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We first took on this issue back in 2002 … and committed ourselves to establishing ONCE AND FOR ALL which radio station FIRST played a BEATLES record here in America.  After our series was first published, it was picked up by a number of websites and has been quoted by both BEATLES and Music Historians alike ever since … in fact, noted BEATLES Historian BRUCE SPIZER even used the results of our research in his OUTSTANDING book THE BEATLES ARE COMING!

For the benefit of anyone out there who may NOT have seen it, here is a copy of that ground-breaking series … now preserved for all the world to see on our brand new FORGOTTEN HITS Website!

***

    Who played the very first BEATLES record 

here in the United States???  

THAT debate has been going on for YEARS … more than a few stations have laid claim to having been the first.  (The ones most commonly cited are WINS in New York, home of self-proclaimed “5th Beatle” MURRAY THE K,  and WWDC … out of Washington, D.C., where THE BEATLES played their first US concert.  You’ll also hear WABC out of New York mentioned from time to time.)  In the interest of providing our readers with the truth (and finally giving credit and recognition where it is really due), we’ve taken on the project of settling, once and for all, the answer to this oft-asked question.      However, to really come up with the answer to this question, we need to work backwards.

***

PART I:

     According to many published reports, WWDC in Washington, D.C. jumped the gun and started playing an IMPORT copy of I WANT TO HOLD YOUR HAND several weeks before Capitol Records was scheduled to release it.
The highly-acclaimed EXCELLENT Beatles’ biography SHOUT by PHILIP NORMAN states:  

     “A disc jockey in Washington, D.C., working on station WWDC, had somehow obtained a copy of I WANT TO HOLD YOUR HAND, and was playing it on the air amid a commotion of interest from his listeners.  The record had come not from Capitol  but from London via the disc jockey’s girl friend, who was a stewardess with British Overseas Airways.  ‘Capitol wanted to get clearance on the publishing side, to be able to ship a few hundred copies into the Washington area,’ Walter Hofer says.  ‘In fact, I had to tell them that the publishing rights had been sold to another company, MCA.  Sold for almost nothing, it so happened, just to give the song any foothold that was possible over here.’
“While Capitol tried to resolve this trifling matter, a second, identical commotion was reported from 
Chicago.  A radio station was being besieged by inquiries after playing a song called I WANT TO HOLD YOUR HAND by the British group THE BEATLES.  Apparently, it had been sent on tape from a friend of the disc jockey’s at WWDC, Washington.  From Chicago, by the same fraternal taping process, it moved west again, to St. Louis.

     “In 
New York … a drastic change was ordered in the marketing strategy of Capitol Records.  A week earlier, Brown Meggs and his colleagues had been uneasy about the prospective pressing for I WANT TO HOLD YOUR HAND of 200,000 copies.  Now, three production plants … Capitol’s own and that of CBS and RCA … were alerted to work through Christmas and New Year, to press one million copies.”

     However, as we ALL know, I WANT TO HOLD YOUR HAND was NOT the first BEATLES record to be released here in the United States.  This was their BREAKTHROUGH hit, but earlier releases of PLEASE PLEASE ME, FROM ME TO YOU and SHE LOVES YOU (on the much smaller, independent labels VeeJay and Swan), were released first with little or no fanfare.  So, whereas WWDC can certainly lay claim to breaking THE BEATLES’ first HIT record, I WANT TO HOLD YOUR HAND, they were NOT the first radio station in the country to play a BEATLES tune on the radio.  (Likewise, EVERYBODY remembers the first appearance of THE BEATLES on THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW … it was watched by a record-breaking number of people … but it was NOT their first U.S. television appearance.  Before Ed booked the band, they had already been featured on THE JACK PAAR SHOW and in a news segment with WALTER CRONKITE … but it was the ED SULLIVAN appearance that got all the attention!)  

***

       We asked ROXIE1971, part of our ever-growing list of music fans and friends, (who just happened to live in Washington, D.C. at the time), to fill in a couple more blanks … for example, was Washington, D.C. ceremoniously rewarded for breaking
I WANT TO HOLD YOUR HAND by also hosting the very first U.S. BEATLES concert?
Here is what she sent:

Hi There,
Here is a bit of info on how DC happened to have the honor of the first American Beatles concert date.
On December 10, 1963, Marsha Albert, a 14 year old in 
Maryland, saw the Beatles on the Walter Cronkite News Program. She wrote to local DJ Carroll James at WWDC radio and asked him why this type of music wasn’t getting airplay on his station. With some difficulty, British Airlines assisted Carroll in obtaining a Beatles recording. On December 17, 1963, Marsha Albert introduced it as follows: “Ladies and Gentlemen, for the first time in the United States, here are the Beatles singing ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’.”
Capitol records was considering an injunction to stop him from playing the record, as their plan was to release it in late January, just prior to a scheduled appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.  In fact, the record was so well received locally that they quickly pressed a few hundred copies for the DC area. James Carroll recalls taping it for a disk jocky to play in 
Chicago. The Chicago DJ taped it for someone in St. Louis 
and the record took off in both cities. Consequently, the release date was moved to 12/27/63.
By January, 1964, the word was out that Capitol records wanted DC to be the first stop on a concert tour. After some wrangling over the location, the Washington Coliseum was chosen. Supposedly, they were booked for $10,000.  All seats were reserved at $2, $3 or $4. Today, the Coliseum is now a trash drop-off center for 
Washington, DC
.
The Beatles arrived in 
New York 
on 2/8/64 and our local department store offered “Meet The Beatles” for $2.64 the same day. (My birthday is 2/16, so you know what I got!) I was 11 years old and sadly  didn’t have the sense to pester my parents enough to take me to the concert.
Roxie 🙂

       Once the Capitol Marketing Machine kicked in, there was no stopping the furor … THE BEATLES were going to be the biggest thing ever!  $50,000 was spent on a
“THE BEATLES ARE COMING” campaign … and even if a few fans were paid … or bribed(for all you cynics out there!) … to show up at the airport and scream … (literally THOUSANDS of T-Shirts were given away to anyone who came) … BEATLEMANIA soon took on a life of its own … and was very quickly out of control.

