- Mid-South Coliseum
More from year 1966
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The day before, The Beatles held a concert in Boston. Following the performance, they and their team lodged in a Boston hotel. The next morning, they departed at 11:30 am, heading to Memphis, Tennessee, where two concerts awaited them.
The Coliseum, with a seating capacity of 13,300, witnessed an audience of 10,000 for the 4 pm show. The second show, commencing at 8:30 pm, attracted a larger crowd of 12,500. Between these performances, The Beatles addressed the media in a press conference.
Supporting acts for this tour included The Remains, Bobby Hebb, The Cyrkle, and The Ronettes.
Throughout the tour, The Beatles contended with the backlash from John Lennon’s controversial statement that The Beatles were “more popular than Jesus.” Landing in Chicago on August 11, the inaugural stop of the tour, a press conference was organized. John clarified that his comment was a reflection of the decreasing number of church attendees and was not intended as an anti-religious sentiment. He regretted juxtaposing The Beatles’ popularity with that of religious practices. Yet, this topic resurfaced continually in subsequent press conferences, testing the patience of John and his fellow band members.
The sentiment against The Beatles was particularly pronounced in America’s Bible belt. Even after multiple clarifications by The Beatles’ representatives and Lennon’s public apology, Memphis city officials voted to cancel the concerts scheduled for August 19, refusing to allow their facilities to be a platform for religious mockery. Further, the Ku Klux Klan, in a display of protest, nailed a Beatles album to a cross, threatening retribution. Conservative factions also organized public Beatles record burnings.
Despite the initial cancellation, the band’s manager, Brian Epstein, decided to move forward with the Memphis concert. The atmosphere was tense, with threats looming. Reverend Jimmy Stroad led a demonstration outside the Coliseum, and six Ku Klux Klan members picketed, donning their traditional robes.
While the afternoon performance went without a hitch, the evening show was marred when someone hurled a lit firecracker onstage. Although no one was hurt, the band was left shaken, believing it to be an assassination attempt.
Three days into the tour, we encountered a tiny group of Ku Klux Klan goons demonstrating at Washington’s District of Columbia Stadium and, four days after that, half-a-dozen Klansmen outside the Mid South Coliseum in Memphis encouraged a mob of fanatics to yell obscenities at our vehicle-of-the-day, a Wells Fargo truck, as we arrived at the venue for the first of two shows. This was the most stressful date on the tour, all of us aware that, if John was to come to any harm at the hands of protestors, here was the place it was most likely to happen.Tony Barrow – From “John, Paul, George, Ringo & me: the real Beatles story“, 2006
“Send John out. He’s the one they want,” George Harrison said, trying to joke. “Maybe we should just wear targets on our chests,” Paul McCartney added. Nobody laughed.Judith Sims – Editor of TeenSet magazine in 1966 – From Los Angeles Times, 1986
The plane ride to the Southern city of Memphis, Tennessee wasn’t exactly filled with fun and frolic, although several people were trying very hard to be casual about the whole thing. There was tension and undeniably worried frowns. As the plane landed, The Beatles began their familiar joshing with one another; one said, “Send John out first. He’s the one they want.” Another said, “Maybe we should just wear target motifs on our suits.”
Of course, Memphis was just great. From the moment we landed, we could tell that the people involved with The Beatles’ concert (from motorcycle police escorts to bus drivers to fans) were outdoing themselves to make us feel welcome.
The first concert wasn’t a capacity crowd, but they were very well-behaved; I couldn’t believe it. There were no guards in front of the audience, only in front of the stage behind a wire fence. Girls were crying and screaming, but they were doing it in their seats.Judith Sims – From TeenSet Magazine – Quoted in “Ticket To ride – The Extraordinary Diary of The Beatles’ Last Tour” by Barry Tashian
Woke up at 7:30 AM and got on the bus at 9:45 to go to the airport. The flight from Boston to Memphis was quieter than usual.
I sat across from John Lennon for a few minutes and asked him how he was doing. He said, “Ask me after Memphis.” He did not need to explain.
