Wednesday, February 12, 2014
New book chronicles The Beatles’ 1964 Dallas visit and U.S. tour
The book includes rare photos and forgotten stories to tell "the backstage story."
As September 18 nears we’ll no doubt rewind the tape to that night 50 years ago when the Beatles invaded Memorial Auditorium (and the Cabana Motor Hotel) and, in the words of The News‘ Larry Grove, the kids went “wild, wild, wild.” After all, ’tis the season following Sunday night’s kick-off courtesy CBS, which had a handful of highlights sprinkled amongst the say-what-now’s and oh-that’s-not-right’s.
There have been numerous recaps and recollections of the Beatles’ trip to Dallas, but Chuck Gunderson’s latest look-back at least looks the best to date: His two-volume tome Some Fun Tonight! The Backstage Story of How the Beatles Rocked America details the band’s three North American tours, only one of which brought them to Dallas (for the penultimate show of the ’64 tour, before a New York farewell). It’s not cheap: $175, including shipping and handling. But from the looks of the 12-page Dallas chapter alone, which Gunderson was kind enough to send, it’s expansive and close to comprehensive.
It took eight years to gather the information and all of 2013 to assemble, says Gunderson. “It was quite a process. I had to go beyond the newspapers and talk to the promoters and DJs that were there and some of the fans and the entourage and some of the people on the Beatles’ team to get the back story.” And for the Dallas chapter, he used local Beatles collector Mark Naboshek as his go-to man — “because,” says Gunderson, “I wanted to make sure we got things right.”
What’s most intriguing is how the footnotes of history reveal some of the biggest surprises, among them: The tour almost ended in Houston on September 19, per the suggestion of Norm Weiss of the booking agency General Artists Corporation, who wanted the band to play 33,000-capacity Colt Stadium. Writes Gunderson, “The sponsoring station would be KNOZ, and they projected a potential gross of $100,000.” But Beatles manager Brian Epstein hedged his bets, booking the band into much, much smaller Memorial Auditorium, which only held 10,000. Tickets, sold only at the Preston Ticket Agency inside the Preston State Bank, were gone in a day. (The band would play Houston in August 1965.)
Gunderson chronicles the concerns that accompanied the Beatles to Dallas only a year after the assassination of President John Kennedy in Dealey Plaza: John Lennon asked one journalist if there’d be “a lot of guns, huh?” Dallas Police Chief Jesse Curry posted 29 officers around the Cabana. Girls, pressed against plate-glass windows that eventually shattered, were cut and hospitalized. As George Harrison would later write, “Dallas was another madness.”
All of which is captured in the 3,500 words or so spent on Dallas — from the band’s arrival to departure, from Bert Shipp’s one-on-Fab-Four to the 12-song set, from the strange greeting (Dallas Civic Opera Association’s Kathleen Lingo escorted them off the plane at Dallas Love Field) to the long meeting in the boys’ hotel room with Stephanie Pinter and Yolanda Hernandez of the Dallas chapter of the National Beatles Fan Club and a girl named Marie Leggett.
And most of the photos are by a Dallas legend: Bob Jackson, who, during his tenure at the Dallas Times Herald, took the Pulitzer Prize-winning photo of the shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald. Most of them you’ve likely never seen: Some ran in the Herald, says Jackson from his Colorado home, but most are among the coveted outtakes in Jackson’s historic archives.
“I had never witnessed the frenzy that surfaced with all the fans, mostly the teenyboppers,” says Jackson, who would prefer to celebrate this 50th anniversary than the grim commemoration that filled most of 2013. “I’d never seen it before. Since then it’s happened quite a few times with different quote-unquote celebrities. But back then, after we covered their Dallas concert, I got a phone call from a gal who said she was president of the Beatles Fan Club, and she had a lot of people who wanted to buy photos. So she acted as my agent, and I sold prints to fan club members. My wife’s real happy we have these Beatles shots. She was 11 then, and she fell in love with McCartney like the rest of them did, so she always enjoys looking at them.”
Gunderson was here not so long ago — in April of last year. And, of course, he visited Memorial Auditorium, long ago incorporated into the Dallas Convention Center but still very much the venue that hosted the likes of Led Zeppelin, the Who, the Grateful Dead and Elvis and other hall-of-fame echoes.
“It’s literally unchanged,” Gunderson says. “It’s amazing to me. Dallas is one of the few venues that’s unchanged from when the Beatles played. I know it’s part of the bigger convention center, but literally you talk in the door you could find a ticket stub from someone who went and sit in that seat. That’s pretty neat.”