Elvis, Beatles headline auction event

A 1963 program signed by all The Beatles from the collection of Walter O’Brien

By Susan Sliwicki

Rarities from The Beatles and Elvis Presley are expected to be among the most-sought lots in Backstage Auctions’ upcoming Vintage Pop and Rock Auction.

Bidders can start their “window shopping” on May 8 at www.backstageauctions.com. The auction goes live on May 16 and closes on May 23. Van Gool estimates more than 500 lots will be featured in the auction, but the total number of featured pieces is into the thousands, as many lots have multiple items.

Weighing in for the Lads from Liverpool is a 1963 program signed by all Fab Four from the collection of Walter O’Brien. Not one to show up empty-handed, The King is represented with an autographed 10-inch Sun 209 single that comes from the estate of Marion Keisker, assistant to Sun Records owner Sam Phillips. Each lot is expected to carry a minimum bid of about $7,500, according to Backstage Auctions’ Jacques van Gool.

So which one of these drool-worthy collectibles will steal the show? It could be a photo finish.

“Not only is anything signed by The Beatles a ‘holy grail,’ but 1963 is pretty rare,” van Gool said. “The pre-1964 pieces were mostly from the U.K., and this piece was indeed signed in the U.K. during the Helen Shapiro tour that they did in the summer of ’63.”

Recorded in 1954, The King’s Sun 209 single features “That’s All Right” b/w “Blue Moon of Kentucky.” Is one of the oldest Elvis Presley signed discs, and it comes with a phenomenal provenance, van Gool said.

A mint copy of Sun 209 has sold for more than $17,000, but the typical near-mint price is $6,000, according to Goldmine Price Guide to 45 RPM records. When Sun 209 was released, it came out in two formats: one for local markets in and around Mepmhis, which were pressed on a 10-inch shellac, and a more common 7-inch version, van Gool said. Keisker’s record is in the rarer 10-inch format.

“Right when the 10-inch was pressed and Elvis got a bunch of copies at the studio, he took one and signed it for Marion Keisker,” van Gool said. “What you have is a very, very rare 10-inch first Elvis Presley Sun Records single, which by itself is worth a couple of thousand.”

An autographed 10-inch Sun 209 single that comes from the estate of Marion Keisker

Other featured lots include:

• The first promotional handbill for Jerry Lee Lewis advertising Sun 259, “Crazy Arms” b/w “End of the Road,” also from Keisker’s collection. “He looks like a little choirboy; he looks so young and so innocent,” van Gool said.

• An incredible cache of Beatles memorabilia courtesy of O’Brien’s collection. Pieces range from a 1964 fan club membership kit to a Paul McCartney shampoo bottle to Beatles bobbleheads and, well, just about everything else.

“There’s books, there’s magazines. Too many pieces to name,” van Gool said. “You name it, it’s probably in there somehow, somewhere.”

• Recording reels and punk collectibles ranging from original pins and buttons to a U.K. promotional poster from “The Great Rock and Roll Swindle,” the title of an album by and a mockumentary about The Sex Pistols.

“Any Sex Pistols promotional poster is worth its weight in gold,” van Gool said.

The recording reels surfaced O’Brien’s collection, one of which features telephone interviews with the big-name artists of Stiff Records at the time, including Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe.

“It’s just so cool to hear these guys,” van Gool said. “This was right after a big Stiff Records concert in New York and you can hear that they’re drunk and tired and out of it, and it’s hilarious and interesting.”

• A pair of Rockola jukeboxes.

For the second time in Backstage Auctions’ history, the auction house will offer a limited-production Yellow Submarine CD jukebox complete with CDs. Rockola only made 1,000 of the jukeboxes, and they sold out before the production was finalized, van Gool said. Only a handful of the jukeboxes have ever made it to the public within the past five years, he added.

“The jukeboxes were $10,000 when they were made, and they haven’t lost anything in value,” he added. “It’s such a beautiful piece of machinery.”

A classic Rockola Bubbler jukebox, complete with 45s, also is part of the auction. The records appear to be from the 1960s and 1970s. Both Rockola jukeboxes are ready to plug in and play, he said.

• A collection of songwriter contracts and agreements from the 1960s and 1960s from the famed Brill Building in New York, courtesy of consignor Stuart Wiener. The collection features artists ranging from Otis Blackwell and The Isley Brothers to Duke Ellington.

• A road case, record awards, a hand-painted bass drum drumsticks and a variety of other collectibles from drummer Johny Barbata also are featured. Barbata drummed for groups including The Turtles and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. The hand-painted drum, which bears a red octopus, is from Barbata’s days keeping the beat for Jefferson Starship.

The design adorning this bass drum from percussionist Johny Barbata’s collection was painted by the same artist who created the artwork for Jefferson Starship’s 1975 “Red Octopus” album.

“You have an original piece of art that came from the best-selling album in the Jefferson Starship catalog that was owned by the drummer of the band and one of the best-selling albums in the 1970s,” van Gool said. “From a displayable point of view, it is a really, really beautiful piece of art.”

• A collection of vintage and current original art pieces, including paintings, drawings and sketches by Bob Masse. One of the premiere poster artists from the 1960s who remains active today, Masse’s subjects have included AC/DC, Janis Joplin, Santana and Jimi Hendrix, van Gool said.

“I really think his pieces are going to appeal first of all to collectors of original art, secondly to poster collectors and thirdly to collectors of special artists,” van Gool said. “If you are a Janis Joplin collector, then owning the original work from the poster would be a highlight.”

His favorite piece?

“I would probably pick the 30th anniversary of the Summer of Love poster, which is personally my favorite because Bob maintained the style that’s so recognizable, that 1960s psychedelic style. But what made Bob stand out from his peers… he was probably the one that had the most detail,” van Gool said. “That’s a piece I would like to have on my wall, but we don’t eat from our own candy store.”

30th Anniversary Summer of Love art by Bob Masse

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