We landed at a military airstrip. As we made our way to the Mid-South Coliseum in a city bus, we saw protestors along the roadside holding signs saying, “Beatles Go Home.” We were instructed to crouch down below the window level for security. Today, instead of a limousine, the boys traveled in a Wells Fargo truck. We also heard that the Ku Klux Klan picketed one of the gates of the Coliseum. Because of death threats to The Beatles, security had been tripled.
There were two shows in Memphis – 4 PM and 8 PM. The 4:00 show was delayed for an hour because of a bomb scare. The police had to check under the stage and around the Coliseum before they would open the doors. After all this excitement, it was a relief that the audience was more sedate than other cities have been.
Between shows, The Beatles got roast beef dinners, and the rest of us got Swiss cheese and ham sandwiches. At least the sandwiches were free!Barry Tashian – Leader of the Remains, one of the opening acts of the Beatles for the 1966 US Tour – From “Ticket To ride – The Extraordinary Diary of The Beatles’ Last Tour” by Barry Tashian
Local Disc Jockeys Join ‘Beatle Ban’
Ever since Beatle John Lennon’s comment in a teenage magazine that the mop-haired foursome is now “more popular than Jesus,” the group of singers has been about as popular with disc jockeys as they would be at a barbers’ convention.
Dozens of the nation’s radio stations, particularly in the South, have banned the group’s records from their turntables in protest. And local platter spinners have joined the majority.
CHUCK NEWTON, with Station WGAT in Gate City, said the mop-haired foursome should be banned from the country. “We have banned the Beatles from our programming and they ought to stay out of the country,” said Newton. “Even the teens around this area are going along with what I say — that the Beatles should be banned from the United States.”
Three other area stations go along part way with the views expressed by Newton, but none, so far, has advocated that the British group be banned from this country.
LARRY HARRIS, record librarian and announcer for Station WKIN, Kingsport, said none of the Beatle records is being played now. “We’re still checking with other stations,” he said. “We may play their records later, but not right now.”
WKPT, another Kingsport station, “is kind of holding off,” said a station spokesman. Although the station broadcast an “editorial” defending the Beatles’ music, a WKPT employe said none of the records is being played. “We had a couple of nasty calls when we did play them,” he said. “They may be played later, but not right now.”
STATION WMCH in Church Hill is also doing without the Beatle music.
Two disc jockeys in Birmingham have suggested that listeners send in their Beatle records, pictures, souvenirs and mop-top wigs for a huge “Beatle bonfire” Aug. 19 — the night the Beatles are scheduled to appear in Memphis. The Beatles — all millionaires — drew the ire of Birmingham disc jockeys Doug Layton and Tommy Charles after the broadcasters read an interview with the Beatles in a teenage magazine, “Datebook”.
IN THE INTERVIEW Beatle Lennon, the intellectual of the group, was quoted as saying: “Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue about that, I’m right and I will be proved right. We are more popular now than Jesus. I don’t know which will go first — rock ’n roll or Christianity.”
Word of the Beatle ban reached London. Beatle manager Brian Epstein, the brains behind the Beatles’ rise to fame, made a hurried trip to New York to “assess the situation” prior to the Beatles’ American tour next week and to ease strained relations caused by Lennon’s remarks. At a news conference Friday Epstein tried to explain what he thought the brainy Beatle meant:
“WHAT LENNON SAID and meant was that he was astonished that in the last 50 years, the Church of England and therefore Christ, has suffered a decline in interest. He did not mean to boast about the Beatles’ fame. He meant to point out that the Beatles effect appeared to be a more immediate one upon certainly the younger generation. It was not anticipated that the article would be displayed out of context and in such a manner as it did in the magazine.”
Few stations paid attention to Epstein’s explanation. Several bonfires were held Friday night and more were planned for next week, mostly in the South.
