THE BEATLES COME TO MINNEAPOLIS

 

The Beatles came to town on August 21, 1965 and had a terrible time. 

 

"Big Reggie" (aka Ray Colihan) from Danceland met them in Chicago in 1964 on their first tour; the photo below is dated September 5, 1964, according to the Internet source.

 

                    

 

Reggie hired them for their second US tour in 1965, one of 11 concerts.  He asked Bill Diehl of WDGY to be the M.C.  Diehl went to Chicago to see them in action and to spend a day and a half with them.  He brought back 16 mm film he took of the concert at the Stock Yards Amphiteater. 

 

Although Beatlemania was into its second year, it was still very real.  Their movie "Help!" was showing at the Orpheum Theaters in Minneapolis and St. Paul, and the album of the same name had just been released.  Hoffbeck (see sources below) says that the concert was heavily advertised on rival rock 'n' roll radio stations KDWB and WDGY, one minute each hour for several months. Bill Diehl remembers that Colihan only publicized it by word of mouth and some print, but not on the radio, for fear of pandemonium (which they got anyway). Tickets were $2.50, $3.50, $4.50 and $5.50.  The group received a guarantee of $50,000 and an additional 65 percent of sales above 18,500 tickets.  30,000 tickets were sold, earning Colihan a profit even though the 40,000-seat stadium was not sold out, the only non-sellout on the tour.  (Was the fee delivered in cash at the last minute in a Red Owl grocery bag?)

 

                        


 


 

ARRIVAL


Things didn't start well when they were attacked at the airport by 3-4,000 crazed fans when they got off their chartered plane at 4:15 pm. Ringo was the first off the plane and a fan pushed through the cyclone fence and yanked at him.  Paul may have been accosted as well.  Plans for some picture taking were abandoned and they barely got into their car before the mob escaped the 60 Bloomington policemen.  A blogger says that Pete Heckman picked them up from the airport and took them directly to the stadium.  Pete also drove them back to the airport the next day.
 


 

THE LOCKER ROOM


They waited for the show to go on in the Twins’ locker room at the Met Stadium.  Reported activities included:

  • Lounging on cots - Ray Crump (the Minnesota Twins equipment manager) later sold the sheets to an ad agency for $800. The sheets were eventually cut up and given away in drawings at Dayton’s.
  • Dining on salad, roast beef, mashed potatoes, green beans, and milk  - Diehl later retrieved the dirty dishes and gave them away in a contest.
  • John Lennon watched a wrestling match on TV.
  • Ringo sat in Harmon Killebrew's chair.
  • Paul played guitar in a corner.
  • They took a sauna for the first time, according to Crump.
  • Playing roulette with Brian Epstein to see who would keep the money from sales of souvenir programs.  Crump said that after 45 minutes whichever one who won "took all the loot."
  • Crump also said that the boys were very businesslike backstage, unlike their public personae.  "It reminded me of [pro]wrestlers being different on camera and off."

                 

 

               

 

Photos of Ringo, John, Paul, and George with and Ray Crump posted on Old Minneapolis Facebook page by Jill Griffith; taken by her father, who worked in concessions.


 

PRESS CONFERENCE


Before the concert, the Fab Four held a press conference in the Minnesota Room of the stadium.  Facing them were 12 microphones, 5 TV cameras, 150 reporters, and a few teenage "observers" who had won a contest.  Most of the questions were silly but then so were most of the answers.  Somehow they kept coming back to their hair.
 

              

 

Ron Butwin, local musician and B-Sharp Music employee:

When the Remo Four - another English group - were in town a few weeks back [Randy Resnick and I] showed them [a Rickenbacker 360-12, an electric 12-string guitar in a Fireglo red sunburst finish] when they visited our store, and they flipped over it. The group knew the Beatles, and one of the fellows said that George Harrison would love to have a guitar like this. I decided that Randy and I should present it to him when he came to town, with our thanks to the Beatles for causing the guitar business to boom.

At the press conference, Butwin and Resnick presented George with the guitar on behalf of the musicians of Minnesota.  A picture of the presentation appeared in the Minneapolis paper. George was genuinely touched and used the guitar during the show, but it disappeared a year later after their last concert in Candlestick Park in San Francisco.  [Another account says the guitar was not used on the US tour, but Harrison played it on "If I Needed Someone" on 1965's "Rubber Soul."]
 

