Stories about events in 1964

The British Invasion

This story takes place in 1964. It was told on July 4th, 2012 by Frank.  Be the first to comment

The truth was that the English invasion was much more in character with the coming times than we thought. A lot of their material was taken from the blues, for example, and they had a healthy respect for American black music. They even helped bring it over into the commercial mainstream.
Peter, Paul and Mary and the Chad Mitchell Trio took their role in musical and political history much more seriously, but they had nothing like the permanent impact on American culture that the Beatles did. They were on and off the main stage quickly.
That first night at the Ampitheatre, the Beatles couldn’t get off the stage fast enough. It was a more decorous age, but that night those girls looked like they could tear a Beatle’s hair out in moments. Doris Fine, a friend who was helping me with ticket sales, had given her niece a pair of tickets for that night’s show at the Ampitheater. Later, Doris told me, she asked her niece, “WeIl, did you enjoy yourself?”
“Oh yes,” sighed the girl.
“Did you hear anything?” Doris asked.
“No, not a note,” her niece said. “But just being there was enough.”

Brian Epstein

This story takes place in 1964. It was told on June 30th, 2012 by Frank.  Be the first to comment

Norman Weiss, the Beatles’ booking agent at General Artists, had called at the last minute and asked me to meet Epstein myself with a limousine. In my eight years in the business I had occasionally been forced to hire limos for artists, but I had drawn the line at attending them personally. This time I reluctantly agreed, sure that this was the final step in my career as a sell-out.

It wasn’t that I objected to a comfortable ride. The limo was just a symbol of everything depressing about this business. As the crowds and the money got bigger and bigger, the artists were becoming more and more insulated from reality, with layers and layers of retinue and trappings. I didn‘t see why anybody needed more than the average folk singer’s staff of two — himself and somebody to do the night driving.

There was no getting out of this now, though. Epstein had stipulated that the Beatles’ third U.S. tour must begin in Chicago and that my company must handle it, because he had liked the job we had done the first two times, and Epstein was at the very top of the pile right now. He got what he wanted. There was no way for us not to oblige him, even if I regarded it as an imposition.

Brian Epstein walked down the ramp, as nattily attired as ever. I’d like to say it was a momentous meeting between two titans of the industry, but he was not a man to leave a deep impression, and I was just a 40-year-old former steelworker who had found a way to make a living promoting shows. We shook hands and hurried to the car.

In the back of the limo, I began to offer my opinion on how to approach the press conference, but he brushed me off. Epstein made his attitude clear very quickly: he appreciated our support and he regarded us as competent technicians, but we had nothing to contribute to the press conference beyond setting it up. “The lads can handle it,“ he told me. To my surprise, he turned out to be right — they did fine without me.

I got him to the Astor Towers hotel and showed him to his room, and except for the press conference that was the last I ever saw of Brian Epstein; he spent the rest of the time with a young man somebody had arranged for him to meet. He was not available to me or to the agents, or even, as far as I could tell, to the Beatles.

Cute, clean-cut and clever

This story takes place in 1964. It was told on January 5th, 2011 by Frank.  Be the first to comment

I’d been in the business for five years when the Beatles first fell into my lap, in 1964. I had a regular folk concert series going that was very well attended, I was organizing some shows with Henry Mancini, Andy Williams and Johnny Mathis, and I’d branched out into jazz concerts too. One morning I got a call from Jerry Perenchio, the Los Angeles talent agent who earlier had handled Mancini and Mathis for MCA, the largest booking agency in the country.

Jerry was a cut above the average talent agent in a few ways: he was intelligent, had a sense of humor, and was interested in things outside show business, a rare thing among agents. He had a sense of ethics _ another unusual quirk __ and at the same time he could be self—serving and ruthless. He’d got his start booking bands for fraternities in his college days. I liked him.
“You’re gonna be called and offered the Beatles,” Jerry told me. “They’re gonna be big. They’re gonna do business. Don‘t miss it.”

