Editor’s note: This story was originally published Feb. 2, 2014, in The Kansas City Star Magazine.
The Star asked readers for their memories of the Beatles’ September 1964 concert in Kansas City. The response was overwhelming; here are some favorites:
▪ Janet Taylor, a sixth-grader at McKinley School in Kansas City, Kan., debated for days about what to wear, finally settling on a jumper, white blouse and tie because she’d seen pictures of British girls wearing ties.
“The next day at school, our friends whose parents would not pay for the $4 ticket tried to tell us that it was more fun to be at home and hear Beatles music all night on WHB. We knew better.”
▪ Carol A. Clopton, Kansas City, 12 and only 5’2” ... “wasn’t able to really see or hear the concert, but it really didn’t matter, I was there! ... It was several hours later that I was able to hear again.”
▪ It was the destiny of Katy Morris of Kansas City to see the Beatles, she was sure.
“My parents, however wisely, decided that no 9-year-old girl would be making that trek to Beatlemania. When I discovered that a 12-year-old family friend was going to the concert, I thought I was going to die from the grief and envy!”
▪ Larry Kepler of Shawnee weedled two tickets out of his dad and the old man’s “his dad’s new 1964 Chevy Impala, 327, with console and automatic shift on the floor.
“It was starting to shape up great. I was thinking of who to ask on this date. This ought to be a sure thing. Then I found out there was a catch! I would have to take along my younger sister who was in the 7th grade. So much for the dating game.”
▪ Fran Keal of Blue Springs was 10 and living in Harrisonville then ... with a great mom.
“The idea that I could go to KC and see any concert was almost as unbelievable as my going to the moon. None of my friends were going. My mother found a way to get the money for such an extravagance and sent me to the concert along with my 19-year-old sister and her boyfriend.”
▪ Vicki Watson Walker of Kansas City, who quietly wept — to not drown out the beloved music — while watching the band’s appearances on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” calls 1964 “the winter of my disconcert … uh, discontent.”
“My father was a teacher, and no way would we be able to afford the ticket price of $8.50! Good grief, the movies were only 50 cents! ... “I eventually was able to trade 100 Beatles cards for used tickets from a friend who had been to see them. It was the closest I would ever get.”
▪ The excitement of the Beatles concert was not lost on Olathe’s Becky Bockelman, a sixth-grader.
“Next to us, there was a teenage couple with the girl shaking uncontrollably. The boyfriend had her sitting on his lap in hopes of calming her down. This didn’t work. “His next idea was to offer her a cigarette. In her agitated state, she promptly ate the cigarette.”
▪ To Pat Chapman of Lake Quivira, then a sophomore at Shawnee Mission East, that night was an important “claim to fame,” especially to her grandchildren.
“I remember my dad driving us to the stadium and making the comment, ‘Don’t act crazy and get your picture in the paper.’ It was a great surprise the next morning when my aunt called and said that my picture was on the front page of The Kansas City Star! Being ‘crazy.’”
▪ Linda Green Henson, now living in Topeka, was 8 when her best friend, Jenny, invited her to go with her family to KC to see this British group. It seems Jenny’s grandfather was the manager at Municipal Stadium, and they got special access.
“I was enthralled! But my mother declined the invitation on my behalf! I was too young! It was out of town! We would be home late! And just what kind of music was this, anyhow? I was devastated. My only consolation was that Jenny let me kiss her unwashed hand that shook the hands of the Fab Four. (sigh)”
▪ One thing from that night sticks in the mind of Brent Harmon of Kansas City — aside from how great the concert was.
“A plane flew over the stadium, paid for by KMBC, I guess, with a banner or message saying, ‘You are missing the premiere of “Bewitched.”’”
▪ As good as the concert was for 9-year-old Virginia Giokaris of Kansas City, her dad, manager of the Rendezvous Restaurant at the Hotel Muehlebach, managed to garnish it.
“The Beatles ordered room service — KC strips. The waiter came back with two autographs on room service checks signed by Paul McCartney. The chef kept one for his kids, and he gave the other to my dad, who surprised me with it the next morning.”
