Sunday, September 22, 2013

George Harrison in Benton celebration

Many people have heard about the George Harrison historical marker dedication in Benton, Illinois that took place yesterday.  I was able to attend the event and thought that the Beatle fans around the world would like to know what took place.

In case you don't recall, 50 years ago this month the Beatles actually had some time off from their very busy year of 1963.   John and Cynthia went off to Paris for a very belated honeymoon, Paul and Jane along with Ringo and Maureen went off for a holiday in Greece, and George along with his brother Peter, came to the United States to visit their sister, Louise.    Louise had moved a few month before to the small town in southern Illinois that is about 2 hours south of St. Louis, Missouri, Benton, Illinois.

Louise had been working on getting her little brother's band known in the United States.  She was in constant contact with Brian Epstein in England letting him know how things were coming along.  She went around to radio station and pushed The Beatles singles to be played on the air.  She truly worked on getting The Beatles name and music known in the United States.   George spent three weeks in Benton with his sister.   While he was there he made a friend, Gabe McCathy who had a band called the 4 Vests.   George played with the 4 Vests on several occasions.   George also went to the drive in movies, bought a guitar in a music shop, bought American records, ate at the a diner that had car hops on roller skates, and spent a lot of time playing his guitar and hanging around with local people.  

This is a small thing, but yet historically in the story of the Beatles, it is an important first step to the Beatles becoming popular in America.   And so the state of Illinois decided to place a marker in Benton, Illinois to commemorate the time George spent in their town in 1963.

It was a beautiful day to have this outside event.    About 100 people showed up for the ceremony.  Several people spoke including Bob Bartel, who saved Louise Harrison's former home from being demolished and Jim Kirkpatrick who wrote the book, Before he was Fab.    Marcia Schafer told how she was the first person to play a Beatles song on the radio in the United States and George's very own sister, Louise Harrison spoke about her brother's visit and how she ended up living in Benton.   There were some local musicians who played some George Harrison music and also some representatives from Springfield who read the declarations and certificates aloud.    Then they took the cover off the historical marker and revealed it.

photo of the event

with Louise Harrison

Afterwards the 4 Vests sang and a few other musicians performed while Louise Harrison signed autographs and posed for photos.    Overall it was a very nice day and a good time honoring George.

The house where George stayed while he was in Benton is no longer a Bed and Breakfast.  However it is not just sitting vacant.   As far as I could tell from the trash cans sitting outside and the mail  boxes mounted in the front, it is now an apartment complex.    I found it strange, however that the people who were there who were so proud of how they saved the house from being torn down didn't seem to care much that it is no longer the Hard Day's Night Bed and Breakfast.    As a matter of fact, there was no mention that it was once THE house.   I wouldn't have thought much of it, except for the fact that this group of people kept saying how in 1995 they wanted to save the house because of its historical importance in the history of the Beatles.   If they felt like it was such a big deal, why haven't they done anything to have some type of marker near the house?

Louise Harrison's former home where George stayed for 3 weeks in 1963

Before I left Benton to go back home, my mom and I spotted a sign on an antique shop window that said to come inside and see where George bought records.   Since you all know what Beatle geeks we are, and that we are quite the suckers for stuff like this, we HAD to check it out. So here we are at the very counter that George bought the record of "I got my  mind set on you."  Funny enough my mom found a "Meet the Beatles" record in this shop. 

If you ever find yourself traveling through southern Illinois, it is worth your time to check out Benton and see the new marker and just see the little town where George got his first taste of America.   It isn't worth making a special trip just to see, but if you are already in the area it is well worth a short visit. 


  1. I visited Benton, IL in 2004 and got to stay at the house. On my leaving day, Louise Harrison came by to see us and we had a lovely chat as if we were old friends who knew each other forever. I wrote about it on my blog

  2. Aw, Louise has his smile.

  3. Good to know Louise is still around. Is it true (if you know) that she and George fell out after she opened that Beatle-titled B&B? I heard they didn't talk for years and years, and only made up at the last minute when George was making his exit.

    1. I know that she and George had a falling out, but I think it was before 1995, when Louise was working on saving the house. I think George was upset that Louise was doing the Beatles fan conventions and making money off of them.

      Louise never opened the Beatles B&B in Benton. 2 couples bought the house and turned it into a B&B. Louise just was vocal about how she didn't want the house turned down, but the press at the time mixed everything up and made it sound that SHE was the one opening a Beatles B&B. She wasn't even living in Benton at that time.

      She and George did make amends before he passed away.

  4. Sara you look so beautiful and happy up there, your smile says it all!!! Look at you with Louise!!! I love that you and Mom went to the record store, since we know that's where he bought James Ray's album, the one with "Got My Mind Set On You"! Way cool, sis!!!

    1. Ahhh thanks! I felt like such a geek wanting a photo by that counter, but yet I just had to do it!

    2. I understand!!! One moment of embarrassment....but a lifetime of appreciation (from us!)!!!

      I love your mom!!! She's way cool!!!

  5. Please listen to my interview with "A Beatle in Benton" documentarian Robert Bartel

  6. I strongly disagree with the last sentence: "it isn't worth making a special trip." Of course it is. Where else can you drive around the square and fear for your life? Or have boys on the square point east when you ask the direction to Mt. Vernon? Or drive five minutes outside of town and see wild turkeys and deer? Or drive half an hour east and see Superman's home town? Or see the place where Charlie Birger was hanged? Or see the actual radio studio (reconstructed) where George was interviewed? Or walk around the square and see shop after shop of antiques and memorabilia? Come to Franklin County! You will be glad you did. (And thanks for the story).

  7. Sara - very nice article and how lovely that you met Louise before she became a nutter.

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