STATION WAKY, in Louisville, Ky., provided 10 seconds of silence an hour, for prayer instead of Beatle music. Memphis Mayor William Ingram urged the City Commission to cancel the Aug. 19 Beatles appearance. Ticket sales for the Beatles’ Memphis show, however, were proceeding as usual, though a sellout was not expected.From Kingsport Times-News – August 7, 1966
Unwelcome, City Tells Beatles
MEMPHIS. Aug. 10 – The Memphis City Commission has apparently taken its strongest possible stand against the Beatles, two scheduled performances here Aug. 19 — it simply asked them not to show up.
But two key contracts — signed long before mop-topped John Lennon was quoted as saying the English singing group was more popular than Jesus — will probably stand.
“We have contracts with the coliseum and with the management of the Beatles. We intend to honor both of them,” said Early Maxwell, whose firm is handling local arrangements for the appearance.
At a meeting Tuesday, the commission asked Maxwell and Associates to work out what was described as a mutual cancellation agreement. Such an agreement appears unlikely since more than $90,000 worth of tickets have already been sold for the shows at the MidSouth Coliseum.
The commission adopted a resolution saying “the Beatles are not welcome to Memphis” and that “their appearance will not be in the best interest of all the people of the city of Memphis.”From The Knoxville News-Sentinel – August 10, 1966
Key For Beatles
MEMPHIS (UPI) — A city commissioner said Tuesday he would give the Beatles a key to the city despite a commission resolution chastising the grow for alleged anti – Christianity statements attributed to John Lennon.
“I’ll be happy to give them one,” said Hunter Lane Jr.
Members of the Beatle fan club of Memphis had voted to spend their own money to provide the British singers with the key but hadn’t counted on help from the city leaders.From The Daily News-Journal – August 17, 1966
Memphis Guard Up For Beatles
MEMPHIS (UPI) — The Beatles will bp guarded by 86 policemen and 20 private guards during their 10-hour stay here, tomorrow, it wag learned yesterday.
“We are prepared to handle traffic, crowds and guard the group from the time they arrive until their departure late tomorrow night,” said Police Inspector H. S. Bivens.
“We don’t want to take any chances of the crowds getting out of control,” he said. “We will be there to protect not only the Beatles but the spectators.’’
THE EXACT arrival time of the quartet has been kept secret.
The Beatles have contracted for two shows at the Mid-South Coliseum. One at 4 p.m. and the other at 8:30 p.m. “I believe this is the tightest security we have had for a show in Memphis,” said Bivens.
Coliseum officials have leveled a ban on cameras and tape recorders and warned that anyone leaving his seat during the performance will be ejected.
About $5,000 tickets remain to be sold. Receipts yesterday totaled more than $100,000.From The Tennessean – August 18, 1966
Memphis Civic Troupe Will Give Two Performances
The Memphis Civic Ballet and guest dancer Joe Russillo will appear in prologues to the Beatles shows at the Mid-South Coliseum this afternoon and tonight. Nelle Fisher, artistic director of the Civic Ballet, will leave for Seattle tomorrow. These are unrelated developments and Miss Fisher, who is vacation bound, says she is pleased that the Civic Ballet will be represented on the stage before the expected large audiences. Ten members of the company will dance, along with Mr. Russillo with the Tommy Ferguson combo providing music. Miss Fisher will be the performances’ director and she and Mr. Rus-silo are the choreographers. The prologues will be at 3:45 and 8:15.
Miss Fisher will return from Seattle, her home town, to launch her second season as artistic director of the Civic Ballet with the first of five concerts planned for Dec. 1. The society’s Academy of Dance will open Sept. 12 to what is expected to be its largest enrollment ever — possibly 200 by Miss Fisher’s “rough guess.” Registration is under way. The academy’s summer session had 84 students.From The Commercial Appeal – August 19, 1966
Last updated on September 20, 2023
Setlist for the concert
If we like to think, in all modesty, that the Paul McCartney Project is the best online ressource for everything Paul McCartney, The Beatles Bible is for sure the definitive online site focused on the Beatles. There are obviously some overlap in terms of content between the two sites, but also some major differences in terms of approach.