I did not know the Beatles from Adam. All they were to me was one more of the English pop bands that were capturing the fancy of American teenagers that year. But they had just released a series of records that were selling phenomenally, so the timing seemed right. The money wasn’t that big, even for the early 1960s. I guaranteed a take of $25,000 or sixty percent of the gross for General Artists Corporation, which was running the tour, and I booked them into the International Ampitheatre, with eleven thousand seats.

It was a hall that until then had mainly seen rodeos; before I put the Beatles there, the only musical act to play the Ampitheatre had been Elvis Presley.

We were sold out by mail almost the moment we announced the show on the radio. We had to go back on the air right away and tell people, “Don’t send your money in. There are no more tickets.”

It was obvious that something new had happened. What it was, I didn’t have the vaguest idea. The Beatles were a terminally cute, clean·cut, clever group with original songs that were not particularly profound — lightweight love songs, bubblegum music. Their dress was unusual but not at all threatening. Somehow they and the British acts that followed them in had touched a chord among young Americans that American music had not.

If this reflected something that was going on in society, it might have been that they’d found the handle to some of the same anything-is-possible feeling that John Kennedy’s administration had successfully locked into with its rhetoric of “new beginnings.” This was still a time when most people thought we might be able to get somewhere by appealing to peopIe’s morality, joining hands and singing songs. There was a great notion that the world was going to get better.

What I couldn‘t see was how this Beatles phenomenon really connected with that. I was doing concerts with Pete Seeger — now there was a singer who could articulate people’s hopes for change. Peter, Paul and Mary, the most successful of the pop folk trios, seemed to have something significant to say. I was managing the Chad Mitchell Trio, another pop folk group whose political satire was on the cutting edge for several years. Miriam Makeba, the extraordinary singer Harry Belafonte had brought over from South Africa, was a regular on my stage. And there was Bob Dylan, who was just then shaking up the country’s intelligentsia. In this company, the Beatles seemed lightweight, unconnected to what was going on in America. Maybe they were inspiring the kids, but they weren‘t inspiring me.

JOIN

This story takes place in 1964. It was told on November 18th, 2010 by Frank.  1 Comment

We lived on Roscoe St., on the North Side, when I met Richie and Rennie and their friends in Jobs or Income Now. It was 1964 or 65, and Francoise and I had just got married. They had introduced themselves to a number of the radicals in town with two characteristics: they had been involved in the labor movement with some success — i didn’t see any rank and filers around these gatherings — and at that time there were radicals, not stars like Jesse or Sid Lens, and not impresarios like Frank Fried.

They struck me as a group of very devoted, radical kids who had immersed themselves in the lumpen whites and some blacks in a marginal area of the Uptown neighborhood. They were trying to organize the people in this community, taking the admonition of SNCC that the responsibility of white radicals was to organize within the white community. The reality was they were not organizing the white working class, they were organizing in this fragile lumpen sector, the only sector they had access to.

JOIN was not necessarily a class-conscious group. In a sense, it was very similar to what the Narodniks did in Russia. But it was activity, and they appeared to be making some progress at organizing people to take control of their lives, which I was for, and they were young, and young people are the only ones who are going to change society. They were the rebels of the time, at least the ones I was in touch with.

There’s a always a tendency among some white radicals, because of the difficulty and their upbringing, to become some kind of a groupie of the black movement or the solidarity movement, and that’s not to diminish their contribution. But the best thing you can do for any of these movements is to win over to them a section of the society you participate in; otherwise they will be totally isolated. So the intial thing SNCC told white radicals made great sense to me; I had no questions about that, you tried to do it the best you could.

With SNCC, although I did not consider myself an outsider, I was not a member. They were the generals and I considered myself a northern foot soldier. The main thing I did with them was to produce the Freedom Singers record for Mercury. JOIN, on the other hand , I plunged right into. It was right there 20 blocks from my neighborhood. And it was what SNCC had told us to do. This was on a more grassroots level than my involvement had been until then. I attended meetings, participated in demos, tried to understand what they were doing. I found myself feeling often alien to both their discussions and their way of life, but that was my problem, not theirs. Francoise and I liked them as people. Rennie was an incredibly charming salesman. And they were part of the radical milieu in Chicago. So if you wanted to be a part of radical politics — and I still did — you could hardly ignore them.

