February 9th marks the 50th anniversary of The Beatles appearing for the first time on the Ed Sullivan show. Craig Moore, a local musician and owner of Younger Than Yesterday and Strawberry Fields has put together a tribute show to that night which happens a week from today. Below, Craig and some of the musicians who are going to be part of this concert share their memories of that night and how The Beatles influenced their lives. The non-Beatle photos accompanying the memories are from rehearsals that took place for next week’s show.
CRAIG MOORE (Show organizer, the Temporary Tribute Band, Ready Steady Go): A local television news producer recently asked me to comment on the significance of the February 9th, 50th Anniversary of the Beatles debut in America. How could I possibly explain the significance of a moment in time that forever changed the direction of not only my life, but has continued impacting the lives and the very social fabric of countless people around the world?
Yes, this celebration has major significance to me personally, but also to the amazing group of performers who are joining in on our musical extravaganza that is happening a week from this Sunday. To that end, I asked those good people to comment and those who had time to do so before the publishing deadline for this MBIP post also contributed to this poor attempt to define the day that changed the world with optimism in a time of despair back in 1964.
As for me, I discovered the Beatles in March of 1963 when WLS radio in Chicago attempted for several weeks to launch “Please Please Me” on the influential Chicago-based record label Vee Jay, but with little success. Within 4 weeks it had disappeared from the WLS airwaves entirely, despite being assigned #40 on March 8 and up to #35 on March 15 on the WLS “Silver Dollar Survey.”
That summer Del Shannon hit the Top 40 with his cover of “From Me To You” ahead of Vee Jay’s release of the Beatles original single, which promptly suffered an even worse fate than “Please Please Me” had. WLS never played the Beatles version and it failed to chart anywhere in the USA during 1963. A similar fate befell “She Loves You” in October after it was given a lowly 71 rating on Dick Clark's American Bandstand during the "Rate-A-Record" segment. I saw that happen, but “She Loves You” didn’t hit me like “Please Please Me” had.
But then came Jack Paar and the CBS Evening News reports in January of 1964, the rush-release of the thrilling “I Want To Hold Your Hand” on Capitol, and clearly something was up. This record was undeniable, and shortly thereafter Ed Sullivan announced that this band of English lads would appear on his show on February 9.
Like millions of other teenagers, I sat glued to the TV at 7PM that night, my nose about two inches from the screen, trying absorb all of the energy that the Beatles themselves and all those screaming girls were generating. When my dad made some derogatory remark about their hair I told him to “shut up”, which (A.) was my first-ever act of rebellion, and (B.) he did.
On that night in 1964, my dreams of becoming a radio disc jockey morphed almost instantly into somehow getting on a stage and having all of those girls, previously untouchable, at my fingertips. Male & female hormones alike exploded around the world. The gloom of the Kennedy assassination and all fear of nuclear holocaust among the youth of America disappeared overnight.
In April myself and three friends lip-synched to five Beatles songs in the school cafeteria on ‘Character Day’ and I literally made my first appearance on a stage with a guitar (that I couldn’t play) in my hands. Within two years I transformed from High School DJ to promoter/booking agent for two local bands to finally forming my own group, and in 1966 that first band released a record that has gone on to make GONN a garage band legend.
Our first record made it possible for us to reunite in 1990, to appear all over Europe several times over the past 10 years, to continue recording and playing for new generations, and allowing us to stay in touch with our teenage selves into our seniority in real terms. It’s been magic.
The rest of my own story would read like a rock ‘n roll version of “War & Peace” and fill just such a volume (or two), but let it be said that the Beatles utterly and unquestionably changed my life permanently and in ways that I could never have foreseen and would not go back and change.
The fact that I have been a working musician, recording artist and producer, record shop owner, booking agent & group manager, promoter, and everything else I have ever done in my life relative to music can be traced directly to that 16-year-old kid telling the old man to shut up on February 9, 1964, and one immortal band. Now, why on earth would I want to commemorate such a date?
Yet it goes way beyond any feeling I had about the anniversary within myself. There was a cosmic confluence at work when we started organizing this event, and I am certain that everyone from the musicians to the Limelight Eventplex partners to local media and countless supporters in the business community all felt it as if by some sort of osmosis.
I can only call it “magic.”
Finally, in retrospect I have said many times that the Beatles brought hope, optimism and joy back into a world that had been devastated by assassinations, war, and the fear of nuclear annihilation. The youth of the world found in The Beatles a sense of wonder and melody and excitement, a touchstone that was no less than restorative and exhilarating. In that spirit, it was decided to make this event a benefit for modern generations of children and young people also in need of a healthy dose of joy and hope.
