A Beatles historian has come across one of the last autographs John Lennon signed before his fatal encounter with Mark David Chapman thirty years ago.
CNBC has learned that rock historian Denny Somach will put the autograph up for sale next week. "We never thought a piece like this would be discovered," says Somach, who is also an avid collector.
CNBC obtained an image of that autograph and what is likely the last known audio recording of Lennon. (You can hear the recording later in this story).
Both have been authenticated by multiple sources, including memorabilia expert Darren Julien, President and CEO of
The autograph belongs to Ron Hummel, the producer who recorded and assisted with Lennon's last interview on December 8, 1980. The question-and-answer session was conducted at Lennon's home in New York's Dakota building by DJ Dave Sholin.
Hummel brought a promotional poster of the album Double Fantasy to the interview, and asked Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono to sign it.
In the accompanying audio recording, Lennon and Ono struggle to find a pen that writes, as they banter with Hummel. (Listen to the audio of Lennon by clicking the player below).
He was in a great mood," Hummel recalls, "and he seemed to be a very sweet, down-to-earth guy."
The materials emerge amid a renewed bout of Beatlemania—and, in particular, a heightened focus on Lennon's legacy, as fans prepare to mark the 30th anniversary of his death. "Until now, very few people have known that this exists," notes Somach.
Julien says the autograph could sell for as much as $40,000, though some believe the price could go even higher.
(Click the player below to hear the audio recording of Lennon as he signed the autograph).
After the interview, Hummel and his team accompanied Lennon as he departed the Dakota, where they had a chilling brush with Chapman.
"He was waiting outside," says Hummel. "He asked excitedly, 'Did you just interview Lennon? What was he like?'" Hummel says Chapman then held out an album, which Lennon signed. "[Chapman] was silent," notes Hummel. "John asked, 'Is this all you want?' and again, Chapman said nothing."
Hummel and Lennon shared a limo to a recording studio, where the ex-Beatle oversaw a mixing session. Hummel, meanwhile, flew to San Francisco.
"John Lennon was on top of the world," says author Ken Sharp, who wrote Starting Over: The Making of John Lennon and Yoko Ono's Double Fantasy. "He and Yoko were planning their first world tour. It was a time of creative rebirth for him."
Shortly after leaving the studio, Lennon was gunned down by Chapman outside the Dakota.
"When I got back to San Francisco, I had a hundred messages on my answering machine, telling me [about Lennon's murder]," recounts Hummel. "When I saw Chapman's picture, I was sickened."
"John was supposed to go out to dinner that night," notes Sharp. Instead, he headed home to put his son Sean to bed. "Had [Lennon] gone to dinner, Chapman may have given up. Who knows if he would have returned? Sadly, we'll never know."
Three decades later, Hummel is ready to part with his historic artifact. "It's time," he concludes. "I've enjoyed it for 30 years, and now it's time for someone else to enjoy it. I'll always have my memories of that day with him, which are understandably, very bittersweet."