 

BTW:  In yet another case of misjustice, Carnegie Hall has often been credited as the first U.S. venue to house a BEATLES concert.  The very fact that a ROCK group would be allowed to perform at such a prestigious (read “snooty”) venue was amazing at the time.  (Forget the fact that they had already performed at London‘s Palladium and in front of British Royalty!)  Promoter SID BERNSTEIN may have distorted the truth just a little bit (as to just what TYPE of British musicians these guys really were) when he secured a booking for the Carnegie Hall appearances to coincide with their Sullivan debut … but all of this happened AFTER their first U.S. concert was held at the Washington, D.C. Coliseum.


PART II: 

      Here’s a perfect example of the kind of misinformation that is being circulated that drives us nuts!  Recently, (September 28th to be exact), this appeared in a popular nationally syndicated feature known as ON THIS DATE IN ROCK HISTORY:

September 28, 1963:  The legendary New York disc jockey Murray The K, receives a copy of The Beatles’ “She Loves You” and plays it on the radio. It is believed to be the first Beatles song ever played in the U.S.

It’s exactly THIS type of thing that has inspired us in our quest to establish the truth.  Unfortunately, bits of information like this get picked up, circulated, accepted and then repeated as “fact”…as this special feature report on the first radio station to play a BEATLES record in the 
United States will prove, the above claim is ludicrous!

***

     After CAPITOL RECORDS passed on the third BEATLES record offered to them  (PLEASE PLEASE ME and FROM ME TO YOU were released in the States on Vee Jay without success … SHE LOVES YOU, which remains the BIGGEST Beatles British Hit in U.K. history, ALSO wasn’t deemed “worthy of American release”), Parlophone licensed SHE LOVES YOU to the small, independent SWAN Record Label based out of Philadelphia.  It was a special “single only” deal and part of the marketing strategy was that, being a Philadelphia label, they would get the song played on DICK CLARK’s AMERICAN BANDSTAND.  In fact, Clark DID feature the song as part of his RATE-A-RECORD segment … and it only mustered a 73 rating … evidently, America was just not quite ready yet to accept these long-haired popsters from Liverpool.  MURRAY THE K wouldn’t really enter the BEATLES scene until AFTER I Want To Hold Your Hand broke through, proclaiming himself “the fifth Beatle” in the process.  Every New York City radio station jumped on the record, playing I WANT TO HOLD YOUR HAND and the quickly re-issued PLEASE PLEASE ME and SHE LOVES YOU to death in late January, 1964 …. but, as you’ll see in today’s installment, this all happened several months AFTER a BEATLES record had already been played here in the U.S.

 

***

I recently received this memo from Clay Pasternack, a former record distributor who worked for MS Distributors, one of the companies responsible for distributing VEEJAY RECORDS here in the U.S.:

I am sure SOMEONE played Please Please Me in the USA in early 1963.  I know I heard She Loves You via the stations in Toronto in late November and early December via CKEY and CHUM.       Clay         

I remember reading that THE BEATLES caught on in Canada earlier than they did here in the States … and know that some Canadian pressings of their singles (most notably ALL MY LOVIN’ and ROLL OVER BEETHOVEN) actually sold well enough here as IMPORTS to make the American Charts!  The Canadian versions of their first two British LPs were also selling quite well up in The Great White North … long before they were released here Stateside.

 

     Another reason that SHE LOVES YOU was placed with SWAN RECORDS was because VEE JAY, the company licensed to release the PREVIOUS two BEATLES singles in America (PLEASE PLEASE ME and FROM ME TO YOU) had not paid Parlophone Records the royalties due on these releases.  (It is rumored that Vee Jay President Ewart Abner had embezzled company funds to pay off his gambling debts and, since the previous releases hadn’t done much anyway, chose to ignore any monies due Parlophone.)  Supposedly, total U.S. sales for PLEASE PLEASE ME and FROM ME TO YOU in 1963 were approximately 5650 and 21,250 respectively … which means that SOMEBODY out there was playing AND buying these records!!!  (Sales statistics courtesy BRUCE SPIZER in his INCREDIBLE accounting of THE BEATLES ON VEE JAY RECORDS.)

***

     In fact, FROM ME TO YOU received enough sales and airplay to “bubble-under” on Billboard’s chart (it peaked at #116 after three weeks on the chart).
DEL SHANNON, who had toured with THE BEATLES in England, recorded HIS version of FROM ME TO YOU and had a minor hit (#67 in Cashbox and … amazingly … #10 here in 
Chicago) in June, 1963.  He was the first artist to place a song written by LENNON/McCARTNEY on the U.S. Pop Charts (an oft-asked music trivia question!)
Most of the sales for FROM ME TO YOU came from the Los Angeles area … in fact, this KRLA Chart (dated August 11, 1963), shows the song at #32 in its sixth week, a month and a half BEFORE “Murray The K  SUPPOSEDLY  played SHE LOVES YOU as the first BEATLES’ record to be aired in America.”

