Monday, May 31, 2010
Saturday, May 29, 2010
Friday, May 28, 2010
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Vinnie's John story
This is a long story so bear with me. Back in the day my sister worked for ABCKO in NYC. ABCKO managed John, George, & Ringo and all things Apple that did not pertain to McCartney. Being such a Beatle freak, I would come up all the time hoping for a glimpse. It was after the breakup but I thought I might get lucky & see one of the three . Well one day I hit the jackpot. I went in on a Sunday and a bunch of us went up to John and Yoko's place. They had a whole floor. I wish I remembered the hotel but it was quite a while ago and I was so excited I could have been in another country and not known it. Any way we were up there to put acorns in envelopes to be mailed to world leaders as a peace effort. it was a trip writing names of these famous people on envelopes. When I first got there they told us to wait in a room where I see a guitar case. Being a player I had to open it. Well it was the Epiphone Casino! The one with the paint stripped off that he used in he Let It Be film. I freaked out and immediately played every Beatle tune I could think of. The axe was in terrible shape. Absolutely filthy! When U played a chord and took your hands off the neck, your hands were black with dirt. As if the strings had never been changed. Filthy strings extremely dead sounding. That kind of explains his guitar sound now that I think of it. I actually could have walked off with the guitar as nobody was watching but being the honest type I have always been I could not. What I did do was take his pick and leave mine in it's place. I can imagine him the next day in some sort of chemically enhanced state going to play the guitar and being puzzled by the tiny Fender jazz pick I favored in those days. I still have his pick and it's a Rotosound pick. A bit oversized, and white. In my new video "Ringo" i actually used it for some of the shots. I also took one of his cigarettes but my Mom had discovered that at some point and fearing it was something worse than tobacco threw it out!! I considered taking his bong that was right there with the guitar for the taking but having this stubborn honesty streak in me that was not going to happen. We happily spent the rest of the afternoon in a room with John and Yoko stuffing acorns in envelopes. I wanted to say something to him so bad. Tell him I played etc... but knew it would not be cool and would endanger my sister's job. It was a great day. Later that month I also got to actually talk to George but that did not go well at all. Another story for another time....
And Vinnie's encounter with George
Many of U have asked me to relate my George Harrison story so here it goes. As I mentioned in my Lennon encounter story, my sister worked for ABCKO in NYC. ABCKO managed John, George, & Ringo and all things Apple that did not pertain to McCartney.
There were a lot of percs with her job. She would pretty much come home everyday and throw a stack of new LPs to me, all kinds of Apple paraphernalia. T shirts etc... Wish I had saved it all! One of the best things was access to events. The Bangladesh Concert for one.I was in the 13th row and it was great! Well one night went with my sister to the premier of a new Apple movie called "Blind Man" featuring Ringo in a supporting role. As U may have gathered it was not exactly "Gone With The Wind". In any event there was a brief intermission 1/2 way through and that being the late 70's I went out to the lobby for a ciggie. I sit down and I'm flicking my cigarette ashes in the ashtray. About 4 inches away, sharing the ashtray was another hand with a cigarette.I look up and it's George! About 5 or 6 inches from my face dressed pretty similar to the Abbey Road cover. Direct eye to eye contact. I immediately freak out and my mouth is hanging open. I can't speak, can't do anything. At this point I notice the look in his eyes has changed from "Hmm...I wonder who this long hair is? Maybe an interesting character, a musician?? (Musos have a way of sniffing each other out!)" To "Oh no! Not again." He had a look that reflected that this type of thing happens a lot to him. I'm still pretty much frozen and he says to me in the gentlest, most accommodating voice."Can I help you with something? Can I make this easier for you? What can I do?" With all the thousands of things welling up in me that I wanted to say like: "Thanx 4 the music!" "I play the guitar and write music because of the Beatles", "I know I'm real young but I play really good and would like you to hear me" etc....All these thoughts welling up and I can't manage a sound much less even close my mouth. At this point I am totally embarrassed so all i can manage to do is scramble to my feet and run away. In the process I slam face first right into Leon Russell!!! This was all too much for me and I found my sister and told her I had to leave. The thing that struck me was how wonderful George was. How soft spoken and genuinely concerned he was. Not to mention the look of world weariness on his face. He looked like a man had been photographed too many times, been to too many of these openings, seen too many kids stare at him with their mouth's frozen open... the whole thing..Right there on his face. At least that was my take on it. A very spiritual vibe to him. So my big chance to talk to a Beatle, (my second chance after seeing Lennon!!) and I blew it but in retrospect I think my experience was a great one as I got to see the measure of the man. A great, caring guy. There are many other famous musicians who would not be half as nice in the situation
Vinnie Zummo, former Joe Jackson guitarist
I hope you will all check out my video "Ringo" It's a tribute to the Beatles but specifically to the playing styles of George and Ringo.
