FORT WAYNE – So where were you 50 years ago tonight?
And if you didn’t see the Beatles on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” then what was your first encounter with the Beatles?
The Journal Gazette asked a few Fort Wayne personalities about their Beatles memories, and here’s what they said:
Randy Brown, general manager, Memorial Coliseum
“I remember, with the grocery store my folks had, by the gumball machine that was up front by the doors, there were Beatle buttons. Everything was the Beatles at that time. You talk about merchandising. These folks had great management in terms of that. It was there. It was in your face. They were right with Elvis. They were one of the hottest phenomenons at the time.
“They were one of the very first super groups of the day. They set the standard. There weren’t many groups that could sell out 20, 30,000-seats at a stadium, or that even tried.”
Favorite Beatles song: “A Hard Day’s Night”
Bob Chase, WOWO radio
“We did the Beatles tour to Indianapolis at WOWO when they were down there and had a chance to meet them in a special session. We didn’t have much time with them because they were so besieged, but they were a pretty good bunch. They weren’t as cocky as they might appear. I’ve got a lot of respect for them.
“The Beatles seemed to revel more in the open adulation they got. They just let ’er fly. I was concerned a couple times down there because I just thought the crowd was going to go, but they didn’t. They had a lot of good security there. It was a phenomenon. It was a whole new style of music that we didn’t realize at the moment was going to sweep the world. And it did. It was nice to be privy to it at an early time.”
Favorite Beatles song: “Yesterday”
Andrew Constantine, music director, conductor, Fort Wayne Philharmonic
“It’s just the quality that endures. … If it doesn’t have the quality, then subsequent generations have no attachment to political statements of the time or any other social factors.
“Like ‘Taxman’ (off “Revolver”), I really didn’t know it at first, but now listening to the words of the song, saying ‘Mr. Wilson’ this and ‘Mr. Heath’ that – I know who these people are. But American audiences, international audiences and British audiences of my kids’ generation (Constantine is British-born), they don’t know who these people were. They don’t know that these were politicians in the 1960s; that (Harold) Wilson was the Prime Minister, and that (Edward) Heath followed him.
“Then you think, well, it doesn’t matter. You don’t need to know all of that. You get the quality of music and the relevance of the lyrics for every generation.”
Favorite Beatles song: “Eleanor Rigby”
Jack Hammer, executive director, Three Rivers Festival
“This was my first memory of the Beatles: I was with my mother and brother Christmas shopping at Mr. Wiggs on the bypass. They had Beatle wigs and Beatle boots on sale on an end cap, and I was begging – begging my mother by putting on a wig and acting like a Beatle, and wanting the boots. I think I got turned down. It was kind of a plastic boot that would fit over almost any size shoe. It was something that was right there on the end cap – right when you’re leaving. It was that popular – that big – and I wanted to be one of those English mop tops.”
Favorite Beatles song: “In My Life”
Tom Henry, Fort Wayne mayor
“Obviously, when they first came out, we were glued to the TV. We all grew our hair long. I was only 12 years old.
“My friends and I would stand in front of Mom and Dad’s little picture window, and we would turn the stereo up, and we would act like we were the Beatles. There would be four of us standing there, trying to lip sync, and we’d try to get the girls to stand in front of us and scream. That didn’t work. But we thought we were good.”
Favorite Beatles song: “Hey Jude”
Tom Kelley, president, Kelley Automotive Group
“I was 11, and we were sitting there watching it, and my dad thought it was the hokiest thing he had ever seen. Of course, my dad was pretty straight-laced. But these guys came out with these tight black pants and pointy shoes, and he was pretty much not in favor of it. And all of these girls, of course, were going insanely crazy. I remember like it was yesterday, sitting in front of our TV, and it was in black and white. My sister thought it was the coolest thing in the world. But I didn’t realize it was going to change the whole music culture. The response was insane. And I remember that, after that first show – the TV, newspaper – they instantly became world famous.”
Favorite Beatles song: “Yellow Submarine”
Melissa Long, news anchor, WPTA Channel 21
“I have a distinct recollection of driving down Hartman Road with my whole family – I have a younger brother, too – and one of the Beatles songs came on the air. I don’t know what it was. And my dad was sort of – you know how a lot of parents were back then, that this was long-hair, hippie-type rock ’n’ roll stuff – but he let the song play, and my brother knew every word. Then he started imitating Paul. ... I was very young – maybe older than 5. But a year or two after that, I really became aware of them. And obviously I’ve been a huge, huge Beatles fan my whole life.”
Favorite Beatles song: “Mean Mr. Mustard” medley
Kenny Taylor, musician
“I have a brother named Stanley, who is 16 years older than me. He came home, and he hands me ‘Rubber Soul.’ I’m watching ‘Gumby and Pokey,’ which was my favorite show at the time.
“And I got in my bedroom, and I had this tiny little record player, and I put it on the record player, and I remember running back and forth from the living room to the bedroom to listen to the new Beatles album and watch ‘Gumby and Pokey’ at the same time. I might’ve been like 4 1/2 at the time. I know I was pretty little.
“I remember ‘Michelle’ just killing me. Just killing me!”
Favorite Beatles song: “Please Please Me”
Steve Walley, IPFW teacher, history of rock ’n’ roll
“We had rock ’n’ roll of the ’50s – of Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry, and those guys faded for different reasons.
“In the early ’60s, everybody thought rock ’n’ roll had disappeared, and they all said, ‘Well, that was nice, but it’s gone.’ Then all of a sudden the Beatles came along. Especially with their talent as songwriters, they transformed rock ’n’ roll from just the basic love songs and three-chord guys to extremely complex songwriting.”
Favorite Beatles song: “Nowhere Man”
Doc West, WXKE-FM radio
“After Ed Sullivan (show), they came to Miami. And what happened was the day they landed at Miami International Airport, a lot of kids took off and played hooky that day to greet them at the airport.
“Of course, I was too young to be in that hip crowd. The trick was, the girls my age – a lot of them took off. Being a boy, I wasn’t as enamored at being one of the shrieking teens.
“I remember that day because, ‘Where is so and so?’ Oh, they went to go see the Beatles land.”
Favorite Beatles song: “Mean Mr. Mustard” medley