Friday, November 6, 2009

Blue Collar Beatlemania

Like the rest of the country, The Youngstown Area got caught up in the British Invasion that was started by the Beatles in 1964. I was in third grade the first time I saw them on my Grand Parents big console TV with about 20 other family members. They appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show and of course, it was hyped for weeks.

I can remember it like yesterday, my older Sisters screaming when they appeared. All the adults were laughing at their hysteria. Of course, they ridiculed The Beatles' haircuts and outfits. Can you imagine, the Bowl Haircuts they had that covered their ears, causing such outrage? We didn't know it then, but things were about to change.

Within no time, all the retail stores in the area were stocking some type of Beatle merchandise. I can remember all of the kids begging their parents for anything they could get their hands on that was associated with The Fab Four. Beatle Buttons, notebooks, pencils, trading cards, and T-shirts were flying off the shelves. Not to mention the clothing like CPO Jackets and the Mop Top Haircuts a lot of the boys were sporting. I remember asking for Beatle Boots, OK, Begging. I got the famous," Not while you're living under this roof, young man.", from my Dad. I do recall collecting the Beatle Buttons from the Gumball Machines at Ben Franklin's 5 & 10. Everyone wanted Paul McCartney's button and you might as well throw away Ringo Starr's button.

It seemed like Most British bands were making a foothold with main-stream kids everywhere. Gray and White Plaid Pants were popular with boys emulating The Dave Clark Five. What self-respecting kid didn't want a Rolling Stones "Tongue" T-shirt?

This is one of those Forrest Gump Part of History Moments you will find hard to believe, but I swear, the following is TRUE!: I was in Philadelphia the Summer of 1964 with my parents, who were visiting some friends. We were out sight-seeing with our friends that evening in my Parent's car. As we approached Shea Stadium, we could here this unbelievably loud screaming coming from the Arena. My Mom's friend remarked that it was a Beatles Concert that was going to start shortly at the stadium. Three lanes of Traffic came to a halt and we noticed some people in the back of a White Florist Truck waving to us. We waved back, figuring it was just somebody being friendly in the "City of Brotherly Love". Traffic started to move and the Florist Van darted across the lanes and into an open stadium gate. My Dad cussed 'em out for almost causing an accident.

On the news the next day, The Beatles were being interviewed and asked how they managed to avoid the crowds and get into Shea Stadium. John said, "Some Genius put us in the back of a Florist Van. It worked like a charm!" To think, we were waving at each other! The closest I ever came to Rock and Roll Royalty.

Most people my age were influenced by The Beatles in some way. Everyone knew their music and can identify with certain songs that defined a period in their life. My daughter can still remember me singing "Rocky Raccoon" to her as a Lullaby. I can't help but smile whenever I see a young person discover their music for the first time. Their music will be as timeless to the next generation as it was to ours. To use one of our expressions from the 70's: ROCK ON!!!


  1. Wow! How awesome, Tom! What a great story - that certainly was a Forest Gump moment! Some of the first vinyl albums I replaced with CD's were my Beatles. Incredibly great and timeless music!

  2. Oh brother, this was a great post. I, too, remember watching The Beatles on Ed Sullivan. We collected Beatles cards and looked at each other's and traded them at lunch in elementary school. The one everyone wanted was the color portrait of Paul.

    I still have some of the original Capitol Records of their early stuff. And my sister has a German 45 of the Beatles, before they were known at all in the US, that she got from her pen pal in Germany, who told her about "this new band called The Beatles."

    I totally believe your story about the van. Somebody had to see them, it might as well have been you.

    I also sang Rocky Raccoon to my kids when rocking them to sleep. That's still one of my favorite Beatles songs.