Monday, May 24, 2010
My first meeting with John and Yoko was in February 1979 in their apartment at the Dakota. I have been a Beatle fan for the better part of my life, and a life-long dream was coming true. I was going to be face to face with the man I had always idolized. When I knocked on the door I didn't expect John himself to answer; but there he stood, gold-rimmed glasses, chewing gum and smiling. Evidently in my enthusiasm, I knocked harder than I should have, and John said, "I thought it was the cops," and with an extended hand invited me in. I was very nervous at this point, but I was immediately put at ease by John's well-known humor. I saw John and Yoko a few more times in 1979 and again in early 1980. When I heard the news that John and Yoko were going to start working in the studio, it gave me the impetus to photograph them as often as I could. Between August and December 1980 I think I spent more time at the Dakota than doing anything else.
I will always cherish the meetings I had with John. He was very gracious to me, and the more I saw and photographed him, the more charming he became. John always took several minutes of his precious time for me., although the word precious doesn't justly descibe what my many times with John mean to me. In the almost two years I knew John he was always a gentle, king person. I have copies of In his own Write and A Spaniard in the Works which John signed for me, a signed photo, the pens he used, and several photos of the two of us taken on November 17, 1980. These material possessions give credence to what now seems like a dream.
December 8, 1980, became a day I will always remember vividly. It was the last day I ever saw John. He said to me that evening, as he was leaving the Dakota, "I'll see you tomorrow," for we had arranged for me to show him some photos I had taken on him and Yoko on December 2, 1980. John never saw these photographs, and neither of us realized I was going to take two very important photographs that very evening --- one of John and the one of the person who was to take him from us. They were the last photographs of John alive, photos of him getting into the limousine. John never saw these photographs either. I will always have the memories of the times spent with John, but this one especially. After John got into the limousine on December 8, 1980, he waved goodbye to me as the car pulled away. That wave will always be very special to me.
For the next two weeks my world was completely devastated, and it was Yoko's kindness which helped me accept John's death a little more easily. She opened her doors and her heart to me in the following months, and they have stayed open. My contribution to his book , and Yoko's choice of one of my photographs for the record "Watching the Wheels/I'm your Angel" overjoyed me.
The last thoughts: Yoko, thank you for helping me through my own personal hard times when you certainly had more than your own share; and John, thank you for all the fine memories you've given me, and all the beautiful thoughts and music you have left with all of us. My love to you both
By Michael Senecal
I went to take photographs of John Lennon because I am a fan. Mostly I am a free-lance photographer in Montreal, and I had always wanted to take photographs of John. I had heard and read that people stood around in front of the Dakota and waited for John and Yoko to come out. So I went to New York many weekends in the summer of 1980 because I heard that John and Yoko were recording a new album and I knew I could get good photos of them. I managed to see them almost every day I was there, and sometimes more than once a day. Some of the Beatles fans hanging around said that John didn't like the fact that they were there, but they were wrong -- at least in my case. I had my motor drive on my camera and I quickly took lots of pictures of John and Yoko and Sean each time I saw them. One weekend I went back with prints and handed them to John as he came out of the Dakota. John really liked pictures of himself. I think he was a collector, just like everyone else who loved the Beatles. But he really like my pictures, maybe because they are special pictures. They're candid, not taken in a studio setting; natural, not posed. I wrote to John and Yoko from Montreal and sent them some more prints. One day I got a telephone call from Yoko. She said she liked my work and she asked me to come back to New York and see her. I went down and met Yoko early in October. Yoko wanted my photos because they captured something special about John and Sean and her, and John agreed they did. I felt very, very good about meeting Yoko, and I realized that in that meeting were the seeds of a relationship, a friendship the sad events of December 1980 never allowed to grow.
I don't like stealing photos from other web sites and then posting them on mine the next day. However, I couldn't resist these wonderful John photos in the orange sweater standing in the driveway at Kenwood. Isn't he just so handsome?? I took these photos right off of the Kenwood Blog (see link to the right).
Sunday, May 23, 2010
This is an article I found in the September 1994 issue of What Goes On (the newsletter for the ST. Louis Beatles fan club). It was originally published in the May 1986 Springfield, Missouri magazine called Film at 11. While it doesn't go into a lot of detail about the Beatles fans who met them during their stay in the Ozarks, it does give some information I didn't know. The photos are all from Curt Gunther's book on the Beatles 1964 tour. (excpet for the color one of John...I just included it for the "John is a hottie" factor.)
