Friday, August 19, 2016

Fans recall Beatles concert and the cherry bomb

We went to the afternoon show.  They didn’t fill the Mid-South Coliseum.  We enjoyed Bobby Hebb, one of the openers who had a popular song, ”Sunny.”
When it was time for The Beatles to come on, they suddenly appeared from behind their amplifiers.  Remember, this was the advent of the giant Vox amps.  The audience was both surprised and amused by this.  During the evening concert, someone threw a cherry bomb which sounded like a gun going off.  A friend of mine happened to be watching Paul McCartney through binoculars.   McCartney’s face froze and his eyes darted about, but the band played on.
The lighting at the Coliseum was low, but somewhat illuminated, as opposed to dark with a spotlight on the band.  In hindsight, I wonder if keeping the lights up was a way to help with crowd control.   -Shomer

I was at the night show on August 19 at the Mid-South Coliseum. Contrary to what many people say, the cherry bomb was not thrown on the stage. I had center seats near the stage, and when the cherry bomb exploded I looked to my left and the cops were hauling away some guy about 75 feet or so from the stage. All I remember is that the Beatles seemed to duck in time and did not miss a beat on If I Needed Someone. Great show. -  Joe

 I was there.  Two concerts in August 66.  Just got my driver’s License.  I remember the KKK was outside the coliseum for the afternoon performance that I attended.  It was right after the more popular than Jesus comment by John.  The southern parents upset but that never stopped us.  Great show over the screams.  – Daniel

 For the afternoon show, I sat directly behind the stage. I was leaning over the rail, begging Ringo for a drumstick, but a security guard ordered me to stay seated. After a song, Paul turned. My hand shot up in a wave, and he waved back. I had made contact with a god. – Donati

 I was at both concerts. The screaming took care of any sounds of fireworks, but scary looks from all four! Southern Baptists had called for an 'album burning' that day, and now I wonder how many wish they still had those albums they trashed! No cameras were allowed inside and since I was only 16 I was afraid to test security. Would not trade living in the 60s for anything. Lived, breathed Beatles!  -- LuvlyRita

 The stage was backed up to the wall in the old coliseum at the fairgrounds in Memphis. Security was tight and there was a Jesus rally going on at the city auditorium in protest of The Beatles being in town.
There was a chain link fence around the stage with space for policemen to walk between the fence and the stage.
My girlfriend, whom I married two years later, and I were on row 16 on the floor. She sat and held her ears the entire evening. She was into church and classical music, and only there to humor me.
The Beatles were escorted directly from the airport and directly back when the concert ended. They marched onto the stage and took their bows and immediately began songs back to back. I think they performed every hit of theirs that was on the market at that time, plus a few selected American rock and roll hits of their choosing. Everyone rose to their feet, and on the floor, we had to stand in our chairs – except my girlfriend, Sandra.
They played and sang without a break for about one hour. They did not miss a beat even after someone set off a cherry bomb in the balcony seats behind me and to my left. They ducked, but did not stop the performance. Of course, there was fear that it was a gunshot.
Police surrounded the culprit and took him and his friends out. There was no further disturbance that I know about.
With a press pass, I was able to go to the stage and shoot two rolls of film. There were only a few of us photographers. The Beatles were gracious and clowned sometimes for the cameras.
I have been a photographer for more than these 40 years and this is one of the most profound memories personally and professionally, including Woodstock a few years later and many concerts since.  – Nathan

 Having loved and lived all my live in south Memphis growing up there as a peddlers son and just returning from my first tour in Vietnam as a paratrooper in the band of brothers 101st Airborne on leave to see my sick father and having a chance to break the sickness of war for only a night in the coliseum on that August night was a thing never to forget.
Then the uniform was khaki pants and shirt and highly polished jump boots with my new combat infantry badge and jump wings and a few ribbons of honor to show I've been somewhere. Most of the security I knew since I peddled the streets around Peabody and Harbert with my father for many years, so getting backstage wasn't a problem. And my cousin was just a young cop too, at that time, making some extra dough.
I just tried to stay out of the way backstage as I was told to do when they arrived, but for some reason, I stood out like a war trophy in those spit-shined boots. John Lennon was the only Beatle who wanted to chat the most. It seems now in my memories of that night, we spoke of the war in Vietnam.
He seemed interested in all the people dying, which at that time were mostly civilians in small villages in the central highlands who had little, even clothes, and just a few Viet Cong killed in small battles that we had been in in the mountains. He was touched by my presence, I think, and ask me to be right beside the stage when they performed. I felt 10 feet high that night and he gave me a wink when playing. He wanted my autograph and I had, at one time, all of theirs with some special notes from each, but lost them in the jungles a long way from Memphis many nights later to the weather.
Oh yes, I didn't even have to pay for a ticket that night, just a rookie trooper. Went back for two more years in combat and won a few more ribbons, but not ever forgetting that night in my home town with The Fab Four back stage.
Oh, what a night.  – Thomas

