Bill Knight column for Mon., Tues. or Wed., Feb. 3, 4 or 5
Indeed, in 1964, social media meant face-to-face conversations or maybe passing notes in class. At home, there were three main TV networks, and weekends wound down with CBS’ “Lassie” at 6 p.m., either ABC’s “Wagon Train” or NBC’s “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color” at 6:30 and – depending on guests – back to CBS for “The Ed Sullivan Show” at 7.
One Sunday night – February 9, 1964 – kids didn’t care which standup comic, Broadway star, animal act or entertainer balancing plates on a stick was scheduled for Sullivan’s showcase.
The Beatles would play.
“February 9, 16 years old, I sat glued to the TV, literally with my face within a matter of inches from the screen, while my parents sat bemused behind me,” remembers Peoria musician and retailer Craig Moore. “When my stepdad dared to speak and even to say something derogatory about the group on screen, I told him to ‘shut up,’ which was miles beyond any remark I had ever dared make to any adult before.”
That night will be commemorated this Sunday (Feb. 9) at Peoria’s Limelight Eventplex, where more than four hours of music will feature rock ‘n’ roll and much more, from reunions of area favorites the Dave Chastain Band and Ready Steady Go to classical musicians.
February 9 is exactly 50 years to the day, and the show starts at 7 p.m., 50 years to the minute since Ed Sullivan shouted, “And here they are: the BEATLES!"
The performers will donate their time and talents, and all proceeds will benefit the Washington, Ill., High School Tornado Relief Fund, St. Jude’s and Dream Factory.
Admission for festival seating is $20, with tickets available at Younger Than Yesterday in Peoria and other area outlets, with mail orders available via credit card by phoning (309) 682-1116. A $50 “VIP” package includes admission, a t-shirt, booklet, early entrance and reserve seating.
The lineup of groups also includes the Black Roses, a Bradley University string quartet, Encounter At L-5, the Flying D'rito Brothers, Heavy Shake, Joel Madigan, Men of Fortune, the Nikbeats, the Temporary Tribute Band, a version of Moore’s garage band (playing as GONN & Friends), and Greg Williams.
The concert won’t be impersonators or cover versions of familiar tunes, Moore stresses.
“We're not requiring rote copies,” he says. “We want to hear the songs as the bands playing them would naturally do them.
“This show is all about the music itself and the impact the Beatles and their music has had on countless musicians and listeners alike, not to mention culture around the world,” continues Moore, whose first band, the Pagans, formed in 1965 and the next year became GONN.
Moore has performed, recorded and promoted music from bands (including GONN, Ilmo Smokehouse, Ready Steady Go, and Speechless) to stores (the Peoria Record Company on West Main Street, and Younger Than Yesterday on North University).
“I bought my first Beatles record, ‘Please Please Me,’ in March of 1963,” he recalls. “I was thrilled by the sound of it.
“Radio started playing ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ around December,” Moore says. “In January it hit Number 1. Ed Sullivan started promoting their upcoming appearances, and [the album] ‘Meet The Beatles’ came out, the most thrilling LP I had ever heard in my life.
“I was the [Keokuk, Iowa] high school DJ, playing records at lunch periods, dances, etc,” he continues. “When I had started playing ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand,’ the reaction was loud and positive, but once the Beatles appeared on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show,’ it turned into girls screaming bloody murder! For the record!
“Every new Beatles record that came along was like a new commandment being handed down from Mount Sinai,” he adds.
This winter, apostles of the Beatles songbook and impact will continue to spread the Word (and music).
The event has a Facebook page – “It was 50 years ago today Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play - a celebration of the Beatles’ debut in America” – with up-to-date information posted as it develops, plus links to videos of some of the bands.
Doors open at 5:30 (VIPs at 5), with a video program at 6, introductions at 6:45 and music at 7. An intermission is planned for about 9.
It’s an all-ages event, meaning that soft drinks and adult beverages both will be available. Also, Moore encourages people to bring lawn chairs, etc. to make “festival seating” comfortable.
“Being for the benefit of so many,” Moore says, recalling the line from the Beatles LP, “a splendid time is guaranteed for all!”
[PICTURED: Ed and the boys.]