                          


In a letter dated 7 September, 1965, George expressed his appreciation in a letter to Butwin:

I cannot tell you how much I appreciated your generosity in giving me such an expensive guitar when we were in Minneapolis.  As you know, I did have the older model, but I'll definitely be using the new one in the future, both for recording sessions and stage appearances.

Fred Anderson reveals how a picture of the Beatles at the press conference with the second issue of Twin City a' GoGo ended up on the cover of the third issue: a' Go Go editor Bruce Goldstein made arrangements with Big Reggie to put copies of Issue #2 on the tables. The cover of #2 had pictures of the individual Beatles, and the mop-tops (except Ringo) looked at the magazines and played with them and such.  The photo on the cover of issue #3 of the magazine was of the Beatles with Issue #2.  The picture was taken by Kent Kobersteen of the Minneapolis Tribune. Fred (who worked as a copy boy there) made a print of the negative and slipped it to Bruce.
 

            


Bill Carlson (not the broadcaster) was a high school student in 1965, working with Merle Morris, a stringer for UPI. When none of Morris' regular photographers took an interest in seeing the Beatles, Carlson got a press pass and took hundreds of photos that day with his Hasselblad and Nikon cameras.  The photos were forgotten until 2007 when Carlson published them in a hardcover book called The Beatles!:  A One Night Stand in the Heartland, which is available on Amazon.
 


 

THE SHOW

 

Local groups the Accents, Underbeats, TC Atlantic, and Gregory Dee and the Avanties played in the concourses (the Underbeats were embarrassed by that more than anything, according to an interview.) 


The show started at 7:30.  Opening acts on the tour were Brenda Holloway and the King Curtis Band, and Cannibal & The Headhunters.  Sounds Incorporated (not to be confused with Sounds Orchestral), was another British group managed by Brian Epstein.  They had no hits but had appeared in a couple of films; their thing was apparently putting the classics to a rock beat.

 

The Beatles ran out of the dugout to the elevated stage at the pitcher's mound.  Enduring terrible acoustics, the lads sang 11 songs in 35 minutes:

  • She's A Woman
  • I Feel Fine
  • Dizzy Miss Lizzy
  • Ticket To Ride
  • Everybody's Trying To Be My Baby
  • Can't Buy Me Love
  • Baby's In Black
  • I Wanna Be Your Man
  • A Hard Day's Night
  • Help!
  • I'm Down

There is a plaque at the Mall of America at the spot where they played, about 40 yards from the closest fan.  Security guards and ushers were armed with smelling salts for fainting fans. The number of police has been estimated as up to 350 and came from Bloomington and Hennepin and Ramsey Counties.  Reports conflict as to whether the concert had to be cut short when fans rushed the field.  Hoffbeck says that one fan broke free and went running but was intercepted by police and hurled back over the fence.

 

Photo Minnesota Historical Society

 

A typical Beatles exit was made with a decoy limo and a real escape in a Falconers’ laundry van (they sat on folding chairs).


 

RADIO STATION HI-JINKS

 

Rock stations WDGY and KDWB were in mortal competition during these years, and did everything in their power to associate themselves with the Beatles.   

 

Sam Sherwood, General Manager of KDWB, had met the Beatles in New York back in 1964 when they were in town to appear on the Ed Sullivan Show.  He hung out with them at the Plaza Hotel and secured a phone line to the room.  He called Lou Riegert back at the station in Minneapolis and Lou interviewed the boys on the air.  Sam also somehow (he's not telling) surreptitiously obtained an acetate of each new Beatles song from a secret source in New York, hid it in his desk, and when he got the go-ahead, he transferred it to disk and put it on the air.  Over the record the DJ would announce "This is a KDWB exclusive" so nobody could tape it and use it on another station.  Sam says he was successful with this on all the records except for the German version of "I Wanna Hold Your Hand." 

 

In 1965, when Big Reggie made the deal for the Beatles to come to Minneapolis, Sam went to Chicago and met with the "real promoter," telling him that if he gave the whole show to WDGY, KDWB would never play any Beatles songs again.  So the promoter promised to divide the promotion 50-50 between the two stations.  KDWB got the limo concession, with mobile phones so the boys could talk to the DJs while in transit to Met Stadium. 

 

Sherwood says that KDWB was supposed to get the press conference, but Bill Diehl of WDGY knew George Harrison's sister, Louise Harrison Caldwell, and got exclusive coverage, with the conference broadcast on WDGY, WDGY flags on all the microphones, and a "Welcome to WDGY Land" banner behind the table.  Sherwood retaliated by telling his reporters to take all the front spots and prefacing their questions with "KDWB wants to know..."  When one question didn't start out that way, Lennon asked, "Wait a minute, doesn't KDWB want to know?" 

