Live: Gator Bowl, Jacksonville

The Beatles performed one concert at the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Florida. It was their only performance in the US state.

The concert was originally to have been racially segregated, but The Beatles refused to perform until they received an assurance from the promoter that the audience would be mixed.

We never play to segregated audiences and we aren't going to start now. I'd sooner lose out appearance money.
John Lennon

The group had been due to fly to Jacksonville on the morning of 9 September 1964, but their aeroplane was diverted to Key West when Hurricane Isabel struck. Most of Jacksonville was left without electricity for several days, but because of hurricane damage 9,000 of the 32,000 ticket holders were unable to get to the venue.

They said the hurricane had passed when we flew into Jacksonville, but it was as windy as hell and it was dark with very heavy black clouds all over. It had cleared a bit, but there were still turbulent winds, and as we were approaching we could see the devastation: palm trees fallen over and mess laying everywhere.
George Harrison
Anthology

On the morning of 11 September The Beatles flew from Key West to Imeson Airport, where 150 fans were awaiting their arrival. Their aeroplane taxied to a private hangar, from where they were taken to the George Washington Hotel, accompanied by a police motorcade.

A press conference was held at the hotel, after which they attempted to depart for the Gator Bowl. Around 25 police officers tried for 15 minutes to hold back around 500 fans, to allow the group to leave the hotel's parking garage.

Once in their car, it took 15 minutes for The Beatles to move just 25 feet, from the elevator into the car and onto the street. The police eventually formed a moving wedge of motorcycle outriders and managed to safely escort the group to the Gator Bowl by 7.15pm.

Tickets were priced at $4 and $5. The night's support acts were, in order of appearance, The Bill Black Combo, The Exciters, Clarence 'Frogman' Henry, and Jackie DeShannon. There were 140 police officers on duty, and 84 firefighters acting as ushers to prevent fans from charging the stage.

At the venue, The Beatles refused to take to the stage until newsreel and television cameramen had left. Eventually Derek Taylor took to the stage and told the crowd: "The Beatles are 100 feet away. They came thousands of miles to be here. The only thing preventing their appearance is cine cameramen."

The announcement worked, and two police captains gave the orders for the filming to end. The Beatles knew that unauthorised footage would be syndicated in cinemas and on television with no royalties paid to them. Once officers removed the eight cameramen from the performance area, The Beatles' concert began.

We'd discovered that there was a group of people following us around America, filming us, and we'd told them not to. They were in Florida and by this time we were saying, 'Look, we told these people to bugger off and they're here again and right out front.' They had actually been given priority with their camera, right in front of the stage. The winds were howling and there was Mal, nailing the drum kit to the platform, about ten or twelve feet off the ground; and we were really pissed that the film crew was there, so we said that we weren't going on. The promoters were getting stroppy with us, instead of kicking the camera people out. In the end Derek Taylor went on stage and was like Adolf Hitler up there, shouting to the crowd: 'These camera people are not wanted, they must be removed.' He was yelling, 'Do you want The Beatles on this stage?' - 'Yeah!' - 'Well then, do you want to get rid of the cameras?' - 'Yeah!' It was like a big Nuremberg rally, and I suppose the police and promoters thought that we were causing the trouble; but, even in those days, we knew there were some things you couldn't control.
George Harrison
Anthology

During the show, Ringo Starr's drums were secured to the stage because of winds reaching up to 45 mph.

My hair was blowing, and I thought it was weird, but the drums were tied down, so we made it, you know.
Ringo Starr

After the 30-minute show, the audience was told that The Beatles were taking a break. By the time the fans realised that the concert was over, the group were already on their way to Imeson Airport to catch a flight to Boston.

Also on this day...

Want more? Visit the Beatles history section.

18 responses on “Live: Gator Bowl, Jacksonville

  1. Vicki Spence

    I was at this concert. I recall the disappointment because the wind was blowing the Beatles’ hair back and their show stopping haircuts weren’t visable. I was seated on the ground, not too far from the stage. However, I could barely make out the words of any song due to the number of screaming females in the audiance. It was insane! I don’t recall the number of opening acts listed here. I only remember one and that was a female group. I wish there was a poster to commemerate this event. I lost my tickets years ago.

  2. Eric Tipton

    I attended the concert as well as Atlanta 65 and Memphis 66. We stayed at the GW Hotel and were leaving as baracades were being set up on the street. We waited til they arrived and were rushed into the hotel. My friend Calie Stephens and I were clearly visible it the photos of the event which appeared in the Jax Sun Times next day. I still have one of them. By the way the sound was bad at all the concerts, even Memphis which was in doors.

      1. mm

        Yes, I was there, along with a friend. I was 15 yrs old. It was a very emotional experience for me. My dad drove us about about 2 hours each way, on a rainy night. The fact that he was willing to do this is just a memorable as the actual concert. Wish I had kept my ticket stubs.