It was an interesting group of kids, and at that time the working class was not in motion; the revival of the radical movement was being led by the blacks in the south, and here you had this concurrent development among white students. I wanted to particpate as much as I could, and encourage it and find out more about it, and I was very open to new ideas and even willing to acknowledge that there might be other roads to socialism than that of the working class. But I never did give up on the idea that there are only two forces in society that are capable of real change, the working class and the bourgeoisie, and obviously the capitalist class, and their idea of change is not mine.

But very rapidly it went from that to black power and then to black chauvinism and an infantile form of black nationalism. There is a big distinction between black power and black nationalism, and between black pride and black chauvinism, and later on SNCC crossed this line. There was kind of an overlap. Later I saw the early leadership had created another basis for itself. They were in the process of losing control over SDS, and Clark Kissinger, who succeeded Paul Booth, became an RCPer; he may even have been one when he was secretary of SDS.

Meet the Beatles

This story takes place in 1964. It was told on April 18th, 2010 by Frank.  Be the first to comment

I’d been in the business for five years when the Beatles fell into my lap in 1964. I had a regular folk concert series going that was very well attended, I was organizing some shows with Henry Mancini, Andy Williams and Johnny Mathis, and I’d branched out into jazz concerts too. One morning I got a call from Jerry Perenchio, the Los Angeles talent agent who earlier had handled Mancini and Mathis for MCA, the largest booking agency in the country.

Jerry, who had got his start booking bands for fraternities in college, was a cut above the average talent agent in a few ways: he was intelligent, had a sense of humor, and was interested in things outside show business, a rare thing among agents. He had a sense of ethics — another unusual quirk — and at the same time he could be self-serving and ruthless. I liked him.

“You’re gonna be called and offered the BeatIes,” Jerry told me. “They’re gonna be big. They’re gonna do business. Don‘t miss it.”

I did not know the Beatles from Adam. They were one more of the English pop bands that were capturing the fancy of American teenagers that year. But they had just released a series of records that were selling phenomenally, so the timing seemed right. The money wasn’t that big, even for the early 1960s. I guaranteed a take of $25,000 or sixty percent of the gross for General Artists Corporation, which was running the tour, and I booked them into the International Amphitheatre, with eleven thousand seats.

It was a hall that until then had mainly seen rodeos; before I put the Beatles there, the only musical act to play the Amphitheatre had been Elvis Presley.

We were sold out by mail almost the moment we announced the show on the radio. We had to go back on the air right away and tell people, “Don’t send your money in. There are no more tickets.”

It was obvious that something new had happened. What it was, I didn’t have the vaguest idea. The Beatles were a clean-cut group with original songs that were not particularly profound — lightweight love songs, bubblegum music. Their dress was unusual but not at all threatening. Somehow they, and the other British acts that followed them, had touched something among young Americans that American music had not. Terminally cute and clever, they seemed to have found the handle to some of the same anything-is-possible feeling that John Kennedy’s administration had successfully locked into with its rhetoric of “new beginnings.” This was still a time when people thought we might be able to get somewhere by appealing to peopIe’s morality, joining hands and singing songs. There was a great notion that the world was going to get better.

What I couldn‘t see was how this Beatles phenomenon had anything to do with that. I was doing concerts with Pete Seeger, a singer who really did know how to articulate people’s hopes for change. Peter, Paul and Mary, the most successful of the pop folk trios, seemed to have something significant to say. I was managing the Chad Mitchell Trio, another pop folk group whose political satire was on the cutting edge for several years. Miriam Makeba, the extraordinary singer Harry Belafonte had brought over from South Africa, was a regular on my stages. And there was Bob Dylan, who was just then shaking up the country’s intelligentsia. In this company, the Beatles seemed lightweight, unconnected to what was going on in America. Maybe they were inspiring the kids, but they weren‘t doing anything for me. Except making me money.