Some months ago, Jim Irsay, owner of the Indianapolis Colts, bought Ringo Starr's 1963 Ludwig Oyster Black Pearl three-piece drum kit (using which he recorded "Can't Buy Me Love" among other songs) at an auction for $2.25 million. This purchase expanded his Beatles instrument collection, which already included Lennon's guitar which he played on "Paperback Writer". An article in Rolling Stone about the auction cited Irsay's hope for a Beatles festival in Indianapolis: "In the spirit of the music, Irsay doesn't plan on just stashing the famed drum kit behind glass; instead, he says he hopes to throw a party – similar to the Lennon tribute in New York – where artists would perform Fab Four songs using the legendary Beatles instruments he's housing in his collection." (Source: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/colts-owner-why-i-paid-2-2-million-for-ringo-starrs-drum-kit-20151206#ixzz42cauzpV7)
Last week, while returning home from my Florida tour, the last program was at the Alexandrian Public Library in Mount Vernon, IN. Just East of Mount Vernon is Evansville, home of Lanea Stagg, author of Recipe Records - A Culinary Tribute to The Beatles. Lanea and I met for lunch on March 3 and we discussed Irsay's acquisition as well as his interest in a Beatles convention in Indianapolis, with both of us extremely interested in the prospect.
Then, after the presentation in Louisville the other day, several people commented that they were looking forward to Abbey Road on the River in May, where I will be giving three presentations during the festival: "The Influence of American Rock 'n' Roll on the Beatles" on May 27, "Carte Blanche: The Beatles' White Album" on May 28, and "Let it Be: The Beatles, January 1969" on May 29. Many people also mentioned that 2016 will be the last year AROTR is held in Louisville. That was news to me, but after a little digging I discovered it is indeed true: Abbey Road on the River will be held in Jeffersonville, IN in 2017, just North of Louisville. It is uncertain whether this change of location is permanent or temporary.
When Natalie and I moved from Connecticut last summer, one reason we chose Indiana as our new home was because it lives up to its nickname as "The Crossroads of America". We had narrowed our decision down to Chicago or Indy, selecting the latter because its central location facilitates my travel. A tour down to Florida and back is easier from Indianapolis than from Chicago or Hartford. Same goes for this current tour to Arizona.
Conversely, this easily accessible geographical location also makes the Circle City an ideal city to host large crowds. Indy has frequently hosted conventions (Comicon, Star Wars Celebration III) and sporting events (the Super Bowl in 2012, and NCAA Final Four in 2010 and 2015, not to mention the Indianapolis 500 every spring).
The city's ability to host conventions, combined with the fact that the owner of the city's NFL team has explicitly expressed an interest, and that two major Beatles authors live near by, makes a pretty compelling case for why Indianapolis should host a Beatles festival in the near future. Plus, an already-established Beatles festival in Louisville (just two hours South of Indy) appears to be seeking a new location.
So here's to the notion of the first-ever Indianapolis Beatles convention!
More immediate, however, is tomorrow's continuation of my current tour. Just as last week's "The Influence of American Rock 'n' Roll on the Beatles" in Brentwood, TN (just South of Nashville) could hardly have been in a more appropriate geographical location, so too tomorrow's "From the Shadow of JFK: The Rise of Beatlemania in America" in Burleson, TX (just Southwest of Dallas) could hardly be in a more appropriate geographical location:
Saturday, 12 March 2016, 2:00-3:00 p.m.
Burleson Public Library, 248 SW Johnson Ave, Burleson, TX
From the Shadow of JFK: The Rise of Beatlemania in America
Many Beatles authors and scholars have cited John F. Kennedy's assassination on 22 November 1963 as a cause of the Beatles' sudden popularity in the United States in early 1964. Their logic: Kennedy's assassination made America sad, then the Beatles made America happy again. But this commonly accepted answer is overly simplistic. America has suffered numerous tragedies and rebounded each time, but the popularity and staying power of the Beatles remains unmatched in American history. The real answer is that Kennedy's life and death inadvertently primed the nation for the Beatles' arrival and success. This 60-minute program will explain how and why.
I was worried when Aaron planned on giving presentations about the Beatles in America's southern states. I recall the destructive response from Dixie residents, including in Memphis and Dallas -- areas in which Aaron had scheduled talks -- to John Lennon's opinions that his band was more popular than Jesus Christ. Death threats and bonfires fueled by Beatles albums and merchandise greeted the four musicians when they toured the southern U.S. soon after the remarks were made public.
There is a telling story about one of two Beatles concerts in Memphis, TN in August 1966 when someone lobbed a firecracker onto the stage. When it exploded, each of the startled Beatles wondered which of the others had been shot.
So, would there still be antagonistic feelings toward the Fab Four? Would those residents turn their wrath on Aaron, the messenger? Well, Beatles fan Lisa Ketcham, who works at the Southham, MS library, where Aaron's March 9 talk detailed the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album, has not seen or heard lingering traces of the backlash.
"I find a lot of the younger generation don't even know who the Beatles are anymore, and that just kills me," she said. "I'm thinking, 'Somebody didn't raise you right.'"