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Contributed by Noel Leaumont
In Recognition of the Beatles New Orleans Concert 9/16/64
One guy broke though the police line, got behind the stage and was approaching Ringo Starr when he was tackled, said Holiday. “What’s significant,” said Spizer, “is that it was the only Beatles concert where fans ran onto the field. It had never happened before.”
But it should have been predictable.
Just as the Beatles were overwhelmed by their reception back in February in New York, the same thing happened here – only worse.
WNOE DJ Captain Humble (Hugh Dillard) recalled how crazy it got. “Hap Glaudi let the cat out of the bag on the air that the Beatles were coming to Lakefront Airport and not Moisant,” he said. The Captain went there to meet the Beatles “but the fans had beaten us there,” he said.
The word had also leaked that The Beatles were going to stay at the Congress Inn on Chef Menteur Highway. And when the Beatles and the WNOE entourage and Holiday got there, it was a madhouse, a hysterical mob scene. The fans had beaten them there, too.
“It was just mobbed, surrounded,” said Humble. “They (police and security) whisked us into the lobby and literally shoved us into broom closets. I wind up in this little one-hole john and I’m with . . . George Harrison?
“He and I are looking at each other and I say, ‘You’re him, aren’t you?’ And he says yeah, I am.” Well, this is all pretty awkward and weird at the same time and there isn’t any room to maneuver. Harrison sees that Humble is wearing a silver serpent ring on his hand, tells him it’s neat and Humble proceeds to give it to him.
“That was my 35 seconds of fame, a toilet between me and George Harrison,” he said. Holiday witnessed a similar incident, watching a panicked Ringo trying to elude several girls. He jumped into a janitor’s broom closet and locked himself in. “He was quite a character. All he wanted to do was go to the French Quarter. So we put two cops on him.”
Paul McCartney, he recalled, was personable and outgoing; George Harrison, “a little on the arrogant side,” and John Lennon seemed “moody and introverted.”
New Orleans was the second to last stop of the Beatles tour. Afterwards they headed for Kansas City where Charlie Finley, the eccentric owner of the Royals, put on the final concert at his baseball park.
Another significant aspect of the N.O. stop, said Spizer, was that “the Beatles got to meet one of their idols, Fats Domino.” Lennon would go on to record “Ain’t That a Shame” and McCartney recorded others. Also, the ticket from that concert is an extremely rare collector’s item.
And while the Beatles’ bed linens were cut up and distributed as souvenirs as they had been in other cities, New Orleans was the only stop that sliced up microphone cords and microphones and packaged them.
One thing that really amuses Spizer is that the anniversary opens up a rare opportunity to find out how old women are, not exactly the most polite question. “But if you ask them how old they were when the Beatles came to town, they just spit it right out.” And then you do the math.
Not long after the New Orleans concert, a rumor began that has persisted through the years: New Orleans was the only stop on the Beatles North American tour that lost money.
Holiday laughed at the thought. “The rumors were that we lost our butt,” he said. That’s all they were, though. Holiday simply didn’t see any reason to refute them. “I made money – don’t worry about that.”
But he did have to sweat it out. Lloyd’s of London told him it would cost $8,000 to insure against a rainout. A quarter of an inch of rain had to fall, but that’s a fairly significant amount. So Holiday did some weather research on that date, Sept. 16. He went back 30 years and discovered it rarely rained.
So he gambled and passed on the insurance.
“The storm clouds started gathering,” he said. At the time, he was watching from a wheelchair and thinking, “I’m gonna take a bath.” He had $30,000 invested. The Beatles came on, did the show and left.”
And after the stands emptied, he said, “All hell broke loose. The skies opened. It was one of the hardest rains I’ve ever seen. I looked upward and breathed a sigh of relief. I rolled the dice and came up a winner. Somebody up there was watching over me.”
It’s hard to believe four decades have gone by since the Liverpool lads stormed into New Orleans, causing female teenie-boppers to shriek and howl, swoon and throw themselves on the ground at the sight of the Fab Four.
“It was pandemonium. It was nuts,” said Herb Holiday, who booked the Beatles and promoted the concert, with WNOE-AM radio handling the advertising and on-air promotion.
“We had kids dropping out of trees hanging over the fence (around the stadium) like they were apples. The cops were trying to round them up and I told them, “Let ‘em go. I don’t care. We’re sold out. Get your guys in front of the stage now!”
For the most part, the officers managed to hold off a sea of hormones run amok, frenzied, out-of-control fans who at times shrieked and made so much noise it was difficult to hear the songs, Holiday said.
Retired WTIX DJ Bob Walker watched the concert through the fence where there was an opening in the stands because, he said, “I couldn’t afford the $5 ticket. All I saw was Ringo’s back for the entire time.” Which prompted Holiday to say, “He probably heard the music better than being inside.”
Beatles historian/author Bruce Spizer said not long into the concert, several hundred female teens bolted from their seats and raced onto the field. Police and security guards had difficulty holding off the surge but finally got it under control.
A young heavyweight boxer named Cassius Clay KO’d champion Sonny Liston and then changed his name to Muhammad Ali. The year was 1964. And on September 16th that year, the Beatles, after a lengthy and incredibly successful tour in the U.S. that began on the Ed Sullivan Show on February 9th in New York City, brought Beatlemania to City Park Stadium where they played before a sellout crowd of 27,000-plus.
Tickets were $5, the same as for their concert at Carnegie Hall. A proclamation issued by Mayor Vic Schiro making that day “Beatles Day in New Orleans” was autographed by all four Beatles, who called him, “Lord Mayor.”
It commemorated the 40th anniversary of the Beatles' New Orleans concert. Unfortunately, on the morning of Sunday, September 16, 2004, the day this article was published, the entire city of New Orleans was evacuating because of the approaching Hurricane Ivan (a near miss). Here now is the great article that you probably didn't get to read!
The Beatles were housed in New Orleans at the Congress Inn on Chef Menteur Highway ... a MOTEL. The Beatles fee for the concert was reportedly $5,000.
LBJ was in the White House, “My Fair Lady” and Rex Harrison beat out “Zorba the Greek” and Anthony Quinn for Academy Awards, “The Girl From Ipanema” took home the Grammy for best single and best album and the Cardinals beat the Yankees, 4-3 in the World Series behind Bob Gibson.