Thus, the people you will meet at the door on February 9th will be volunteers from the Central Illinois Dream Factory and St. Jude’s, groups to whom the profits from the show will go, with a portion of the proceeds also going into the Washington High School Tornado Relief Fund.
To my mind, it is a 50 year journey around a full circle.
GREG WILLIAMS (Local legend and founding member of “Ready Steady Go,” among many others): I was playing in a genuine, working band in the summer after my 8th grade graduation, doing a mix of guitar instrumentals (The Ventures were certified gods), surf music, and early 60s standards, before the Beatles came over.
Like ten zillion other teenagers, I became aware of The Beatles when I first heard "I Want To Hold Your Hand" and "She Loves You" on the radio, but compared to what our stagnant U.S. pop charts had to offer, these guys were so unique they may as well have come down from Mars. So, as much impact as their 1st Ed Sullivan appearance did make on me, the sheer power of their phenomenon served more as a galvanizing thumbs-up that I'd already chosen the right career.
Avoiding the risk of verbose blathering about social/cultural trending and upheaval, I (and this is a musician's prejudiced opinion) claim that The Beatles did more in a relatively short time span to change music for the better on planet Earth, than anyone before them, or since.
The Beatles' 50th Anniversary wasn't exactly lost on me, as I've always been a huge fan, but I just assumed there would be a few television specials and radio Beatle-marathons, and the day would pass. Craig Moore, however, would not, and could not possibly let the day pass. And so Peoria has been gifted with as extravagant a tribute event as any true Beatles fan could wish for.
A collection of talented musicians from five decades, playing great music, at an exciting new Peoria venue...for a beautiful cause. This time, Craig threw me an offer I couldn't refuse, I didn't, and I Feel Fine!
DARREN PEACOCK (The Flying D’rito Brothers): I was 4 years old when the Beatles arrived in the USA, but I was aware of Beatles music in short bursts as a kid. A quick snippet of “Eleanor Rigby” in the back seat of the parents car. An older neighbor mentioning the name Ringo Starr. The haircut of my baby sitter. She called it the Beatle cut.The color photo of the “Sgt. Pepper” centerfold in Life magazine sticking out behind a recliner in our living room.
It was the background music to my very early childhood. At the age of twelve, I had begun guitar lessons and wasn't all that interested until I saw a rerun of the Shea Stadium concert on the Ed Sullivan Show. It was 1971 and I could not believe the girls and the volume of the screams. Puberty was also playing a role. I suddenly realized I had one of those guitars in my closet. The power was at my finger tips.
The Beatles were the first generation in England that didn't have to join the service. They never had to join the establishment. Since they were never told no, or had to abide by rules, The Beatles ended up breaking every rule. Especially the one that said you had to be a trained musician to play and create music. They were the first band that called their own shots.
I'm a Beatles freak. On January 30th, I celebrated the fact that The Beatles played their last set on the Apple rooftop in 1969. I would have watched the TV shows on the 9th. Instead, I received a phone call from Craig Moore about doing this show. I'm thrilled to be a part of it and finally work with so many local musicians that I have admired for so many years.
I'm looking forward to the show obviously, but Peoria has needed an establishment like the Limelight Eventplex for years. I'm wishing them great success and will be attending many shows in the future.
JON HILL (The Nikbeats): When The Beatles first landed in America I was just a few weeks shy of my third birthday. I don't recall if I even saw The Ed Sullivan Show at that age, but I'm guessing I was probably already asleep.
By the time I became more aware of popular music a few years later, The Beatles became my musical obsession. I had older brothers who played their records and shared stories they had read or heard about. Listening to and singing along with Beatles songs was part of my childhood.
We'd make-believe we were in a group and cutout flat cardboard guitars that we'd paint and draw on. My first LP was The Beatles Second Album, on Capitol. I treasured that record. In the mid 1960s my oldest brother switched from cello to guitar and he quickly excelled. On occasion, he would allow me to hold the pick and strum his guitar while he played the chord progressions of songs I'd ask him to play. His acoustic guitar was so big that I struggled to hold it by myself, let alone have the strength to push the strings down on the fret board.
Instead of immersing myself in learning to play an instrument, I started buying and trading records, finding magazines and books about the Beatles, along with other groups of that era. The Beatles had broken up before I was 10 years old, but their music remained fresh and more relevant to me than most of the popular music of my adolescence.
In my late teens I heard a number of local groups, but none captured my attention more than Kool Ray and the Polaroids and Ready Steady Go! The music they played took me back to my childhood and this sparked my interest in learning to play guitar.
After a few years of developing some basic skills and playing in start up bands, I was fortunate to have an opportunity to learn from members of these groups and eventually I became bandmates and friends with many of them. After 25 plus years of playing in bands, it's still a blast to play the music from the soundtrack of my childhood...The music of The Beatles.
