Beatles collector specializes in 'offbeat' memorabilia

Mar 2, 2014

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.”