      2. Charles Miller

        I was a nitetime dj at WAPE at the time. my air-name was wild bill miller. It was a wild and crazy time.
        I introduced Jackie DeShannon on the show. I wish I could say I met the Beatles…but they ran to
        and from the stage that nite. I did meet other stars in my days in radio.
        Keep on rockin.
        Bill

  3. John Dunlap

    I attended this show, as well…remembered the breeze and especially remembered the girls all screaming (I was only 12-years old and went with my 16-year old sister…who contributed to the screams). Had my dad’s WWII binoculars, so I got a good look at them. Still have my ticket…$5 for The Beatles! Not bad. Does anyone have The Beatles’ setlist for the Jacksonville show?

  4. Max Wedge

    In the Summer of 1964 I was stationed at Ft Rucker Alabama..In the small base exchange I saw an album for sale , ” The Beatles live at Jacksonville ” .. I wish I’d bought it .. I’ve never seen a reference to it nor spoken to anyone who had heard of it ..

  5. Christin

    I was there! I lived in Ft. Lauderdale and we drove up the state to go to this concert. I remember the Ike and Tina Turner Revue were also at this event. Does anyone else remember that? I cannot find any evidence to back me up on that but it is what I remember. It was an amazing time for a young teen.

  6. Victoria

    This was interesting to read…I have an unused mint condition ticket from this concert, I found it mixed in with a bunch of love letters to & from my Mom and Dad from 1964 as well. My Mom said she she won one ticket from the “the big ape” radio show. She said she didn’t go cause she was to young to go to jacksonville alone, and she was more into my Dad than the Beatles. :) I also have the mint condition envelope the ‘the big ape’ radio station mail it to her in. Pretty cool!

    1. Mike

      I remember listening to “The Big Ape” WAPE radio station. It was WAPE, “the Mighty Six Ninety”, 690 on the AM dial. They always did a Tarzan-like jungle call after saying “the Big Ape.”

  7. Donna

    A few of my friends and I won a trip up to Jacksonville from WQAM radio in Miami. We flew up with the DJs (the day after the hurricane), ate boxed lunch fried chicken on the plane, took a bus from the airport, and had seats on the very soggy field. I remember a really long wait ( but have absolutely no memory of any opening acts). The wind was blowing, it was a very short indecipherable concert – maybe 25 minutes tops . Could barely see the boys … or hear them over all the screaming. But… we were there! Best night of my young life! :)

  8. shirley

    I was there. My poor mother took 7 teenage girls and 1 guy from Gainesville to Jacksonville for the concert.
    It was unreal for a 14 year old to attend that kind of show

  9. Carol Austin Faver

    My best friend and I came from Atlanta by car and were worried about the weather and if the show would be cancelled. We skipped school (our Senior year) and also went to the New Orleans concert days later. We were not given permission to be away from school and caused our Principal to decide if we could graduate or not. All turned out well….but it was risky. Everyone knew we were going to see the Beatles no matter what! It was worth the trips and the risk. Saw them again in Atlanta in 65 where they were played the old Atlanta Stadium even before the Braves used it. I now know why the guys hated touring….what ordeals they endured. It was madness everywhere they went and you could not hear a thing until Atlanta (where at least you could hear them) Still the best concerts for sheer excitement of being there. No regrets and no apologies for going!

  10. Larry Anderson

    I attended the concert and took about three to five minutes of 8mm movie film. It was in color but no sound. I still have the original film today.

  11. Saundra Ozan

    I was at the Jacksonville, FL September 11, 1964 Beatles show. September 1st was my 14th birthday and I was a 100% Beatles fan. My parents floored me by buying me 4 tickets for the show. My friend (Alice Mathewson’s) Mom drove Alice, me (Saundra Meeks), Debbie Hernandez and Mary Ann Fortier to the show. Mary Ann snapped a few photos of us before the show.

    Our seats were on the floor! but we couldn’t get 4 seats together, so we had to split up. Two of us were in Section C 47th row. When we got to where row 47 should have been, there were only 46 rows. The Usher told us to go to the Ticket office and tell them about the problem. They asked if the replacement seats would be ok – Section C, Row 20 !!! You bet they did! We were so close I could actually hear them over the screaming crowd. It was windy, wild and wonderful.

    We waited a long time to see them. I remember some guys walking throughout the crowd looking like the Beatles – boots, suits, the long hair, etc. They caused quite a panic everywhere they went.

    The warm up bands I remember are Roy Orbison, Jacky Dushanon, Lou Christie.

    It was a night I will never forget.

  12. Yvonne Barnard

    I was there thanks to a giveaway in Orlando (WLOF). 40 of us went by bus. . .it was windy and wonderful to be there. We saw their limo later and grabbed cigarette butts because they had smoked them and we were rabid fans!

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