 

     This was still hardly the American break-through the band was hoping for.  The general feeling at the time was that British acts just were NOT going to make it here.  In that DEL SHANNON’s version of FROM ME TO YOU had already charted, it is very possible, in hindsight,  to consider that THE BEATLES’ version may have been viewed as a “remake” instead of as the original.  (By 1963, DEL SHANNON was already an established artist and, based on the low-charting of his version, THE BEATLES’ version was likely not added to very many playlists.)  In any event, the fact that FROM ME TO YOU received enough sales and airplay to hit #116, PROVES that SOMEBODY here in the United States was playing a BEATLES record on the radio … well before SHE LOVES YOU … and well before I WANT TO HOLD YOUR HAND.


PART III:

     Recently, after the passing of GEORGE HARRISON, his sister Louise told PEOPLE MAGAZINE that when George came to visit her in 1963 (several months before THE BEATLES hit it big here on THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW), she got the current BEATLES’ single, FROM ME TO YOU, played on the local downstate Illinois radio station.  (This was the first time I had heard THIS story … for 30 years I’ve known that George came to visit his sister in the Summer of 1963.  By then, THE BEATLES were pretty big stars overseas, yet were still unheard of here in the States.  George went back to England with horror stories of how CLIFF RICHARD, the biggest star in the U.K., was reduced to the second half of a double-feature here in the States at the local drive-in with his U.K. smash film SUMMER HOLIDAY … and left with the fear that THE BEATLES would NEVER make it in America!  This story was probably FIRST told in the 1968 Official Beatles Biography written by Hunter Davies.)  In fact, part of George’s mission may have been to “test the waters” to see what kind of reaction THE BEATLES might expect on our shores.  That story has circulated for years … yet the part about George stopping by the local radio station was never part of it until now.  Could it be true???  It would be AMAZING to think that some tiny little downstate Illinois radio station would hold the distinction of being the very first to broadcast a BEATLES record here in the U.S.!!!

In my research preparing for this special series, I’ve come across some reprint articles from The St. Louis Post Dispatch that help to chronicle these “new” events.  However, this article ran in 1997 … five years before Louise Harrison made that revelation in PEOPLE MAGAZINE.  If any part of this article is true, this predates the more common belief as to who played the first BEATLES record by several months.  Read on …

From St. Louis Post-Dispatch –
Reported by Andrew Bedell 

     In the quiet of September 1963, Beatle George Harrison visited his sister in Southern Illinois, where a teen-age DJ first put needle to Beatles vinyl — months before the group’s milestone “Ed Sullivan” gig.  Now a local fan wants history to remember Harrison‘s musical recom mission — and the time.
Maybe you’re old enough to remember — or surely you’ve at least seen film of the historic event: On Feb. 7, 1964, a jet touched down at 
Kennedy Airport in New York, chauffeuring in an event that would change music — some say Western culture — forever.  The Beatles arrived in the United States for the very first time. The hysterical mob at the airport was only the beginning. On Feb. 9, and again on Feb. 16, more than 70 million people tuned into the now-legendary broadcasts of the “Ed Sullivan Show” and heard “She Loves You” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” Girls screamed, they cried, they fainted. Beatlemania had made it to the United States
.
It’s time to rewrite popular history. The trip to 
New York was not exactly the first time the Beatles were in America
, and the “Ed Sullivan Show” was not the first place their music was played here. Beatles historian and collector Bob Bartel of Springfield, Illinois, is setting the record straight, and helping preserve what he and other Beatles fans believe is an important piece of history. He’s made a documentary telling the real story.
 In September 1963, while the rest of the Beatles took a holiday in Europe, George Harrison, then 20, and his brother, Peter, visited the 
United States. Ostensibly on a recon mission to test the market before the group cemented plans to finally play here, George and Peter were actually here to see their sister. Their destination:  BentonIllinois, a small mining community in Southern Illinois.  Louise Harrison Caldwell moved there early in 1963 with her husband, a mining engineer.
Bartel’s film, “A Beatle in 
Benton,” which won honorable mention at the recent Berkeley Film Festival in California, is a straightforward documentary in which the director interviews many of the folks who encountered Harrison 
during his stay in the area. It consists mostly of casual chats with family members, musicians, radio DJs and others who helped make local history.
     “George spent 18 days in 
Benton,” says Bartel, a middle-aged guy who wears tinted glasses and drives a cab. “While he was there, he played at a VFW dance with a local band, he bought a guitar, he went camping with the family.” Just a normal visit to your older sister, right?
“Remember, at this time the Beatles were huge in England, and early that summer, George’s mom sent Lou the Beatles’ latest single, ‘From Me to You,’ Bartel explains. “And Lou acted as the Beatles advance person, taking their record to local stations to get it played.” She decided to take it to WFRX-AM, in West Frankfort, Illinois.  WFRX was a typical middle-of-the-road station, but it did have a show that played youth-oriented music. The disc jockey of the show, Marcia Raubach, was just a high-school girl (her father owned the station). So, in June 1963, for the very first time anywhere in the 
United States, Marcia cued up the Beatles, and “From Me to You” went over the air in Southern Illinois.  Bartel believes Marcia should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, right alongside Murray 
the K.
When George arrived in 
Benton 
three months later, it was obvious that his sister’s advance work had paid off. Brother and sister hitchhiked to WFRX with another new single for the playlist, “She Loves You.”
“So here you have this small radio station in Southern Illinois breaking the Beatles in the 
U.S. 
months before anybody else,” says Bartel. “Lou had also arranged for George to play with a local band, the Four Vests, so he’d have some musicians to hang out with,” Bartel adds. “She even gave the band some Beatles records so they could learn the music before George arrived.”
     The Four Vests — plus George Harrison — played a gig in 
Eldorado, Illinois, at the VFW Hall. “The band played their normal first set, popular stuff like the Ventures, and then took a break,” Bartel says. “They came back for the second set and introduced George as the ‘Elvis of England.’ They said people’s mouths dropped open.”  