▪ Tara Buckley, of Kansas City, went with Patty, her girlfriend down the street.
“The next day, your body was so sore from all the jumping, and you couldn’t even talk, as your throat was sore, too. When I told my fourth-grade teacher why I had a sore throat, she immediately stood up and told the rest of the class. Thirty other kids wanted to know all about it, so I had to try and stand in front of the class and tell them.”
▪ It seemed you couldn’t hear anything else on the radio but the Beatles, so Bill Doty of Overland Park came over from his Lawrence dorm to check out the scene.
“The Beatles scurried around the flat, climbed up the stairs to get in place before the stage could be lit. At that moment, enough flashbulbs from audience cameras went off to light the entire Kansas City Athletics stadium out of total darkness, and it continued throughout the concert.”
▪ As soon as the concert was over, Wendy Angelo, of Kansas City and two friends raced to the back of the stadium, but too late to see the Beatles depart. A security guard flaunted a piece of manila paper.
“It said ‘Beatles please sign here’ at the top, then listed their names, where they signed next to, and at the bottom it said ‘thank you.’ … He proceeded to tear the autographs out and threw the rest of the paper on the ground.
“We walked up the hill really sad at our missed opportunity. Then it dawned on us that the Beatles had touched the paper. We fought each other down the hill after the paper, almost falling as we were all in our ‘high-heeled Beatle boots.’ I was the first one to reach the paper, but knowing how much we all loved the Beatles, tore it into three pieces so we could each have a memory of that night.”
▪ Norene Gaines’ mother’s birthday was Sept. 19 but the timing for her celebratory dinner was all wrong — Sept. 17.
“My aunt & uncle lived near Municipal Stadium, and my dad decided he needed to drive past the stadium to see what was happening. As the car came to stop at the corner, my fingers were itching. I wanted to open the door — my hand was on the door handle — and hop out to see if I could possibly get in, but the light changed and the car moved forward. Needless to say, I didn’t enjoy the birthday dinner at all. I was bummed for a while after that.”
▪ Kay A. Borel, of Overland Park, was 14 and capable of some serious begging and extra babysitting before she got her $8.50 ticket.
“I distinctly remember my mom saying to me, ‘I don’t know where you think you’re going to get that kind of money!’”
▪ The very nice fifth-grade teacher of Debbie McHenry bought $2 ticket’s for the whole class.
“We sat up on the next to last row at the stadium. The stage was so far away that we passed around binoculars so we could get a closer look! We didn’t get the Beatles autographs, but Finley came up to the top bleacher, and we got his autograph.”
▪ Jean Claytor, a sixth-grader on a Platte County farm, didn’t know much about the Beatles; her mother knew less, but took her girls to “the concert of the century.”
“She just saw Charlie Finley wearing a Beatles wig to promote their arrival and wondered what all of the excitement was about. We sat a long way away and could not comprehend why all of the girls were screaming and carrying on.”
▪ Then a 24-year-old high school teacher in Garnett, Kan., Judy Smith Cooper of Shawnee, was not much interested in the band. That night, a friend called to say a boyfriend was in a Kansas City hospital and would Judy drive?
“Of course, I agreed. In just a few minutes she pulled up I front of my apartment and I ran out and jumped in the front seat. As soon as we got out of the city limits, three juniors popped up from the back seat and yelled, “We’re going to see the Beatles!”
“They had tricked me! It wasn’t long after getting into Municipal Stadium that we felt the excitement in the air, and I caught it. I found myself movin’ with the music and singing along with everyone else.... we were all screaming… yes, me, too.” One of the students pointed at me and said, “She’s a teacher! Can you believe it?”
▪ Alan Lippincott of Kansas City, wanted to go but his parents thought the Boy Scout patrol meeting came first. Showing up at his East High freshman drama class the next day, he found that all eight of his classmates — and the teacher — had seen the Beatles.
“Assignment was a one-page report about the concert and sharing with class. Long hour. Need a do over!”