Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Beatlemania: When the Beatles were said to be in Duluth...

By Jim Heffernan
"One Sunday 1965, give or take a year in either direction, this incident occurred in a Lutheran church in Duluth’s West End neighborhood:"
The recent marking of the 30th anniversary of Beatle John Lennon’s assassination, plus widespread mention of what would have been his 70th birthday, has sparked a memory of the time the Beatles were said to be in Duluth. Emphasize “said to be.”

I recounted this many years ago in my column in the Duluth daily newspaper, but it bears repeating, I believe, just for the whimsy of the situation as well as the fact that only a couple of people would remember that earlier column, and I am one of them.

It was early in that era in America known as the time of Beatlemania, and it was manic where the “Fab Four” were concerned. The Ed Sullivan Show appearances, the national tours (including at old Met Stadium in suburban Minneapolis-St. Paul) all contributed to the frenzy remembered today only by folks now viewing with disdain some of today’s trends in popular music as they move inexorably into grandparenthood and beyond.

One Sunday 1965, give or take a year in either direction, this incident occurred in a Lutheran church in Duluth’s West End neighborhood:

Each Sunday, as the congregation was settling into the pews and choir members were clearing their throats to open the service with the somber “The Lord is in His Holy Temple,”  the minister, before mounting the pulpit, would review the day’s register of out-of-town guests and other visiting non-members who had signed a guest book in the narthex.

Then, during the announcements portion of the service, he would welcome the visitors by name and, in the case of out-of-towners, their home cities.

What the minister didn’t know on this Sunday was that some teenagers in the congregation had signed the four Beatles’ names into the visitor’s register and – no surprise here – the minister, then in his mid-60s, didn’t know the four Beatles from the Three Stooges, two turtle doves or a partridge in a pear tree.

So, come the less formal part of the service, announcing such things as upcoming potluck suppers, the minister also launched into his welcome of visitors from far-off Liverpool, England: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr.

It was one of those terrible moments for anyone speaking before an audience when some members of the audience burst into laughter and the speaker doesn’t know why.

I wasn’t there (hooky from church that Sunday) but it was described to me by family members who were. Wish I had been. Missed the guest preacher who repeatedly implored: “Make a noyful joys unto the Lord,” too. And the Sunday the minister – not the Beatles one – missed the chair behind the pulpit and fell head over heels backward, his robe flying.

I should have gone to church more often.  

Note: There's a new book out about the Beatles Minnesota concert: One Night Stand in the Heartland by Bill Carlson. Also youtube has footage of the Beatles MN press conference and you can check that out HERE.

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