     Harrison even bought a guitar at the music store in nearby Fenton — his famed Rickenbacher hollow-body. (Please note: This reporter did not have accurate information in preparing this portion of his interesting report. The instrument was a “solid-body Rickenbacker” as described in the article You Won’t See Me).
     Bartel, 48, is a life-long Beatles fan. He says he had always known the significance of the connection with George and 
Benton, Illinois, but never got directly involved until 1994. “I drove down to Benton to buy the new CD, ‘Live at the BBC,’ the day it was released as a gift for my wife, Janice. When I was down there, I thought, ‘I wonder where Louise Harrison lived?”’
Bartel started digging — and it didn’t take him too long to find what he was looking for. Bartel is trained as a private investigator. “At first, no one seemed to remember Louise Harrison. But then I looked in a directory from 1963 and found a Louise Caldwell,” Bartel says. “So I went over to 113 McCann.”
Louise Harrison Caldwell and her husband had sold the house some years before. When Bartel found it, the bungelow was in disrepair and was slated to be torn down by the state to make way for a parking lot for the Mine Rescue Unit. Bartel made some calls to state officials and discovered that the house should have already been demolished. Frantically, he made more calls and got a stay of execution. He wanted to save the home.
     He called Louise Harrison, now living in Florida, for help. She came to Benton
 and they began an all-out effort to save the home. Months later, after much agonizing and legal wrangling, Bartel and his band of Beatles preservationists succeeded. A group of local investors bought the home and turned it into A Hard Days Nite Bed & Breakfast.
Bartel’s belief in the historical significance of George’s stay in Benton, and of Louise’s former home, is profound. That’s why he filmed a documentary on the subject. The 120-minute video, “A Beatle in Benton,” tells the whole story, in depth. The video is in the archives of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland
.
“Benton is really the birthplace of the Beatles in America,” Bartel emphasizes. “For me, the essence is that (I) got to do something to preserve history.”

***

       Quite honestly, if ANY part of this story is true, it completely changes the broadcast history of THE BEATLES here in America.  Imagine …a  young, 20-year old GEORGE HARRISON playing FROM ME TO YOU on the radio and then jammin’ with some local band in downstate rural Illinois!!!  What a shock THAT must have been!  (Those of you who’ve been on the list for a while will remember our week-long tribute to the BEATLES’ first appearance on THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW … and will remember that there was every bit as much reaction to THE BEATLES’ hair as there was to their music!!!  Imagine the look on the local Benton folks’ faces down in what could pretty much be described as “Hicksville, USA“, when they first laid eyes on long-haired Beatle-George!)
However, incredible as this story may be, this means that all of this happened in the timeframe of June-September, 1963 … that means that we’ve made an even MORE amazing discovery!!!  STAY TUNED!!!

 

 

 

 

BTW:  SPEAKING OF THE HOUSE IN BENTON, IL:

     Louise Harrison has called off a fund-raising effort to help save a house in Benton, Illinois, where her brother, Beatle George Harrison, once stayed. Louise Harrison lived in the house in 1963. Her brother visited her there for a couple weeks shortly before gaining fame in the United States. Civic officials had joined with Louise Harrison in trying to save the house from the wrecking ball. She had proposed making it a tourist attraction and turning over proceeds to the Benton grade schools.  But on Monday, Louise Harrison said that she had lost hope of collecting enough donations by the deadline Sunday. The state bought the house last year and plans to raze it for a parking lot for a nearby state office building. The state had held up its plans to give Harrison‘s group time to try to raise enough money to either buy the house and move it, or buy a nearby house to swap with the state for a parking site.
Three couples in 
Benton, Illinois, have pooled their resources and saved the house where George slept. They plan to open a bed-and-breakfast in the blue five-bedroom frame house at 113 McCann Street. Beatle George Harrison stayed there for a couple of weeks in 1963 while visiting his sister, Louise Harrison. “The fact that George Harrison slept there just blew my mind,” said Cindy Rice, one of the investors.  The house had been in jeopardy since the state bought it late last year, planning to tear it down to make a parking lot for a nearby office building. Avid Beatles fans heard about the plan, and soon Louise Harrison, who now lives in Florida, and city officials were appealing to the state to spare the house so it could be used for a tourist attraction. The state insisted it needed the parking space, but offered two options: The state would give the house to anyone who would move it to another site. The state would swap the Harrison 
house for a brick house next door and tear down the brick house for the parking lot.  On Thursday, Rice’s group signed an agreement to buy the brick house. “We’re all Beatles fans, but I wouldn’t say we’re fanatics,” said Rice, 38. “We’re naturally in it for the investment and to preserve it tastefully and not exploit it.” She said the venture would probably start out as a small catering business, with inside dining in the living room and dining room. Some people have offered to donate Beatles memorabilia.
Louise Harrison, who coincidentally is moving back to 
Benton
, said she would not be directly involved in the house. But, she added, “when I go to Beatles conventions, I’ll tell people about it and tell them to be sure and stop.” Rice’s partners are her husband, Scott Rice; Jim and Daryl Chady, friends of Louise Harrison; and Connie and Dorothy Schultz, who live across the street from the house.
And what will they name the house? Cindy Rice says she likes the suggestion of a friend: A Hard Day’s Night Bed and Breakfast.

