The mayor of New Orleans in 1964 was sixty-year-old Vic Schiro, affectionally called "the little mayor" by President Lyndon Johnson. As a result of his love of the spotlight, a series of fortuitous events, and a humorous gesture of affection on John Lennon's part, Schiro would attain rock-star-like status among Louisiana Beatles fans as the "Lord Mayor" of New Orleans.
"My God, let's get 'em outta here before somebody gets killed!"
—August 19th, 1964
The Beatles arrive at the San Francisco airport for their first concert date of their American tour. Five thousand fans are waiting. As soon as the Fab Four step onto a wooden platform surrounded by a five-foot chain-link fence to greet the crowd, a title wave of fans surge against the fence, some trying to climb over. "My God, let's get 'em outta here before somebody gets killed!" yells a police official, and the Beatles are loaded into their limousine and beat a hasty retreat, moments before the fence collapses. It was a sign of things to come.
We never play to segregated audiences, and we're not going to start now."
—John Lennon during the '64 tour
During the spring of 1964, when the contracts with local promoters for the North American Tour were being negotiated, the Civil Rights Act had not yet become law, but the Beatles were adamant that they would not play if the audience was segregated, and their performance contracts included a clause to that effect.
Herb Holiday was a New Orleans radio DJ, promoter, and former race car driver. Although diminutive in stature, he did not shy away from taking on the biggest act of all time, although the price of the Beatles gave him sticker shock. On April 16, 1964, he signed the Fab Four to play in New Orleans City Park Stadium (now Tad Gormley Stadium).
Several cities made offers to the Beatles booking agency for the September 16th date on their first tour of the U.S., among them: Miami, Norfolk, Washington, D.C., Charlotte, Atlanta, Louisville, Memphis, and Nashville. But the birthplace of rhythm & blues won out!
On August 8th, 1969, the photo shoot for the iconic album cover took place. 50 years later, there is a constant throng of fans walking across the famous crosswalk just outside the Beatles recording studio. You can catch them on the live cam at:
Best to look at it in the morning because of the time difference.
In 1946, nineteen-year-old Cosimo Matassa opened up J&M Recording Service, a recording studio located on the outskirts of the French Quarter. Cosimo (pronounced "Cosmo"), had no previous experience as a recording engineer and the studio was nothing more than a little room in the back of a record/home appliance store with some primitive recording equipment. His original intentions were to make recordings for his customer's personal use, but independent record labels, attracted by the abundance of musical talent in New Orleans, would soon be seeking him out to capture the first sounds of rock n' roll. Photo courtesy of the Cosimo Matassa Family.