Monday, September 16, 2013

George and "She" Sneak into America

September 16-30, 1963

Swan Records was an independent label based in Philadelphia, home of Dick Clark's American Bandstand and the Philadelphia sound.  (American Bandstand in the early 60s is a great source if you want to better understand the main competition the Beatles would run into on American shores.)  Swan had scored hits with "Palisades Park" and "Way Down Yonder in New Orleans", both by their number one talent Freddy Cannon.  Because Capitol Records in LA, the American subsidiary EMI in Britain, has passed on it, "She Loves You" is released on Swan in the USA.  The lack of interest in the record in the USA is stupendous.

At the same time, all of the Beatles get a couple of  weeks off from their grueling schedule.  John and Cyn meet Brian Epstein and Astrid Kircherr in Paris and Paul and Ringo take a trip to Greece.  George Harrison makes a trip the the USA to visit Benton Illinois, one of the most interesting episodes in early Beatle history.

George and his brother Peter make the journey to the new world in waiting to visit their sister, Louise.  Her husband was trained as a mining engineer and coal mining is big industry in southern Illinois.  George hooks up with a local band (The Four Vests) and sits in at a couple of gigs at a local venues.  He also buys some records to take back home and brings a copy of his new record, "She Loves You", to the local radio station.  (It does get on the air.)

But most importantly, he obtains a new guitar - a black solid body Rickenbacker 425.  He convinces the music store owner to refinish the guitar from its original fireglo red and purchases it with cash.  You can visit the guitar today in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum in Cleveland Ohio, if you've a mind to.  In the long run, the guitar didn't get much use,  Still there is some sweet vestige of the hero worship that John Lennon inspired in his younger protege that is exemplified by George's desire to have a guitar from the same maker as that of his hero.

And meanwhile, back in London, George Martin and company are putting some finishing touches on  the second Beatle album. In the UK it's entitled "With The Beatles".  The skinnied down version in the US will be called "Meet the Beatles".

UPDATE - 50 Years later. Some things haven't changed.  Took these pics myself this week.

George slept here - George's sister's house in Benton Il
George played here - VFW Hall in Eldorado Il
And here too - Boneyard Bocci Ball Club in Benton
Most amazing of all is the bocci ball club, which is still in business.  I wonder if they still do rock and roll shows now and then.