… and that is just EXACTLY what they did !!!  In fact, one of our long-time FORGOTTEN HITS List Members recently made the trip out there and snapped a couple of photos for us!!!

… and, speaking of long-time FORGOTTEN HITS List Members, here’s a photo of DOC ROCK and LOUISE HARRISON, taken shortly after he interviewed LOUISE for his radio program!!!

 


 

PART IV:

     THE BEATLES’ first U.K. release, LOVE ME DO, only got to #17 on the British Charts.  It was hardly a noteworthy enough performance to inspire anyone to even imagine what was to come, let alone consider a release of this song here in America.  In fact, even Producer GEORGE MARTIN wasn’t convinced THE BEATLES were on their way … he insisted they record HOW DO YOU DO IT as their follow-up single, a song that was eventually a hit for GERRY AND THE PACEMAKERS.  (Ironically, when LOVE ME DO was finally released here in the States at the height of BEATLEMANIA, it went straight to #1!!!)
However, when THE BEATLES balked at having to record someone else’s song as their next single (and John and Paul came up with their own composition instead …
PLEASE PLEASE ME) … Martin proclaimed that THE BEATLES had, in fact, just recorded their first #1 record.  (Despite this oft-repeated quote, it “officially” only got to #2 … and was thus left off the recent BEATLES 1 compilation!)  This time, Martin and The Beatles INSISTED that Parlophone Records release this single in 
America.  (A pretty bold and cocky move at the time, in hindsight.)
Parlophone first went to their 
U.S. sister company, CAPITOL RECORDS, and offered them the single.  Capitol passed … so Parlophone shopped it around to smaller, independent labels instead.  Having just had some U.S. chart success with placing the FRANK IFIELD hit I REMEMBER YOU with the small, Chicago-based Vee Jay Records, they offered this new release to Vee Jay.
VeeJay was primarily a black artists’ label, releasing R&B and Gospel Records … home to artists like GENE CHANDLER, JERRY BUTLER, DEE CLARK and, at various times, GLADYS KNIGHT and LITTLE RICHARD.  In 1963, their biggest act was the East Coast ’60’s Super Group, THE FOUR SEASONS.  When given the opportunity to release
a British act who were doing VERY well overseas, VeeJay took a shot … they really had nothing to lose … and released their then-current single PLEASE PLEASE ME in late-February, 1963.
It did nothing … in fact, VeeJay was SO nonchalant about the whole matter that they didn’t even spell the name of the group right on the record label.  (Original pressings of this single show the band’s name spelled as THE BEATTLES … and are now worth a FORTUNE!!!)
   

 


 

PART IV:

     THE BEATLES’ first U.K. release, LOVE ME DO, only got to #17 on the British Charts.  It was hardly a noteworthy enough performance to inspire anyone to even imagine what was to come, let alone consider a release of this song here in America.  In fact, even Producer GEORGE MARTIN wasn’t convinced THE BEATLES were on their way … he insisted they record HOW DO YOU DO IT as their follow-up single, a song that was eventually a hit for GERRY AND THE PACEMAKERS.  (Ironically, when LOVE ME DO was finally released here in the States at the height of BEATLEMANIA, it went straight to #1!!!)
However, when THE BEATLES balked at having to record someone else’s song as their next single (and John and Paul came up with their own composition instead …
PLEASE PLEASE ME) … Martin proclaimed that THE BEATLES had, in fact, just recorded their first #1 record.  (Despite this oft-repeated quote, it “officially” only got to #2 … and was thus left off the recent BEATLES 1 compilation!)  This time, Martin and The Beatles INSISTED that Parlophone Records release this single in 
America.  (A pretty bold and cocky move at the time, in hindsight.)
Parlophone first went to their 
U.S. sister company, CAPITOL RECORDS, and offered them the single.  Capitol passed … so Parlophone shopped it around to smaller, independent labels instead.  Having just had some U.S. chart success with placing the FRANK IFIELD hit I REMEMBER YOU with the small, Chicago-based Vee Jay Records, they offered this new release to Vee Jay.
VeeJay was primarily a black artists’ label, releasing R&B and Gospel Records … home to artists like GENE CHANDLER, JERRY BUTLER, DEE CLARK and, at various times, GLADYS KNIGHT and LITTLE RICHARD.  In 1963, their biggest act was the East Coast ’60’s Super Group, THE FOUR SEASONS.  When given the opportunity to release
a British act who were doing VERY well overseas, VeeJay took a shot … they really had nothing to lose … and released their then-current single PLEASE PLEASE ME in late-February, 1963.
It did nothing … in fact, VeeJay was SO nonchalant about the whole matter that they didn’t even spell the name of the group right on the record label.  (Original pressings of this single show the band’s name spelled as THE BEATTLES … and are now worth a FORTUNE!!!)
   

