Remembering the Marketplace of the Midsouth

A day in the life

Photo File photo by Robert Williams/The Commercial Appeal

The Beatles -- (from left) John Lennon, Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney and George Harrison -- arrive in Memphis in 1966 to give two performances that Aug. 19 at Mid-South Coliseum.

Eighty police provided security for the Beatles show, which was picketed by the KKK. The Commercial Appeal reported a total of 20,128 fans "heard the Liverpudlians bow to Dixie."

The late Fred Griffith, former CA staff photographer, said of the Beatles, "They weren't all that friendly. As I remember it, they acted like they were so much better than any of us. They acted like we were wasting their time, I thought."

1966: Shrieks of delight nearly drown out 'I Feel Fine' when the Beatles come to town By John Beifuss

August 19, 2006 It was 40 years ago today, and the city of Memphis didn't want the band to play.

At least, that was the official stance the Mayor and Board of Commissioners took in a unanimous resolution passed Aug. 10, 1966, to express "official disapproval" and "advise the Beatles that they are not welcome in the City of Memphis."

The Blue Meanies didn't stand a chance.

Forty years ago today, Britain's Beatles -- Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, the late George Harrison and the late John Lennon -- performed two concerts at the Mid-South Coliseum, at 4 and 8:30 p.m. Tickets were $5.50.

The Memphis date was the eighth in a 14-city tour that would be the last ever for the band that remains the most influential in rock history. The Beatles' final stadium concert took place Aug. 29 that year in Candlestick Park, San Francisco.

Eighty police provided security for the Beatles show, which was picketed by the KKK. The Commercial Appeal reported a total of 20,128 fans "heard the Liverpudlians bow to Dixie."

Here's a look back at the day the Beatles came to Memphis:

For each show, the Beatles performed 11 songs in about 28 minutes, after almost two hours of music from an interesting roster of opening acts: The Ronettes; Boston garage greats the Remains; Pennsylvania bubblegum popsters the Cyrkle ("Red Rubber Ball"); and Nashville R&B singer Bobby Hebb ("Sunny"). The first show attracted 7,589 fans; the second, 12,539. Disc jockeys George Klein and Johnny Dark acted as emcees. When the Beatles took the stage, "It kind of reminded me of the movie 'King Kong' when all the flashbulbs started going off," Dark later remembered. "There were so many flashbulbs it was almost like a strobe light."

The late Fred Griffith, former CA staff photographer, said of the Beatles, "They weren't all that friendly. As I remember it, they acted like they were so much better than any of us. They acted like we were wasting their time, I thought."

Onstage, the Beatles -- wearing "modish dull/gray suits" in the afternoon and "dark green creations with chartreuse shirts" at night, according to the newspaper -- exchanged such familiar hits as "I Want to Hold Your Hand" and "A Hard Day's Night" for mostly newer material. The songs performed in Memphis apparently included "Rock and Roll Music," "She's a Woman," "If I Needed Someone," "Day Tripper," "Baby's in Black," "I Feel Fine," "Yesterday," "I Wanna Be Your Man," "Nowhere Man," "Paperback Writer" and "Long Tall Sally." Reported The Commercial Appeal in a front page story the next morning: "The musical performance of the long-haired Englishmen was hard to judge as the shrieks and screams of the paying guests almost drowned them out."

During a between-shows press conference, McCartney noted that "little things, like money" had prevented the Beatles from recording what would become the album "Revolver" at Stax in Memphis. Lennon said the Beatles' admiration for the guitar-playing of Steve Cropper was one of the reasons they wanted to record here. However, Atlantic vice president Gerald Wexler told The Commercial Appeal that Beatles manager Brian Epstein canceled tentative plans for a two-week studio session at Stax because "he was not pleased with the security and housing plans he found during a one-day visit to Memphis."

Memphians familar with the Coliseum will instantly recognize the tiles behind the group here....

The anti-Beatles resolution -- which described Memphis as "a City of Churches" -- was inspired by Lennon's then much-publicized remark that the Beatles were "more popular than Jesus now... I don't know which will go first, rock and roll or Christianity." In the days leading up to the Memphis shows, The Commercial Appeal reported on several "Beatle burnings" in reaction to Lennon -- protest rallies in which Beatles records were broken and burned ("Foot in Moptop's Mouth Is Hot One," stated a headline). The furor prompted Beatles manager Brian Epstein to send Mayor William B. Ingram a telegram that read: "I wish to assure yourself, the people of Memphis and the Mid-South, that the Beatles will not, by word, action or otherwise, in any way offend or ridicule the religious beliefs of anyone... Furthermore, John Lennon deeply and sincerely regrets any offense that he may have caused...."

Eighty police officers worked the show. "I've never had so much security at an event, even Bob Hope," said promoter Early Maxwell. Nevertheless, "Bang Joins Shriek in Beatle Show" was the newspaper's front-page headline after the concert. "The Beatles beat got an unexpected bang last night as a cherry bomb thrown from the balcony of the Mid-South Coliseum caused minor injuries to four spectators," the newspaper reported. Lennon later told an interviewer he thought someone shot at the band.

In addition, "The Ku Klux Klan made its opinion known by picketing at the Southern Avenue entrance to Coliseum grounds," according to the newspaper. "The sheets and hoods lent an incongruous touch to the stream of bell-bottomed trousers, paisley shirts and high-heeled boots worn by the Beatles' faithful..." No wonder the Beatles quit touring.

And no wonder they didn't stick around: They left Memphis at 12:11 a.m. Aug. 20, bound for Cincinnati.

http://www.commercialappeal.com/mca/music/article/0,1426,MCA_505_4927502,00.html


Help

About

Related

Share Your Story

General Mall

Food Court

Retail

Entertainment

Management

Souvenirs

Related Links

edit SideBar

Donate towards my web hosting bill!

edit

Memphis Links Downtown Memphis Blog Pyramid Promises Devin Greaney-Writer Abandoned Baton Rouge