Brian Epstein, who told him that the next time the Beatles toured America, he'd be invited to join them. For the first half of the 1966 North American Tour, Douglas was at their side, in hotels, on the plane, on buses and backstage before the shows. His reports from the tour helped place WKLO at the top of the ratings heap in Louisville.

The Beatles found Douglas someone they could easily relate to - a fellow countryman. In Cleveland on August 14, 1966, Douglas sat down with Ringo Starr, who told him about his home life and fatherhood.  Douglas also reported on the chaotic scenes at Cleveland Stadium. Two days later, on August 16th in Philadelphia, Douglas snared Paul McCartney for a lengthy recorded chat. When Douglas brought up the diminishing crowds at Beatles concerts, McCartney was quick to remind him that the Beatles still played to more people than any other act. Douglas predicted that the Beatles would continue to sell records long after they stopped touring, which led McCartney to reveal that the group was far more interested in writing and recording than performing, citing the band's increasing inability to be heard above the screams. Of course, history has shown that, two weeks later, their touring days would indeed end. McCartney then spoke with Douglas about his life in London (having just bought a home near the EMI Studios), the Beatles' recording schedule after the tour, the trip he took to Paris with John for the latter's 21st birthday and the mayhem in Cleveland, commenting that he enjoyed "fan participation" as long as no one got hurt. Finally, referring to the negative publicity generated by Lennon's "Bigger Than Jesus" statement, McCartney told Douglas that when there was no good news to report, the papers preferred disparaging articles. The pair got on well together.

Within five days of Douglas' interview with McCartney, the Beatles' bassist had written him a letter, which was on Paul’s personal linen stationary. It read:

"Dear Ken and fellow Tea People,

Just a line to say best, yes best, of luck on this new and courageous enterprise. May she reign forever, and sail the ocean blue, yes blue.

All the best to everyone there from all of us here."

McCartney then signed his full name, followed by the other three Beatles - John Lennon (who has added "F.B.O." following his signature), Ringo Starr and finally, George Harrison, who has written “and not forgetting” before his signature, and a star-burst symbol afterwards. The “J” used by John is a ‘throwback’ to the style of “J” that was last seen in early 1963 – some 3 ½ years prior. All four of the signatures on this letter are perfect; they are excellent and complete examples, and are as nicely as they could have signed on that day. Additionally, McCartney has written “ESQUIRE” following his printed name in the letterhead.

The included, original mailing envelope is also fully-addressed in Paul’s hand on the front:

To
"Tea Time"
Ken Douglas
Radio WKLO
307 West Walnut St.
Louisville
Kentucky

This envelope is postmarked from Cincinnati, Ohio on August 21, 1966, the exact mid-point of the tour. Affixed is the required 5 cent postage, in the form of a blue tinted George Washington stamp. On the reverse are the printed words "J.P. McCartney, London, England", the font being an exact match to that on the stationary – therefore making this the proper accompanying envelope!

"Tea Time" refers to the frequent tea breaks that Douglas would take on the air with students visiting the station. While the content of the letter is subject to interpretation at this point in history, the "new and courageous enterprise" that McCartney writes about could refer to Douglas' possible return to the men's haberdashery business, which had been his occupation prior to his stint at WKLO.  After leaving the station in 1969, he worked briefly at WINN and WAKY in Louisville and then moved to California where he did return to the men's clothing business, this time in a partnership with his close friend Davy Jones of the Monkees. This letter could allude to an earlier possible venture in men's apparel, which indeed would happen, but not for several years after.

Handwritten letters signed by all four members of the Beatles are exceedingly scarce, with less than a handful surfacing to date. Add to that the fact that the vast majority of known (single signed) personal letters from any member of The Beatles was written in their early days, through 1963. Anything handwritten from the mid-1960s, especially while on tour in North America, is exponentially much more scarcer.

This is by far the best of the few letters signed by all of The Beatles known to exist, making this an extremely rare opportunity for the discerning collector….. $30,000


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