 

     It only stood to reason that the biggest Top 40 rock station in Chicago would pick up a release by a local record label … and, in fact, that’s EXACTLY what WLS did.  In MARCH of 1963, PLEASE PLEASE ME entered the Silver Dollar Survey … misspelled group name and all … and it debuted at #40 on March 8, 1963.  It rode the charts for just two weeks, peaking at #35 on March 15th … but, in that WLS counted down the Top 40 songs on their survey every afternoon, that would mean that THEY played the very first BEATLES record in America … at LEAST three months prior to the downstate Illinois station we told you about yesterday!  (According to the INCREDIBLE book SONGS, PICTURES AND STORIES OF THE FABULOUS BEATLES RECORDS ON VEE-JAY, written by BRUCE SPIZER, the original pressing of PLEASE PLEASE ME sold approximately 5650 copies during the first half of 1963 … in fact, he says only TWO COPIES of this single were sold during the last six months of that year … a pretty AMAZING fact considering what was about the happen!)

***

This WLS Chart, dated March 8, 1963, shows PLEASE PLEASE ME debuting at #40 (by THE BEATTLES, misspelling their name just like the record label did!)  This chart is FIVE FULL MONTHS older than the KRLA Chart shown earlier in this article!  It says that PLEASE PLEASE ME had been “played on the station” for the past three weeks.
Since WLS played their entire Top 40 Countdown everyday (Monday-Friday) from 3:00-6:30  (in fact, at the time, featured jock-of-the-week CLARK WEBER was the guy counting down the hits … he’s ALSO a regular contributing member of our FORGOTTEN HITS List!) this means that WLS played this song for AT LEAST the two weeks that it charted (and probably more … it peaked the following week at #35).

Here is PLEASE PLEASE at #35, its peak position, along with featured WLS jock
DICK BIONDI, who WE believe is REALLY the FIRST dj in 
America 
to play a BEATLES record!  (***NOTE:  Very Special Thanks to FH List Member BILL HENGLES for sending in these cleaned-up WLS survey copies … mine were pretty tattered and worn!!!)


     Got this from our music buddy (and former disc jockey, music director, author and program director) RON SMITH, (who also runs that AWESOME Oldies Website
Oldies Music — history, trivia and charts of Fifties, Sixties and Seventieswhich goes on to confirm much of what we just told you:

WLS in Chicago played “Please Please Me” in February of 1963. It shows up at #40 for the week of March 8, 1963 and at #35 for the week of March 15, 1963 on their Silver Dollar Survey. Since it says on the March 8th survey that it had been played for three weeks, the chances are it had been played since at least the week of February 22. This corresponds with the release date of the song– February 25, 1963. Vee Jay was headquartered in Chicago and it stands to reason they took a copy on that date or perhaps earlier directly to the station, who probably added it immediately. Dick Biondi claims he was the first DJ on WLS to play it (new music generally got played on his show) and therefore was the first DJ in the U.S. to play the Beatles. Art Roberts never disputed this, but noted that he was so impressed by the song that he started a Beatles Fan Club then– the first in the U.S.
– Ron Smith

Playing the record at the time meant nothing … it really didn’t even catch on, peaking at #35 and falling off the charts after just two weeks.  With 50,000 watts of power, on a clear night, Biondi’s show could be heard in most of the 48 continental states and he had a HUGE national following.  Odds are, he introduced THE BEATLES to 
America … and nobody even noticed!  For whatever reason, Chicago (and the rest of America for that matter) just wasn’t ready yet for THE BEATLES in March of 1963.  (There has ALWAYS been an implied correlation between the assassination of JOHN F. KENNEDY and the arrival of THE BEATLES … Americans needed something to cheer them up, and THE BEATLES happened along at just the right time … I don’t think THAT theory will ever go away either!)  When PLEASE PLEASE ME was re-released a year later, it went all the way to #2 on that same WLS Silver Dollar Survey!  (and ALL the WLS jocks had their photos taken in Beatles wigs, too!)  Likewise, in re-release, PLEASE PLEASE ME sold over a million copies … quite a few more than those original 5650 of early 1963.

     This proof certainly DOES imply that Chicago‘s very own WLS was the VERY first station in the country to play a BEATLES record on the air!  Even if the legendary DICK BIONDI made history that night the first time he played PLEASE PLEASE ME on his radio show, he certainly wasn’t aware of it at the time … in fact, since he played new music by new artists never to be heard from again all the time on a regular basis on his program, he may not have even remembered the record in 1964 when BEATLEMANIA exploded.  (By the time Beatlemania hit, Biondi wasn’t even at WLS anymore!  That short window of opportunity had already passed.  However, at his NEW gig, ironically at KRLA in Los Angeles, he had the honor of introducing THE BEATLES at their 1965 performance at THE HOLLYWOOD BOWL!)  

       As for ART ROBERTS, it is said that he officially founded BEATLES FAN CLUB #1 here in the United States … he had read about all the fuss they were causing overseas and figured that if they EVER caught on here, at least HE would be able to lay claim to the very first BEATLES U.S. Fan Club.  (In yet another case of irony, it was ART ROBERTS who took over DICK BIONDI’s timeslot on WLS after he left the station!)

***

       We may have solved a long-standing mystery here in FORGOTTEN HITS … or, if nothing else, finally given credit where credit is due.  (You’ve seen, as this series has developed, some of the OTHER folks laying claim to having been the first!)  If anyone else can offer POSITIVE proof of an earlier time a BEATLES record was played on the air, please let us know … but for now, we’ll let this record stand!