It is a little known fact that the well-known Beatles spent a weekend relaxing in our part of the Ozarks. On September 22 and 23, 1964, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr attempted to rest in seclusion at the Pigman ranch near Alton and Riverton, Missouri.
Reed Pigman, ranch owner and Texas airline magnate, had a contract to fly The Beatles on this, their second U.S. tour. He invited them to relax at his ranch before heading on to New York and their last performance before returning to England. The tour had already covered twenty-five cities with thirty-four concerts in thirty days.
On Friday evening, the Beatles performed before 15,000 fans in Dallas, Texas and then they flew to Walnut Ridge, Arkansas. There Pigman picked them up in his twin engine seven passenger Cessna and flew them to Oregon County, Missouri. They arrived at 3 a.m. Saturday morning at the ranch and played poker until dawn. Other members of their touring group joined them, including their manager Brian Epstein and Bill Black of the Bill Black Combo. The group totaled fourteen.
Saturday activities for the famous four included playing more poker, horse-back riding, fishing and driving a go-car and car around the barn. LIFE magazine carried several photographs of these activities (See LIFE magazine “Our American Scrapbook,” October 23, 1964).
The ranch offered a beautiful view of the Ozarks to the guests. Ringo said, “It reminds me of England.” The 12,000 acre cattle ranch is near the Irish Wilderness and lays along the Eleven Point River. A long lane was lined with roses, and the grounds and swimming pool area were beautifully kept. It was quite a fancy layout, especially for that part of the Ozarks. At that time, the home was used frequently as a summer and weekend retreat for the Texas-based Pigman family. Hired help, four families in all, lived on the ranch year round.
By mid-morning Saturday, the media had spread the word of the Beatles’ unlikely vacation spot, and fans began to arrive.
The first car load was a local group, mostly twelve and thirteen year old girl from Alton. They parked out of sight of the house and walked up the lane to the swimming pool. A man (they supposed him to the Beatles manager) came out and said The Beatles were going skinny dipping in the pool and unless the girls wanted to see the group naked, they’d better leave. They left immediately.
There was a clearance check at the gate, and only people who lived on the premises, the press, or friends and family of the ranch crew were allowed in.
Ranch manager Ray Dethrow was one who manned the gate all day and night without sleep. A mother, daughter, and friend who had driven down from Springfield were frustrated, if not angry, as not being allowed to get in to see The Beatles. Dethrow admitted a local car through the gates and the daughter caught hold and came in also. Once inside the gates she pretended to faint, and the mother became even more upset. Dethrow quickly assured her, “Don’t worry, Mama. I just vaccinated an old cow out in the field. I still have the hypodermic needle in the pickup over there . A shot of that and she’ll be fine in no time!” The daughter picked herself up and went back to the other side.
There were reports of persons climbing the six foot high chain link fence and running across the pasture to see The Beatles. A few stayed around in the yard in the evening until Pigman came out and politely said The Beatles weren’t going to make an appearance so they might as well go home.
Saturday night, four people form Alton took a motor boat down the Eleven Point River to get a close look. They were Don and Judy Woods, Bob Gum and Richard Haigwood. Don Wood knew the river well and maneuvered the boat with only the moon as light. As they walked the almost two miles from the river to the house, they were awed by the sight of the Pigman’s peacocks along the way. They peered into a window at the side of the house and saw The Beatles playing cards and drinking with their friends.
As first the ranch crew was not told who would be visiting that weekend but only that “they were very important visitors.” They were also told to clean the house from top to bottom. When the press began inquiring about rumors of The Beatles coming, the crew would have thought it a hoax had they not known Pigman was flying The Beatles on their tour. Mary Lee Dethrow answered one of these inquiries Saturday morning, and her response was heard on Kansas City television, “We haven’t seen any activity yet. If they’re here, they slipped in like beetles.”
The crew had also been instructed to make sure when saddling up horses for the guests to ride, that they choose only horses that were no longer used to work the ranch because “they’re Easterners.” When the photos came out in LIFE magazine, Pigman and the crew laughed. Ringo had ridden Ole Doll, who was well over the hill then and long since dead. He is shown atop a somewhat swayback mare with its head drooping toward the ground. Not exactly the fine equine specimen they might have wanted to represent the ranch in a national magazine.
The magazine captions for these photos read, “Paul and John ford a stream. ‘I wouldn’t call riding a sport. It’s just to get someplace,’ says John. ‘We were bruised,’ Paul says, ‘I mean physically damaged.” This was the first horse-back ride for most of them. Ronnie Combs, yard boy at the time, remembered Paul asked him to hold his camera for him while he mounted his horse.
