Beatles collector specializes in 'offbeat' memorabilia

By Georgia Sparling | Mar 02, 2014
Photo by: Georgia Sparling Beatles collector Jim Cushman holds a pair of drumsticks played by Ringo Starr in his room of memorabilia.

Mattapoisett — Some people like The Beatles. Some people love The Beatles. Some people have a room full of Beatles memorabilia. Jim Cushman falls into that last category.

Cushman, a Mattapoisett resident and native of Middleboro, has an extensive Beatles collection that includes a pair of John Lennon’s long johns , a locket of Paul McCartney’s hair, Ringo Starr’s drumsticks and a t-shirt that belonged to George Harrison.

“They’re a part of me now. They’re in me, just like my wife and my sons and my granddaughter,” said Cushman of the band. “They’re an important part of me. They made me who I am.”

Cushman, 59, began to accumulate Fab Four artifacts almost 30 years ago.

But Beatlemania first gripped him as a 9-year-old when he tuned in with about 73 million people across the country to watch The Beatles perform for the first time on the Ed Sullivan Show.

When The Beatles took the stage on February 9, 1964, 50 years ago, they became an instant phenomenon in the U.S.

“Nothing’s ever been the same,” said Cushman. “‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ was like a kick in the head. I had never heard anything like that.”

As a child, Cushman collected Beatles trading cards and bubble gum cards as well as  figurines. The items were stolen, but Cushman never lost his love of the band.

“I became a musician because of The Beatles,” said Cushman, who once played professionally.

Cushman said he appreciates The Beatles’ musicality and that their sound changed and developed with every album. He also identifies with them personally, especially his favorite member of the group, John Lennon.

“We both came from a broken home, both started groups, both born in October,” said Cushman. “I loved his attitude, his honesty. He had a great rock and roll voice. He was the leader.”

When he began collecting Beatles items in the mid-80s, Cushman said they were much less pricey than they are today.

“There’s no way I could afford to buy this stuff now,” he said.

While Cushman has autographs, concert tickets, trading cards and Beatles dolls, he admits that he gravitates towards the “offbeat” items.

“I like the weird stuff, and when you meet the fans, they like the weird stuff,” Cushman said.

One of the more unusual items is a pair of thermal underwear purchased by Lennon on a trip to Denmark in 1970.

Cushman also has swatches of hotel sheets that The Beatles slept on in various hotels, a well-worn straw hat that John Lennon sported while in Bermuda and a water bottle used by Paul McCartney in 1989.

“I’ve had people say, ‘Can I put my lips on it?’” said Cushman of the bottle. The answer: no.

Some items, he is willing to let people touch. For several years, Cushman took his collection, acquired from individuals who knew band members, fellow collectors and auctions, to Beatles festivals in New York, Toronto, Boston, Cleveland and other places.

Fellow fans would often ask if they could try on Lennon’s hat or touch the singers’ t-shirt. When the crowd would die down, he would sometimes let a fan finger a hem.

“People cry. People get emotionally involved,” said Cushman. “It’s like religious relics.”

After putting more than 12,000 miles on his car, Cushman and his wife Donna, herself a collector of Disney drawings, rarely take the collection to festivals. Instead, Cushman is working with three other collectors to create a traveling exhibit.

A walking encyclopedia of Beatles facts and dates, Cushman and his collection have been featured on national and international television as well as various publications.

Cushman doesn’t tire of talking about his favorite band or visiting his room of relics.

“It’s like you’ve got The Beatles in your house,” he said.

The lifelong fan said people often ask him how it feels to have so many Beatles mementos in his home.

Cushman answers: “It feels really cool.”

Some more traditional pieces in the collection, include this lunchbox from the early 60s, a Beatles pillow and trading cards. (Photo by: Georgia Sparling)
While flying to a Beatles festival in Canada, four customs agents asked Jim Cushman to hold this hat worn by John Lennon. (Photo by: Georgia Sparling)
It wasn't such a hard days night for John Lennon after he purchased a pair of long johns while staying in Denmark with Yoko Ono in 1970. (Photo by: Georgia Sparling)
Jim Cushman has photos of John Lennon, his favorite Beatle, wearing these corduroy pants, circa 1967. (Photo by: Georgia Sparling)
The Beatles slept here. In addition to swatches of sheets slept on by the band, Jim Cushman has towels owned once owned by John Lennon. (Photo by: Georgia Sparling)
A telegraph communicating the death of John Lennon in 1980. (Photo by: Georgia Sparling)
Jim Cushman has several newspapers reporting the death of John Lennon. (Photo by: Georgia Sparling)
This concert slip was featured in the book "Lennon Legend" at the request of Yoko Ono, who saw Jim Cushman's collection on a television show, said the collector. (Photo by: Georgia Sparling)
Jim Cushman also has books and sketches by the "fifth Beatle" Stuart Sutcliffe, who left the band to become an artist before it became famous. (Photo by: Georgia Sparling)
A shirt that once belonged to George Harrison, who passed away in the 1990s. (Photo by: Georgia Sparling)
This shirt, once owned by John Lennon, has brought more than one fan to tears. (Photo by: Georgia Sparling)
Bruised and battered, these drumsticks were used by Ringo Starr. (Photo by: Georgia Sparling)
The back of a card in Jim Cushman's collection features all four autographs by The Beatles. (Photo by: Georgia Sparling)
The Beatles' Remco dolls are similar to a set owned by Jim Cushman as a kid. (Photo by: Georgia Sparling)
Beatles merchandising also included three-ring binders (Photo by: Georgia Sparling)
Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.