The Beatles were a catalyst for a generation who chose to chart different paths than their parents. They influenced culture with their exuberance, talent, style and appeal. Their influence was not only felt in musical performance, but also in musical composition, dance, drama, art, fashion, poetry, literature, language, electronics and other technology and cultural traits.
Early in their careers, both Sinatra and Presley created a mania among their young adoring fans and both enhanced their longevity and staying power through film and TV, and both continued performing into the twilight of their careers in Vegas with continued loyal fanfare. Both performers were icons of their time and will continue to be regarded as the best of their era.
Sinatra and Presley both received songwriting credits, but neither were considered accomplished songwriters. Songwriting is where The Beatles eclipsed other performers in success and influence.
The Beatles popularity went well beyond that of other groups, spreading across continents, cultures and classes. They worked relentlessly honing their skills, songwriting and recordings. With each new record, they pushed the envelope in creativity, experimentation and technology, re-inventing themselves many times over. With every change, they continued to influence culture in numerous ways.
In hindsight, February 9, 1964 represented a new beginning for America. The Beatles appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show sparked what became an unprecedented cultural revolution. Overnight, a phenomenon was unleashed that not only influenced society during the decade of Beatlemania, but The Beatles impact continues to be celebrated some 50 years on.
DOUG JOHNSON (The Nikbeats): As a kid, watching the Ed Sullivan Show was a ritual we did as a family. I think that's where I probably first saw The Beatles. My family sat there in complete silence as if we doubted our experience. We couldn't fully process what had just happened. I’m not sure I can, even now. Music became the only thing that had any importance to me. I remember that I used to get mad at my school.The teachers who taught me weren't cool….
I had an album at one time with the title, "The Beatles Vs. The Four Seasons .” Puhleeze! The Rat Pack? When The Beatles emerged, they became a novelty act trying hopelessly to still be cool and failing miserably. Poor Elvis was already making those dreadful movies where he was a helicopter pilot in Hawaii, so he was out. The Beatles were the last of the great classical composers to date. They were masters of those theoretical concepts but were constantly pushing the envelope. Bach did the same thing with his involvement in tempering the keyboard. Beethoven introduced the no-no of parallel 5ths. I believe that this 50 year celebration is testament that The Beatles are in that league.
I'm not good with dates or the passage of time so I wasn't thinking, "Oooh! February 9th is coming up!" But after Craig invited me to be in on this, I became increasingly aware that we were talking about fifty years. That kind of longevity is reserved for Bach or Mozart or Beethoven.
It's great to see so many musicians I've been out of touch with but have so much affection for. How many times has a handshake turned into a hug? And music is still all these guys' lifeblood. As for the charities this event will benefit—Illinois Dream Factory, St. Jude's, and Washington Illinois High School Tornado Relief Fund—I think you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who wouldn't agree that showing love for children is one of the most important things we can do.
The event itself? The music The Beatles created is still as current and breathtaking as the day I first heard it. I don't see this event as a memorial as much as a reaffirmation, kind of like renewing one's wedding vows.
DAN SUTTON (The Temporary Tribute Band and numerous variations thereof): I first became aware of the Beatles in a LIFE magazine article, late '63 or early '64. Their appearance on the Ed Sullivan show was well publicized so we watched with anticipation.
That's when I first heard their music. It was fun, rockin' and they had good harmonies. It made you feel good. Because the Beatles music has made such a lasting mark on the world and on me and everyone I know, music is what the Beatles mean to me and it's all I think of when I think of the Beatles.
I would compare their body of work as no less relevant, innovative, or praise worthy than any classical composer. Their writing evolved and progressed along with their musical skills and arrangements. It is celebrated now, 50 years on, and will likely be played and loved for eternity.
I didn't give a lot of thought to the Feb. 9th anniversary as being significant simply because it's 50 years. The Beatles music has been with me always, like a companion, a friend, or the sun and the moon. It's always been there. Anniversaries have never been a big deal to me.
Until this one!
I've known most of the musicians involved in this tribute concert for years. When you get a chance to play with guys like these, you take it! This event is amazing, an honest tribute to the music of the Beatles. I don't know what else could motivate all these musicians to donate their time and talents with such joy. And having all the proceeds go to three great organizations is the icing on the cake. I'm very proud of the many people who have come together (no pun intended) to donate their time, talent and money in support of these charities, while celebrating of an important moment in our history.
JOSH BRADSHAW (Johnny Quest, The Temporary Tribute Band): I saw the 1988 film about John Lennon called "Imagine" when I was in high school. It was life-changing. In the next few months, I wore out the soundtrack cassette in my Walkman! A few months after that, I dug out my grandpa's old guitar and began to plunk away at the songs. All these years later, I get to play them in a grand context with my musical heroes. I just got a chill from thinking about that.