And then we received this from a site dedicated to VEE JAY RECORDS:
(also courtesy Ron Smith)
http://www.bsnpubs.com/veejay/veejayu.html
Here is a quote from Calvin Carter, the head of Vee Jay Records, regarding the Beatles and WLS:
“The Beatles’ next British single, “Please Please Me,” sailed all the way to #1 by March, 1963. When it hit #2 in early February, Vee Jay decided to release the single here, which they did in late February, 1963, as Vee Jay 498. Oddly enough, nothing at all happened, nationally. The song did get some airplay from Chicago Top-40 giant WLS, and was placed on their Top-40 charts for two weeks, making it the first local Top- 40 appearance for the group in the 
US. The group was such an unknown that
their name was misspelled “Beattles” on the record label and the Top-40 charts.”

***

     DICK BIONDI is one of the legendary voices of rock and roll history.  He certainly deserves a place in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, along side ALAN FREED, WOLFMAN JACK, DICK CLARK and some of the other pioneers of Rock’s Golden Age.  His career achievements and nationwide recognition speak for themselves.  If it’s ALSO true that Biondi just happens to be the first dj in the country to play a record by THE BEATLES, then this is just further proof of his rightful place in the Hall.   We were fortunate enough to speak with Mr. Biondi one-on-one prior to this article’s first publication in FORGOTTEN HITS and he confirms that, based on all the information he has seen over the years, he was, in fact, the first deejay in America to play a BEATLES record back in February of 1963.  He’s a little upset that “those Washington guys are getting all the credit” and acknowledges that a few people in the past have also tried to set the record straight.  We assured him that that was exactly our goal.  Hopefully, we have done so in this special series.  We gave him an advance copy of this entire article and asked him to check it for accuracy and content, assuring him that we would correct any errors he could find as well as print his own personal comments and memories … he decided instead to let the article run exactly “as is” … and that’s EXACTLY what you’ve all been reading here today.


The “OFFICIAL” BEATLES “HALL OF SHAME!!!”

     There are several candidates deserving of their place in THE BEATLES’ HALL OF SHAME … ALAN WILLIAMS, their first REAL manager (and author of the book “THE MAN WHO GAVE THE BEATLES AWAY”) … the DECCA RECORDS guys who turned them down just ten months before their first hit record (DICK ROWE and MIKE SMITH, who chose instead to sign BRIAN POOLE AND THE TREMELOES) … and even PETE BEST who TRULY got caught at the wrong place at the wrong time …. might be considered a candidate.

ALAN WILLIAMS managed THE BEATLES from 1960-1961 and was responsible for booking their trips to Hamburg, Germany, where they honed their craft, playing for up to eight hours per night in the seedy Hamburg clubs.  Ironically, it was immediately after his dismissal as their manager that renown bandleader BERT KAEMPFERT recruited THE BEATLES to back singer TONY SHERIDAN on some recordings he would be making in Germany.  MY BONNIE, recorded during these sessions, was the record that first introduced BRIAN EPSTEIN to THE BEATLES when a youngster ventured into his record shop asking for the record by Liverpool‘s very own.  The rest, as they say, is history.
Certainly another of the most famous contenders for the all-time BEATLES’  “Hall Of Shame” has to be MIKE SMITH, who turned the BEATLES down for DECCA RECORDS back in 1962 because he believed that “groups with guitars were on the way out.”  He’s learned to live with eating those words every day since.  (More on the Decca sessions below.)
However, here in 
America, the hands-down LEAD contender for this honor has just GOT to be DAVE DEXTER of CAPITOL RECORDS.  We got the lowdown from BRUCE SPIZERS’s INCREDIBLE book THE BEATLES STORY ON CAPITOL RECORDS, PART ONE … wait till you check out THESE facts!!!

LOVE ME DO, the first BEATLES single released in Great Britain only went to #17 there, and was never even considered for American release.  However, when they recorded PLEASE PLEASE ME, both producer GEORGE MARTIN and Parlophone Records were SURE that this song would be their break-through salvation here in the States.  Capitol Records’ Dave Dexter, however, turned it down.  (He would also turn down their follow-up release, the #1 hit FROM ME TO YOU … years later, he admitted that he didn’t like the “harmonica sound” of these two records  … previously, he had turned down the Top Five FRANK IFIELD hit I REMEMBER YOU for the same reason!)  As such, these singles were shopped around and ultimately sold to Vee Jay Records out of Chicago, a small independent label that released both singles in 1963 with little or no results.  When the next BEATLES’ single became available, SHE LOVES YOU, Capitol’s Dave Dexter AGAIN turned it down, saying it held no appeal to the American music market.  This time, the record was leased to Swan Records out of Philadelphia.  (Vee Jay was having money problems at the time and had not paid the royalties due on the first two releases … rumor has it that Vee Jay President Ewart Abner had embezzled company funds to pay off his gambling debts and, since the previous releases hadn’t done much anyway, chose to ignore any monies due Parlophone.)

     In all fairness to DEXTER, NONE of these songs made the charts the first time they were released Stateside … but his trained ears were ALSO not hearing what the REST of the world was by this time buying.  Once I WANT TO HOLD YOUR HAND was ready for release, Capitol could no longer deny the fact that THIS was going to be a hit record, and it was FINALLY released as the break-through hit that burst the doors open for BEATLEMANIA and the entire BRITISH INVASION that followed.

       What you may NOT know is that PRIOR to finally releasing I WANT TO HOLD YOUR HAND, Dave Dexter … in his INFINITE wisdom … had ALSO turned down the following British acts on behalf of Capitol Records:  GERRY AND THE PACEMAKERS (signed, instead, by Laurie Records), THE HOLLIES  (signed to Imperial), BILLY J. KRAMER AND THE DAKOTAS (also Imperial), THE ANIMALS (MGM), THE DAVE CLARK FIVE (Epic), THE SWINGING BLUE JEANS (Imperial again), HERMAN’S HERMITS (also MGM) and THE YARDBIRDS (Epic Records)!!!!!