Ringo wore a gun belt and cap gun while he was at the ranch. The gun belt with his name on the back was a gift from Elvis Presley, and he bought the guns at Woolworths. Ronnie Combs remembers him shooting his cap pistols off the porch one morning, “Ringo was like a kid,” he says.
Paul and Ringo were reported to have the most outgoing personalities. John and George seemed to be loners and spent a lot of time around the barn while outside. George played cards a lot. Paul hlped search through closets at Ray and Mary Lee Dethrow’s house for fishing gear so he and Ringo could go fishing at the pond. Mary Lee assisted him while members of her family, who she had invited to her home on the ranch so they would have an opportunity to see The Beatles, watched and were tremendously impressed by Paul (When he entered the house he had patted five-year-old Sheila on the head, saying, “Hi kids. How ya’ll! My name’s Paul and I’m from Walnut Ridge, Arkansas.”) Long time ranch mechanic Wayne Neal concluded they had nice personalities, but they were a lot of trouble.
A 1960 Ford Fairlane four door sedan was borrowed for the Beatles’ use while there. J.B. Gum Motor Company of Alton lent it without knowing who the Pigman’s guests were. The car was driven around the barn but was not taken off the premises of the ranch. While one of them, possibly George, was driving the car, he knocked the door off manager Dethrow’s pickup truck (the car had formerly belonged to Albert Haigwood who used it to deliver the mail at Alton.)
The Beatles did not bring musical instruments to the ranch and did not perform their music while there.
A baby shower had been planned at the ranch crew home of Junior and Susie Lance on Saturday night. It had to be moved to the nearby Riverton Baptist Church because the first carload of guests to arrive topped at the main house in attempt to see The Beatles.
Billmore, Job, Gatewood, Myrtle and Couch – those are some of the communities close to the ranch. People in these places reacted in various ways to The Beatles’ presence. Disdain was shown by some old timers, disinterest was shown by many, curiosity by some, and joy for a few fans. One young man, Junior Brewer, did not know of the presence at the ranch. He went there that Saturday to inquire about a job hauling hay. He saw The Beatles driving the car around the barn but wasn’t much interested or impressed.
A minister disapproved when one mother he knew took her daughter and her friends to see The Beatles on Sunday morning instead of attending church.
Sunday about noon, The Beatles left for Walnut Ridge to board a jet for New York. Though many greeted them at Walnut Ridge airport, the departure scene here was quiet. Apparently few fans knew where the landing strip was as only a handful of people were waiting to see them off. Terry and Linda Hall and two others drove out into the woods to the landing strip and waited an hour.
The four were sitting on the hood of their car waiting “out in the boonies” when Pigman and the Beatles arrived. Linda’ strongest impression was that they didn’t have a tan. “They had a strange, sickly pal look, a London chalky look.” No one in her group asked for an autograph or an arm. There was only a “hi” and nodding of heads exchanged between them in greeting. Perhaps it was George who continued to stare out the window as the plane moved away. Linda wonders what he was thinking, and what they thought of those Ozarkians sitting here.
Ranch hand Junior Lance took the sizable amount of baggage to Walnut Ridge airport by flatbed truck. On the way he made a stop at his sister’s home to allow the young nieces a chance to look at The Beatles’ luggage. Niece Ann Koontz says he just wanted to taunt them. They begged him to let them open just one suitcase to get something out as a souvenir, but he refused to do so.
Many have written the ranch asking for a souvenir of The Beatles stay there. Lucille Neal, cook and house keeper at the time, has special souvenir of her own. Just before The Beatles left on Saturday morning, Paul came to the kitchen asking if anyone had seen his gas Ronson cigarette lighter which carried the inscription “Paul”. He had just purchased it at Neiman-Marcus in Dallas, Texas. They weren’t able to find it at the time; however, a month later it was found near where Paul and Ringo had gone fishing.
Of those interviewed, almost no one took pictures or even knew of anyone who did. We were caught unawares and ill-equipped. Had The Beatles or like group visited in the Ozarks today, we would be ready with our tools and toys which modern technological “progress” affords. Twenty-three years ago, Nikon and Minolta and telephoto zoom lenses were unknown to us, and perhaps it was the era of innocence and isolation which was about to draw to a close that led so few to devise elaborate schemes and plans to catch a glimpse of the superstars.
Even thought they were met with perhaps were indifference than enthusiasm during their visit in the Ozarks, The Beatles were major 20th century innovators in music, and their popularity has endured. Other things live on too, including the nostalgia of the time. And as you round the curve going north on Highway Y, there is the native stone home of the Pigman Ranch – and impressive reminder that “THE BEATLES SLEPT HERE.”