After a month of scouring the storage locker of Nat Weiss, The Beatles American lawyer, I came away with some very interesting pieces of music history and memorabilia but sadly, there was no master tape or in fact any music from The Beatles except for all the band’s albums. I was happy to have those to replenish my record collection.
Here’s what I did find:
1. James Taylor — Nat represented James for a long time and there were some great finds in the locker and pieces of history that go back to James’ early career. As I previously mentioned, I have a copy (not the original) of the letter in which James Taylor’s lawyer informs Beatles executive Allen Klein and the four Beatles that James is terminating his contract with Apple Records.
For those who don’t know, a little background is in order. James Taylor was first signed in England by Paul McCartney’s longtime friend Peter Asher (Sir Paul dated Peter’s sister Jane for the early Beatles years and Asher was a member of the duo Peter and Gordon who had a huge hit in “World Without Love” written by McCartney.)
Back when Apple Records was formed, Asher was a talent scout. Asher thought that James Taylor had the goods and had him play live for Paul who immediately agreed. So did George Harrison. I’ve read that both Beatles played on Taylor’s first LP without being credited. In fact, George H. was so inspired by one of Taylor’s songs that he used the title to write one of his greatest songs. Taylor’s song was called “Something in the Way She Moves” which are the opening words for “Something,” probably George’s most beautiful and commercial composition.
After Taylor left Apple, he moved back to America where he signed a management agreement with Peter Asher who believed so strongly in his talent that Asher left England and Apple. I have that original management agreement signed by Asher and Taylor. I also found this early touring schedule for James Taylor — pretty interesting how little he was paid back then.
James Taylor’s most famous album probably remains Sweet Baby James. Tucked away in the locker is a neatly typed, stapled report on ‘the production costs for Sweet Baby James” which cost all of $16,000 and change to record. The report makes careful note of who was paid for how much work and music historians will chuckle to know, that on one day in 1969, when they each worked from 2 p.m.-5 p.m., Carole King was paid $85 for playing the piano during the session and James was paid $170 for singing and playing guitar. The report is signed by both James Taylor and Peter Asher and includes original receipts for various items like wine.
At the end of 1976, in a very famous story, James Taylor was wooed away from Warner Brothers records by Walter Yetnikoff of Columbia, then owned then by CBS. The story goes that Taylor had agreed to the switch for $2 million but, upon arriving at Nat Weiss Manhattan apartment — where Yetnikoff was waiting with the check — Taylor had a change of heart and said he could not sign the deal. Yetnikoff eventually bullied Taylor into signing and gave him the check. I have a copy of the cancelled $2 million check and the original deal signed that night by Yetnikoff and Taylor.
There is also a stock certificate in a Taylor’s private company Country Road Productions addressed to and signed by James Taylor.
2. Signed Albums — I looked painstakingly through Nat’s record collection, took what I wanted and sold many others at two stoop sales in Brooklyn. What I could not sell, I gave away to a DJ. But I’ve kept the only two signed LPs, one by Tiny Tim and the other by Peter Allen, both deceased.
3. Signed stock certificates — Nat had stock certificates for private companies he incorporated, like Taylor’s Country Road Productions. Most interesting to me are the certificates for the company Nat formed in 1966 with Beatles manager Brian Epstein. I have the stock certificates and incorporation papers for their now-defunct company Nemperor (which was a nickname for Epstein. He was so regal in bearing, employees called him The Emperor behind his back and his first company was called NEMS, hence Nemperor, a combination of NEMS and Emperor — Epstein liked the nickname.)
Epstein died in 1967 of a drug overdose but before he did, he signed the original stock certificates for this company. Even his mother Queenie signed a couple. I have to believe that these stock certificates signed by both Epstein and his mother are very rare indeed and one of a kind.
So what to do with all of this? Good question.
I have talked to Sotheby’s which recently had a rock and roll auction. They referred me an English company who expressed interest but told me to talk to a woman in Los Angeles. I have and am in the process of uploading all the photos I’ve taken of these various items to her. We’ll see what happens but that, my friends, is the final part of this story which has not yet been written. When it is, I will update all of you.
Thanks for coming with me on this magical mystery tour. It was great fun. 🙂