       The ONLY British act that he felt WORTHY enough of an American release was FREDDIE AND THE DREAMERS, and in 1963, Capitol released I’M TELLING YOU NOW.  It tanked … never even charted.  Two years later, during the peak of the British Invasion, they re-released the single on their TOWER subsidiary label, and watched it go all the way to #1.  (Not surprisingly, by then, FREDDIE’s NEW material was being released by Mercury Records!)

       The distinctive honor of the KING of not only THE BEATLES’ Hall of Shame but also the MUSIC Hall Of Shame has just GOT to be Dave Dexter of Capitol Records!

BTW:  In 1964 alone, the British music that Dexter turned down, did the following on Billboard’s American Music Chart:

THE BEATLES:  SHE LOVES YOU  (#1 for 2 weeks) and SIE LIEBT DICH (#97), both released on Swan Records / PLEASE PLEASE ME  (#3), FROM ME TO YOU (#41), DO YOU WANT TO KNOW A SECRET? (#2) and THANK YOU GIRL (#35), all released on Vee Jay Records / LOVE ME DO (#1 for one week), P.S. I LOVE YOU (#10), TWIST AND SHOUT (#2) and THERE’S A PLACE (#74), all released on Tollie Records, a subsidiary of Vee Jay Records / WHY (#88) and MY BONNIE (#26), both released on MGM Records (and recorded in 1960 as the backing band to TONY SHERIDAN) / and AIN’T SHE SWEET (#19), released on Atco Records, also a 1960 recording.

GERRY AND THE PACEMAKERS: DON’T LET THE SUN CATCH YOU CRYING (#4), HOW DO YOU DO IT  (#9), I’M THE ONE (#82), I LIKE IT (#17), I’LL BE THERE  (#14)

BILLY J. KRAMER AND THE DAKOTAS: LITTLE CHILDREN (#7), BAD TO ME  (#9), I’LL KEEP YOU SATISFIED (#30), and FROM A WINDOW (#23)

THE HOLLIES:  JUST ONE LOOK (#98)  (They exploded in 1966 and ran up a string of eight Billboard Top 40 Hits between 1965-1969).

THE SWINGING BLUE JEANS: HIPPY HIPPY SHAKE  (#24), GOOD GOLLY MISS MOLLY (#43), YOU’RE NO GOOD  (#97)

THE DAVE CLARK FIVE: GLAD ALL OVER  (#6), BITS AND PIECES  (#4), I KNEW IT ALL THE TIME  (#53), DO YOU LOVE ME (#11), CAN’T YOU SEE THAT SHE’S MINE  (#4), BECAUSE (#3), EVERYBODY KNOWS (#15), and ANY WAY YOU WANT IT  (#14)  (Over a dozen more hits followed in 1965-1967).

THE ANIMALS: THE HOUSE OF THE RISING SUN  (#1 for three weeks), GONNA SEND YOU BACK TO WALKER (#57), I’M CRYING  (#19), BOOM BOOM (#43);  they ALSO had a dozen Top 40 Hits between 1965-1968.

HERMAN’S HERMITS:  I’M INTO SOMETHING GOOD (#13)  (They would also have seven more Top Ten hits in 1965, including two #1’s:  I’M HENRY THE VIII, I AM and MRS. BROWN, YOU’VE GOT A LOVELY DAUGHTER … and placed TEN more hits in Billboard’s Top 40 between 1966-1968.

THE YARDBIRDS:  No hits in 1964, but six Top 40 Hits between 1965-1966, including the classics FOR YOUR LOVE, HEART FULL OF SOUL and I’M A MAN.

You gotta wonder just how much Dave Dexter was paid to be a Capitol Records “knowledgeable talent scout” … 

because there’s NO question that he COST the company MILLIONS!!!

***

IN ALL FAIRNESS:  After THE BEATLES auditioned for Decca Records, Mike Smith was told by his boss, Dick Rowe, that he could only sign one rock group to the label.  He had also just auditioned BRIAN POOLE AND THE TREMELOES, and THAT was the group that HE felt would have the better success.  In all fairness, THE BEATLES’ audition wasn’t the greatest … performing several old standards, a couple of ’50’s “covers” (and a few originals that they eventually gave away to other artists), they didn’t put on a very impressive performance.  Besides a bad case of nerves, a “one take” live recording scenario,  and a couple of cracking voices here and there, their January 1st, 1962, audition didn’t quite measure up to what was to be.  One of the best of those rare Decca audition tunes was THREE COOL CATS, a LEIBER-STOLLER composition originally done by THE COASTERS.  It features a GEORGE HARRISON lead vocal, something he rarely got once THE BEATLES landed a REAL recording contract.  (This track was eventually “legitimately” released on the first BEATLES ANTHOLOGY CD in the late ’90’s.)
The DECCA guys have taken the brunt of the attention these past 40 years as the biggest Beatles-Bozos out there when, in fact, Dave Dexter truly deserves that “honor”.  Since Capitol DID finally release their music here … and because that music was such a TREMENDOUS success … I guess he was able to redeem himself.  In fact, were it not for the insistence of ALAN LIVINGSTON, President  of Capitol Records, overriding Dexter’s opinion, there’s no telling how and when America would have finally caught on to this musical phenomenon.  In the meantime, little pioneer risk-taking companies like Vee Jay and Swan Records have long since gone out of business.

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