NEW YORK — A large piece of stage backdrop autographed by the Beatles during their first live U.S. concert 50 years ago is headed to auction, where it could draw at least $800,000.
Face caricatures accompany the signatures the Fab Four penned between sets of their historic Ed Sullivan appearance Feb. 9, 1964, which they opened with “All My Loving” in front of 700 screeching fans in the audience and 73 million television viewers.
The current owner of the 4-foot-by-2-foot plastic wall section is Andy Geller, a longtime Beatles collector and television and film voice-over artist. It is being sold in New York City on April 26 through the Dallas-based auction house Heritage Auctions.
A stagehand is responsible for getting the band members to sign the back of the wall section known as a hardwall traveler, which is rolled back and forth to reveal the next act. It’s thought to be the largest Beatles autograph.
“It was a spur of the moment thing,” 81-year-old Jerry Gort said in a telephone interview from his Calabasas, Calif., home. “They came down from stage right from their dressing rooms, I gave them a marker and asked them to sign the wall.”
The band signed vertically from the bottom up: John Lennon first, then Paul McCartney, who scribbled “Uncle Paul McCartney,” followed by George Harrison. Ringo Starr, shorter than the rest, couldn’t reach the top so “I put my arms around him and lifted him,” said Gort, simultaneously putting his foot on the wall to keep it from opening until Starr finished signing the piece.
Gort said Starr then “made a mad dash to get to his drums” and the band launched into “I Saw Her Standing There” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”
The wall also contains the signature of other acts that followed later in the television season, notably from the Searchers, another British band, which signed “The Searchers Were Here with Kilroy 4/5/64.”