 I was 14 years old and could not believe it when I heard they were coming to Memphis. We had tickets for the 4 p.m. concert so I headed to Memphis in my grooviest purple and white polka-dotted dress.
My friends and I screamed all the way through the first concert and could not believe how great they sounded – just like on their records. I could not get enough of them and, since I have the best mother ever, I talked her into getting us tickets for the 8:30 p.m. concert, also.
Although we sat behind them, the sound and the frenzy was the same, and they even turned around to look at us a couple of times.
My friend and I sat through both concerts in total awe of how good they sounded and what an amazing show they delivered.
The moment that will never be forgotten came at the end of the first concert as they ended the show. I ran down to the stairs that were directly above the side of the stage where they were walking to go backstage.
I screamed to Paul at the top of my lungs and he looked up directly at me and smiled, then waved – AT ME!
Of course, all my friends never believed it but Paul and I knew it. For a young teenage girl in the '60s, it just didn't get any better than that.  – Shelia

 It was the summer of 1966 and I was 14 years old. I had been literally “worshipping” The Beatles for over two years and just had to go to their concert in Memphis.
I lived in Holly Springs. The first concert, scheduled for 8:30 p.m., was quickly selling out. However, my best friend, Judy Newsom, and I were able to get two tickets for the second show, which was scheduled once the promoters saw the need for it. The tickets cost $5.50, $5 for the actual ticket and a handling charge of 50 cents. We were ecstatic. We were true Beatles fanatics and had been for a long time.
We made posters for our favorite Beatle, Paul. They said “I love you Paul.”After dressing in our finest, we headed for the concert. Of course, we could not drive and had my parents, along with my 4-year-old little brother, take us to the Coliseum in plenty of time for the afternoon concert.
Of course, my parents were nervous about just dropping us off and we received many pieces of advice about being careful, etc. We took our posters with us (you could not do that today) and took our places in our seats – on the eighth row! We simply could not believe we were actually there.
The opening act sang a song about “a red rubber ball.” No groups have opening acts today. Then the most wonderful rock and roll band ever came on stage. There they were Paul, George, Ringo and John. The security guards were taking cameras away from the audience because there was a “law” there were to be no pictures taken. I decided to put mine back in my purse. It was a Brownie camera by Kodak.
It was unbelievable, we were actually there and I was staring right at Paul and screaming his name the whole time they were on stage. I was waving my poster and I believe he looked right at me.
John was on stage wearing those “granny” glasses of his and not really acknowledging anyone yelling at him. We got the sense that he was really ready to leave the group. Ringo and George, like Paul, seemed pleased to be adored by so many people. It was awesome and one of my best memories ever.
They played for a short 25 minutes, but it seemed like a lifetime, not like the two-hour concerts you get for $75 or so today. Here was a really famous group that we were actually a few feet from and they were real! They were not just pictures in the many newspapers and magazines we collected and faces seen on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” They were really singing to us in the Mid-South Coliseum in Memphis, Tenn., and a part of me believed that Paul was singing just to me! I will never forget it, for it seems like it was “Yesterday.”  -  Carey
Once John (my favorite), Paul, George and Ringo took the stage, all of the females in the seats surrounding ours jumped up and began to scream. It practically scared me to death! Then I realized that this must be how you should behave at concerts. So my friend and I jumped up and began to scream, too. I don't believe we sat down the entire concert. However, I got tired of screaming and just tried to listen to the music. I especially liked listening to them speak with their British accent.
Even though the Beatles were not my favorite music group during my high school years, I'll never forget the excitement of my first concert and the memories it provided for a young, 13-year-old Mississippi girl.
-          Jo Ann

-          My memories of the concert are much the same as others who attended. There was a delay at the beginning because of death threats against The Beatles and the coliseum was searched for bombs. We had to stand on our chairs the entire time to even get a glimpse of the group as they performed and the screaming of the fans drowned out much of their music. None of that mattered to Betty or myself – we were actually in the same building and just a few yards away from the famous Beatles! Even the cherry bomb that exploded during the third song failed to dampen our spirits.
-          When Ronnie and Paula picked us up we were too excited to go home. We had devised a scheme to find the group and meet them personally. An announcement at the end of the concert said the group would be flying out immediately for a concert in Cincinnati, Ohio, on the following night. We were sure if we went straight to the Memphis airport we would be able to see The Fab Four and even get an autograph.
-          Against his better judgment, Ronnie humored us and drove to the airport. He chose to wait for us at the center of the main terminal while we raced up and down the corridors in search of Paul, John, George and Ringo. Unlike today, there was virtually no security to be seen at the airport and very few passengers or workers at midnight. We could see some planes on the runway and we were sure The Beatles were on one of those planes. Checking exit doors, we found one that was unlocked and we went down the stairs and out onto the tarmac. It was very dark and deserted, but we ran from plane to plane hoping to get a glimpse of the group before they left Memphis. We finally gave up the search when we realized they were probably already gone from the airport. We returned to the central terminal where Ronnie sat shaking his head in disbelief at our behavior. He was just glad that we had not been arrested for trespassing.

-          Betty, Paula and I naively thought such a world famous group would use a commercial airline. We found out the next day they had left in a private jet from the Army Depot airport on the other side of Winchester. Our memories of the actual concert have grown a little fuzzy during the years, but we all three vividly remember our search through the Memphis airport for The Beatles.-Sandra

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