Monday 14 September 2015


The Beatles on the windswept stage at the Gator Bowl, September 11, 1964. Concert-goer Annette Ramsey recalled that the cardboard letters spelling out “Beatles” were eventually ripped away from the side of the stage by the wind. (State Archives of Florida)
The Beatles prepare to play at the Gator Bowl on Sept. 11, 1964. High winds eventually ripped the cardboard letters spelling out “Beatles” away from the stage, recalled a concertgoer. 
On Sept. 11, 1964, the Beatles played in concert for the first and only time in Florida.
But their windy, whirlwind show at Jacksonville’s old Gator Bowl almost didn’t happen.
To set the stage: “A Hard Day’s Night” had premiered in the United States the previous month, and Americans were simply mad for the mop tops.

Paul, George, John and Ringo attend a press conference at George Washington Hotel in Jacksonville prior to their Gator Bowl show. The band mates had to eat their pre-concert dinner while they met the press.
In the middle of a month-long North American tour, the Beatles were scheduled to arrive in Jacksonville on Sept. 9—two days before their show—but Hurricane Dora swept into town ahead of Hurricane Beatlemania.

George and John during the press conference.
The band’s plane was diverted to Key West, where the lads from Liverpool relaxed at the Key Wester Hotel (later demolished and replaced by the Hyatt Windward Pointe). 
Like so many tourists before and after them, the Beatles spent much of their time in Key West drinking.
In 2004, Paul McCartney said:
“We stayed there for a couple of days, not knowing what to do except, like, drink. I remember drinking way too much, and having one of those talking-to-the-toilet bowl evenings. It was during that night, when we’d all stayed up way too late, and we got so pissed that we ended up crying – about, you know, how wonderful we were, and how much we loved each other, even though we’d never said anything.”

Police escort George and Paul from the George Washington Hotel to the Gator Bowl. (Vern Barchard/State Archives of Florida)
Prior to show time in Jacksonville, tension emerged between the band and organizers, who had planned to racially segregate the audience. The Beatles refused to play until their promoter assured them that concertgoers would be mixed.
But because of lingering storm damage in JAX, almost 30 percent of fans were unable to reach the stadium. They were forced to forfeit their tickets, which cost $5 for seats in front of the stage and $4 for those farther away.
Opening for the Beatles were the (largely forgotten) Bill Black Combo, the Exciters, Clarence “Frogman” Henry and Jackie DeShannon.

Ringo’s drums were tied to the Gator Bowl stage to prevent them from toppling over in the high winds. 
After 37 minutes of “Twist and Shout,” “Long Tall Sally” and “Can’t Buy Me Love,” the Beatles departed for one-night stands in Boston, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, New Orleans, Kansas City and Dallas.
And in the end, their Jacksonville show would be the final time the band would perform on Florida soil.

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