I grew up in the musical wasteland of the 80's, but 1990's pop began to get back to real rock and roll—guitars, bass, drums, vocal harmonies, driving rhythms, pretty verses and loud choruses. Is it any surprise that Macca hangs around with the Foo Fighters?
1990s pop, and even "Grunge" all started before any of those artists were even born.
Being asked to play an event like this with the host band is like winning the lottery. When I watched the Beatles, I was amazed at their energy, dynamic, and camaraderie. Those are the overwhelming feelings I get when I am around the other TTB guys. It's really something, and that's why we musicians can never stop doing what we do—chasing those magic moments.
RICH TEEGARDEN (New Prairie Ramblers, Kool Ray & The Polaroidz): When I first heard the Beatles on the radio, I didn’t know the name of the group and I thought they were saying “I Want To Hold Your Hair.” I was twelve. I liked the song but it didn’t do all that much for me.
That February 9, I was at a dinner party with my parents, and a couple of kids said, “Let’s watch TV, the Beatles are on tonight.”
That didn’t mean anything to me because although I had heard the song, I still didn’t know the name of the group. They turned on the TV and the Beatles were just being introduced. They looked like nothing I had ever seen. They were alien. I became very excited, and for the next year I ate, slept, and breathed the Beatles.
I was consumed. In fact, I took up the guitar to be just like them.
The Beatles were life-changing and they meant so much to us back then because I think music itself was more influential than it is now. However, I think the power of their music is evident by how it is still listened to and held in high regard—and most importantly people are still shelling out the dollars for their music which is the highest standard for popular music.
REX GARRETT (GONN): I became aware of The Beatles from the Ed Sullivan Show. There was nothing but Beatles talk at school on the Monday morning after, and the guitar my mom gave me for Christmas, which I had been unimpressed with at the time, immediately came out of the closet!
They changed all the rules, their music was so revolutionary. I grew my hair!
As the anniversary approached frankly I was not aware of the exact date but I'll never forget witnessing the event itself. I think it's great that we are able to celebrate The Beatles and the enormous significance of their musical contribution!
LINK RAYGUN (Encounter At L5): I discovered my older siblings' Beatles Alpha Omega bootlegs when I was about 3 or 4. From that point on, I was hooked.
The Beatles came along at just the right moment in history. The nation was still trying to get over the shock of losing President Kennedy, and The Beatles helped people get over that. Millions of baby boomers bought their records and thousands of teenage garage bands sprung up across the country.
The Beatles were ubiquitous. The sixties were tumultuous, and they provided a soundtrack to the times.
Honestly, I hadn't thought about the fact that the 50th anniversary was approaching until I heard about the big event that was being planned. Encounter At L-5 was asked to do it, and being Beatles fans, we all agreed to hop on board.
It's a significant event because it's an eclectic collection of local bands that wouldn't normally be featured on the same bill, paying homage to The Beatles at a brand new venue, all for charity.
Encounter At L-5 is honored to be involved, and we're looking forward to playing the first show at the Limelight.
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 9, 2014 – 7PM
THE LIMELIGHT EVENTPLEX
8102 NORTH UNIVERSITY, PEORIA
• THE TEMPORARY TRIBUTE BAND
• THE FLYING D’RITO BROTHERS
• GREG WILLIAMS
• THE NIKBEATS
• THE NEW PRAIRIE RAMBLERS
• MEN OF FORTUNE
• JOEL MADIGAN
• BRADLEY STRING QUARTET
• HEAVY SHAKE
• BLACK ROSES
• ENCOUNTER AT L-5
• The first-ever reunions of THE DAVE CHASTAIN BAND...
• And the original READY STEADY GO!
• Plus THE SPEECHLESS HORNS (Tom Stoner and Larry Harms)
GENERAL ADMISSION: $20, doors open at 5:30.
VIP TICKETS: $50 includes reserved table seating and the event t-shirt, early entrance available at 5:00 PM. (VIP tickets only available at Younger Than Yesterday, 309-682-1116.)
TICKETS AVAILABLE AT: Younger Than Yesterday and Acme Comics in Peoria, and Co-Op Records in East Peoria & Pekin.
Related Post: A Day In My Life—February 10th, 1964.
Happy Groundhog Day From Jaws The Cabbie!
Jaws the Cabbie sent in this photo to wish everyone a happy Groundhog Day! He predicted eight more weeks of winter and we're supposed to get four to eight inches of snow on Tuesday...so fuck you groundhog! Thanks, Jaws!