The 50th anniversary of the Beatles coming to America will be celebrated everywhere over the next few weeks (as it should be), and in his column today, Robert Feder has dipped into his archives to feature his great article that celebrated the 20th anniversary in 1984. You can read it here.
Among the people he interviewed: former WLS radio personalities Ron Riley & Clark Weber.
I loved that piece. You know me, I can't get enough of this Beatles stuff.
It also made me realize that I have a few Beatles stories from those guys in my archives too. Here are few excerpts from the Chicago Radio Spotlight files
Rick: I have to ask you this right out of the box because I love this story so much. Could you tell the story about the day you introduced the Beatles on stage at Comiskey Park?
Clark: Capitol Records threw a luncheon that afternoon for WLS and the Beatles at the Saddle & Cycle Club on Lake Shore Drive. A good friend of mine, Jim Feeley, was dating a model named Winkie, and I invited them to come along. Well, Winkie showed up in a two-piece tennis outfit, and she looked incredible. I sat her next to George Harrison and his eyes almost popped out of his head. She made nice with him for a little while and George really thought she was going to be staying with him all day. When Winkie got up to leave a few minutes later to go to a modeling audition, George was wounded. “You’re not going anywhere,” he said. Winkie replied: “Oh yeah? Well watch me.” Later that night Feeley called me and asked if she could come to the concert, and I said—‘You’re really pushing it’, but I did get her in. So, flash forward twenty years later. A photographer from the Sun-Times called me up to say he had a photograph he wanted me to see. It was the Beatles on stage at Comiskey Park. I’m standing to the side of the stage and so is Winkie, and George Harrison is on stage looking right at Winkie, giving her the dirtiest look imaginable. Winkie later married a pro football player, moved down to Texas and had five kids, but George never got near her.
Rick: What was it like on stage that night?
Clark: As soon as Bernie Allen and I walked onto the stage, the crowd went crazy because they knew what was coming. There were 38,000 screaming teenage girls and the sound was indescribable. I told Bernie to hold his hand out with his fingers spread. We could feel the vibrations in our fingers. I don’t think anyone in that ballpark heard a single second of the show. I was standing right next to the stage and I didn’t hear it.
Rick: You were there for a pretty exciting time in music history; the dawning of the British Invasion. You even got the chance to interview the Beatles.
Ron: That’s true. Art Roberts and I were more tuned into the younger demos at night, and we climbed onto every bandwagon that came along. The people that ran the station had the insight to leave us alone and let us do what we thought was right. We developed our own character within the format, but we were pretty free. If we saw a trend, we could jump on it, and they would back us. The Beatles came on the scene, and the station got the record company to back us, and we got to be the station at their concert at Comiskey Park. They took a silver dollar survey and drew long hair on us, and I became “Ringo Ron.”
Rick: What were the Beatles like?
Ron: They were young kids, and they weren’t real sophisticated yet. They were way over the top. Everything was a big joke to them. They were very distracted. Art Roberts and I did a phone interview with them. They were on the set of A Hard Days Night at the time. They just passed the phone around to each other. “Would you like to speak to John?” Then Paul, etc. We recorded it in the afternoon, and played it back on our respective shows.
And finally, here's a bonus Beatles story, courtesy of former WCFL jock Ron Britain...
Ron: I did a few shows with the Beatles, and hung out with them a few times. I introduced them on stage. After the show, I was looking for something of theirs to sell—remember they were selling everything they touched in those days—even the sheets they slept on, so I went on stage and thanked the audience for coming out...and I saw that Ringo had left his drumsticks on the stage. I put them in my pocket and gave them away on the air the next night.
Another time I was with the Beatles at a press conference and they were getting all the same stupid questions, and I could tell they were completely bored, so I took out a sketch pad, and drew a picture for John. Somebody took a picture of us laughing...and then Paul took a look to see what John was laughing about, and someone snapped another picture. Then there was a picture with George, and then finally Ringo. That was the pecking order of those guys; John, Paul, George, and Ringo, and there were pictures of me with all four of them. I was happy about that because I was never the kind of guy who could ask for my picture to be taken with celebrities, because it just didn't feel right. So, I don't have pictures of myself with very many of these great rock stars, but I do have those pictures with the Beatles.
Hanging out with them was a strange experience. When you were with them, it was like being in prison. They had a whole floor in the hotel, and security was everywhere. One time I talked to Ringo for about three hours about pirate radio in England, which we both thought was very cool. I also told him that I called everybody "Tulu," and asked if he would say "Hi Tulu Baby" on tape for me. He wouldn't do it because he said it was "too commercial." So I asked John, and he said "Sure." Well after John agreed, they all did, and they went in their usual pecking order; John, Paul, George, and then Ringo agreed too.