Beatles history was made on May 21. On that day, Case Antiques, a regional art and antiques auction house in Knoxville, Tenn., sold a previously unknown "Meet the Beatles" album, signed by the Fab Four.
It wasn't the price that made history. At $63,250 including the buyer's premium, the price was good, considering it was the only music piece offered in an antique and art auction, but not a particularly strong. The Hard Rock auctioned a similar one around a decade ago for about $77,000, and Beatles specialist Frank Caiazzo sold a "Meet the Beatles" a few years ago that he was asking over $100,000 for. His buyer reportedly sold it about a year later for significantly more.
What's history-making is that it is only the 13th or 14th U.S. release Beatles album signed by John, Paul, George and Ringo known to exist. And while very rare, "Meet the Beatles" is the most common band-signed U.S. label Beatles album, with 5-6 now known.
Famous, Yet Surprising Provenance
The album was consigned to auction by a son of Jules Gordon, M.D., the New York City doctor who famously treated George Harrison for a sore throat before the Beatles' appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show" in February 1964. The sore throat could have prevented Harrison's ability to sing on the show.
What's surprising is that until this album appeared, it was thought that the Beatles gave only one signed album to Dr. Gordon: the "Meet the Beatles" sold in the Hard Rock auction over a decade ago. If the provenance of the Hard Rock album is accurate, then at least two albums were signed for the doctor. (Experts agree that the autographs on both albums are unquestionably authentic.)
Word was that the buyer of this album was a collector/dealer who was offering it for sale at $125,000, but the owner contacted us and said that is not the case and that he's not actively trying to sell it at this time.
Unfortunately, we didn't hear about the album before the auction, but this is the press release Case Antiques sent out two weeks prior to the sale:
Rare Signed Beatles Album Headlines Case’s Spring Auction
KNOXVILLE, Tenn.— On May 21, 2011, Case Antiques Inc., Auctions & Appraisals will gavel a piece of Rock and Roll history: a Meet The Beatles! album signed by all four Beatles the day before their American debut on the Ed Sullivan Show. The autographed album was consigned by a direct descendant of Dr. Jules Gordon, the New York City physician who treated George Harrison for a sore throat on February 8, 1964. The album is included as part of Case’s Spring auction, which will take place at the company’s gallery in Knoxville for persons wishing to bid in person and simultaneously online for national and international bidders.
The Background Story That Made the News
On February 9, 1964, The Beatles made their much-anticipated American debut on the Ed Sullivan Show. But the day before the show, on Saturday, February 8, there was concern one of the band members, George Harrison, might miss the big moment because he had strep throat. Thomas Buckley noted in the New York Times on February 8, 1964: “Mr. Harrison, who is known as the quiet Beatle, awoke yesterday with a sore throat. He was treated by Dr. Jules Gordon, used a vaporizer and rejoined his colleagues at the studio late in the afternoon. ‘I should be perfect for tomorrow,’ he said.”
According to George Harrison’s sister, Louise Caldwell, the situation was more serious than they let on. In The Beatles Off The Record by Keith Badman, Louise Caldwell recalled: “The doctor said he couldn’t do The Ed Sullivan Show because he had a temperature of 104! But they pumped him with everything. He was thinking about getting a nurse to administer the medicine, every hour on the hour. Then the doctor suddenly realized that I was there and was his sister and he said to me, ‘Would you see to it? It’s probably just as well that you’re here because I don’t think there’s a single female in the city that isn’t crazy about The Beatles! You’re probably the only one who could function around him normally’.”
The physician who treated Harrison was Dr. Jules Gordon, the house doctor at the Plaza Hotel from 1942 until 1985. Dr. Gordon was called from his 4th floor office to the Presidential Suites on the 12th floor where The Beatles were staying. As doctor to many celebrities, Dr. Gordon didn’t fawn over The Beatles. “He was very unassuming and treated everyone with the same respect, no matter who they were. People just took to him,” said a Gordon family member. The Beatles must have liked Dr. Gordon because they gave him several unsolicited personalized autographs. Dr. Gordon met The Beatles on at least two occasions during their visit to New York for the Ed Sullivan Show and commented to his family that The Beatles were very accommodating and likeable each time.
Over the years, as the house physician for the Plaza and other well-known hotels in New York City, Dr. Gordon treated many famous people and Hollywood stars such as Rock Hudson, Bette Davis, Burt Lancaster, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Liz Taylor, Judy Garland, Rita Hayworth, and others. Dr. Gordon, who passed away in 1993, was also the club physician for the New York Yankees in the 1940s and 1950s. He made the news in 1947 when he performed surgery on Joe DiMaggio and removed a 3-inch spur from his left heel, which enabled Dimaggio to go on to help the Yankees win the 1947 World Series.
A Rare Piece of ‘Beatles’ History
The Meet The Beatles album contained the Beatle’s first U.S. chart-topping hit “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” It was released in the U.S. on January 20th, just ahead of the band’s first U.S. tour, and less than three weeks before The Beatles signed it for Dr. Gordon. Autographs by all four Beatles on an LP from their early years are highly sought after by collectors. As Autograph Magazine noted in an article on January 25, 2011, “If you have a Beatles album signed by all four band members, you’ve got something quite valuable. Albums in good condition typically range from about $15,000 for the most common one, “Please Please Me,” to well over $100,000 for some of the rarest albums, especially U.S. releases. …Band-signed Beatles albums are very hard to come by.” Although the Meet The Beatles album in this auction is conservatively estimated at $10,000-$15,000, it is such a unique item that the hammer price could be much higher. According to John Case, President of Case Antiques Inc. Auctions & Appraisals, “It’s one of the earliest signed Beatles albums we’re aware of, and for it to be associated with such an important moment in the Beatles’ career makes it even more extraordinary.”
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