Listen Up! 10 Things You Didn't Know About The 1966 Beatles Crosley Field Concert

Aug 11, 2016

Fred Straub photo provided by Cincinnati Enquirer of Paul McCartney and John Lennon singing under a canopy on Crosley Field stage in 1966.
Credit Fred Straub photo provided by Cincinnati Enquirer

I had fun interviewing Beatles fans who attended the Beatles Crosley Field concert in 1966 and Beatles experts for a two-hour radio special airing 8-10 p.m. this Saturday on WVXU-FM (91.7), WMUB-FM (88.5) and wvxu.org.

Tune in "The Beatles: 50th Anniversary Of The Concert At Crosley Field Radio Special," and you'll hear great  stories about how the concert almost didn't happen (after the Saturday night rain-out), why promoters lost money (the only time in Beatles history, they say) and what it was like at Crosley Field that day.

Thanks to producer Lee Hay, and WVXU-FM staff, these are some of the fun facts they culled from hours of studio interviews with author Scott Belmer, DJs Dusty Rhodes and Jim LaBarbara, promote Joe Santangelo, and concertgoers Bev Olthaus, Tom Sandman and Phil Nuxhall:

1-Promoter Joe Santangelo, younger brother of Beatles promoter Dino Santangelo, says he's "pretty sure" they were the only people to lose money on a Beatles concert. Postponing  the concert due to rain until Sunday doubled the costs for the stadium, police security, ushers, etc.

2-Author Scott Belmer ("The Beatles Invade Cincinnati: 1965 & 1966") says the contract called for a canopy over the stage for the Saturday night concert. But to save money, they didn't have a canopy when it rained.

"The Beatles agreed to come in Sunday for $60,000 to play the next day, on a very hot, humid day, and then they got on a plane and flew to St. Louis -- where it rained in St. Louis too. But they had a canopy, so they played."

3-Scott Belmer points out that the Crosley Field concert was unique, because it was the only time the Beatles performed in two cities on the same day.

4- Concertgoer Bev Olthaus, who still has her ticket from the '66 Crosley concert (and their '64 Cincinnati Gardens concert) remembers an announcement Saturday about the bands' safety after about a two-hour torrential down pour:

"I remember the announcer was talking about the condensation on the instruments, and he said the Beatles could be electrocuted." Santangelo recalls a roadie on stage Saturday "with a guitar, and plugging it in, and I remember Paul McCartney saying, 'I'm not strapping that electric guitar around me!'"

5-Former DJ Jim LaBarbara says it was John Lennon who agreed to staying overnight and playing a Sunday afternoon concert, according to his conversations with former WSAI-AM DJ Steve Kirk, who promoted the Crosley concert with Santangelo.

"Steve Kirk said it was John Lennon who stepped up. John liked 'Kirkie'. He had met him in '64… and he remembered how nicely he and the group at the radio station treated the Beatles in '64. So he said, 'We'll stay over and we'll do the show on Sunday. We'll go on at 11 or noon.' And Kirk said, 'Make it 1 o'clock because the kids go to church with their moms and dads.' Thanks to Steve Kirk and John Lennon, the show went on."

6-Scott Belmer explains the Beatles could play two cities in one day because the band had very little equipment, compared to the 10-20 semis needed today for touring rock bands. In 1966, the Beatles had "some small box speakers, three guitars, a drum kit, microphone stands and some amps. Imagine putting on a concert today with that? It's impossible."

7-Jim LaBarbara says Ronnie Spector, star of the Ronettes, wasn't at Crosley Field to sing "Be My Baby" along with opening acts The Cyrkle, The Remains and Bobby Hebb ("Sunny"). Her future husband and record producer Phil Spector didn't want her touring with the Beatles.  So her sister Estelle sang with their cousins Nedra and Elaine.

8-Scott Belmer points out that nobody knew when the Beatles finished their tour eight days after Crosley Field, they'd never tour again.

"They were tired of touring. They were done. The San Francisco concert at Candlestick Park was the last Beatles concert… No one knew it at the time, but they were pretty much fed up with touring."

9-Former DJ Dusty Rhodes, now Hamilton County Auditor, talks about starting the first North American Beatles fan club at WSAI-AM in January 1964, a month before the Beatles appeared on the "Ed Sullivan Show."

10-Phil Nuxhall tells of seeing the Beatles emerge from the Reds clubhouse in Crosley Field. But my favorite comment from Phil was about watching the Beatles on the "Ed Sullivan Show" in February 1964 with his father, Reds pitcher and broadcaster Joe Nuxhall:

"Dad just laughed, and he kept on shaking his head. I think he was just stupefied."

I must say again that I couldn't have done this special without producer Lee Hay. I did the interviews, but she edited them together and inserted a dozen songs. Technical support also came from Stephen Baum, Andy Balterman and Dave Schermer.

Enjoy the special. And you can meet most of these Beatles experts Sunday, Aug. 21, when WVXU-FM celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Beatles at Crosley Field – 50 years to the day – at the Blue Ash Sports Center's Crosley Field, 11540 Grooms Road. The 9:30-noon event is free and open to the public.