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Jim Berkenstadt, the rock 'n' roll detective, is not saying whether he found Jimmie Nicol, the lost Beatle. He wants you to read his book, which is out in the fall.

Berkenstadt had plenty else to talk about this week, starting with his recent discovery that two of his earlier books are included in a new library and archive at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.

One of those books, titled "Nevermind: Nirvana," grew out of Berkenstadt's friendship with Butch Vig, the acclaimed music producer and Garbage drummer who is back in Madison with the band for Thursday's concert at Warner Park.

Berkenstadt has tickets behind home plate for the show, and he also has an enthusiastic blurb from Vig for the new book, which Berkenstadt titled "The Beatle Who Vanished."

Vig calls the book "a fascinating and mysterious must read."

It's the true story of a largely anonymous drummer, Jimmie Nicol, who was lifted from obscurity in 1964 and dropped into the Beatles' first world tour as a rush replacement for the ailing Ringo Starr.

Nicol's blast of fame lasted little more than 15 minutes — he spent exactly 13 days with the Beatles — and the days that followed were often dark.

"Blacklisting, betrayal, drug abuse, bankruptcy and an eventual disappearance," Berkenstadt said Monday.

We were having a cup of coffee near the North Side home Berkenstadt shares with his wife, Holly, whose family founded and for many years operated the Wisconsin Cheeseman.

There is likely no one better suited to tracking down whatever happened to Jimmie Nicol than Berkenstadt, 56, who is a passionate music historian with a particular interest in the Beatles.

I first heard Jim's name about 15 years ago, when he got in touch to say he was resurrecting some long lost recordings of famous big bands that played at The Edgewater hotel in the 1950s.

Augie Faulkner ran The Edgewater for decades, and shortly before his death in 1996, he told Berkenstadt he saved recordings of Woody Herman, Jimmy Dorsey and Stan Kenton playing The Edgewater's "Starlight Room," which was actually outdoors on the roof.

After Augie died, his son Scott Faulkner located the recordings. Berkenstadt, using new software from Sonic Foundry, cleaned them up and released them on two CDs.

Berkenstadt was, by then, already well known among Beatles fans for coauthoring the 1994 book "Black Market Beatles." It is the other Berkenstadt title in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame library. The book catalogs hundreds of Beatles bootleg recordings and tells the stories behind them.

Berkenstadt dates his interest in the Beatles to seeing them as a kid on TV with Ed Sullivan. Jim grew up in Chicago, and a few years after that TV show, in a shop in Old Town, he bought a bootleg of the band rehearsing in a studio in 1969. An obsession was born.

For many years Berkenstadt had a day job as an attorney, doing trials and then serving as corporate counsel for Wisconsin Cheeseman. His passion for music history remained undiminished and at the same time he began a consulting business called "Rock and Roll Detective."

He grew famous for being able to find anything, though it didn't hurt if there was a Beatles connection. Bass player and artist Klaus Voorman once asked Berkenstadt if he could track down Voorman's original cover art for the Beatles' album "Revolver." It took Berkenstadt four days to find it hanging on the wall in Joe Walsh's living room in Los Angeles.

His Vig connection began because Vig's brother worked at Wisconsin Cheeseman. "We got on from the start," Berkenstadt said, and when he wanted to write the story of the making of the classic Nirvana album "Nevermind," which Vig produced, Vig helped. Now the book is in the Hall of Fame library. "It's an honor," Berkenstadt said.

His research for "The Beatle Who Vanished," set for November publication, took years. Jimmie Nicol did a good job of disappearing. There were unconfirmed rumors of his death in 1988. A 2005 newspaper story purported to have found Nicol living in an undistinguished flat outside London. The reporter said he refused an interview.

Now comes Berkenstadt with his take, and he said the new book will provide answers. He's not the rock 'n' roll detective for nothing.

Contact Doug Moe at 608-252-6446 or dmoe@madison.com. His column appears Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.

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