 

Bill Diehl got the honor of introducing the stars of the show, prefaced with a warning that the show would be stopped if the fans rushed the stage (met with major boos).  His introduction was, "A funny thing happened to me on the way to the show....  THE BEATLES!!"

 

But Sherwood had another trick up his sleeve.  To create a "headline event," he hired a helicopter with a banner that said "KDWB Welcomes the Beatles."  The concert started, and he waited and waited and the thing didn't come, and it was getting dark, and finally there it was, buzzing the stadium.  John Lennon used his guitar to shoot at the helicopter, and Sherwood got a huge kick out of the stunt.

 


 

THE LEAMINGTON MOTOR LODGE


Their not-so-luxurious accommodations were the entire 5th floor of the Leamington Motor Lodge (not the hotel) at 4th Ave. and 10th Street in downtown Minneapolis - decoys were set up at much better digs but word got out and the place was mobbed with girls trying to get in. Bill Diehl remembers "grown women" climbing up downspouts on the outside of the building, trying to get in, with cops pulling them down.  

 

Police Inspector Donald R. Dwyer did not mince words expressing his distain for the mop tops, calling them a "typical traveling troupe," akin to circus performers.  He claimed he'd found a girl in Paul’s room and charged him with making a “false hotel reservation.” Fortunately, the girl was able to prove that she was 21 (and from Cleveland). Dwyer told the Minneapolis Star that “Those people are the worst I have ever seen visit this city,” and in a press conference said "if they did not come [back] it would be too soon for me."

 

But Diehl says that he was up there with the Beatles, and that there was no way that, with all the money invested in them, that Brian Epstein would allow them to be involved with the scandal of having girls in their rooms, and that the police lied about what went on.  Diehl said that the whole thing was blown completely out of proportion, and when the Beatles said they'd never come back to Minneapolis, Bill said he didn't blame them.   (McCartney did return, though, on June 4, 1976, with his band Wings. The show at the St. Paul Civic Center did sell out.)

 

The Leamington Motor Lodge, saturated with the cigarette smoke of 100,000 traveling salesmen, was mercifully demolished in February 2008.
 


 

ESCAPE FROM MINNESOTA


The group emerged from the motel at 11 the next morning.  As their chartered Electra airplane headed to Portland, Oregon, one of its engines caught fire while on automatic pilot - apparently the human being pilots were busy meeting the Beatles.  The plane made it to Portland and was replaced by a Constellation aircraft for the rest of the tour.  The Electra later crashed in Oklahoma in 1966. 

 


 

AFTERMATH

 

After the concert, Big Reggie was heard to say "Their manager just told me this was the best behaved bunch of kids they had played to yet.." 

 

Correspondent Richard reports that "the next day my friends showed me certificates they had gotten that stated that they had seen the Beatles live at Met Stadium.  The format of the certificate was loosely based on the format of a graduation certificate."

 

After seeing the girls screaming, hundreds of Minnesota boys headed to the music stores to buy guitars, and scores of Minnesota rock bands were formed. 

 

Beatle fashions were also in vogue, with turtlenecks (available at Dayton's), Beatle Boots, and of course, Beatle haircuts.  Wigs were actually popular, since some boys couldn't wear their long hair at their jobs or at school. 

 

Met Stadium was demolished in 1985, and the Mall of America sits on the site today.


In 1995 KSTP-TV produced a video called "The Beatles:  Minnesota Mania!"  The video includes an extensive interview of Bill Diehl and members of Minnesota bands from that era.  It also includes the footage Diehl took of the Chicago show that immediately preceded the Minnesota appearance.  The production is now available on DVD from VideoBeat.

 

B-Sharp Music burned to the ground in May 2005, destroying autographed photos of the Beatles.

 

A film featuring footage shot by fans during the Beatles' tours in the '60s is in the works. 

  
                                        

 

 

                       

           Lou Riegert, James Frances Patrick O'Neill, Don Bowman, Charlie Brown, Sam Sherwood, & Car Owner

           Photo courtesy Sam Sherwood

 

 

The above information comes from a number of sources, including:

  • Interview with Bill Diehl
  • Interview with Sam Sherwood
  • Article by Jon Bream and Kevin Odegard in the StarTribune
  • "Instamatic Memories, The Beatles in Minnesota," by Steven R. Hoffbeck, Minnesota History Magazine, Spring 2007.  Click here to download a pdf of this very well researched article. 

 

 

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