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The Beatles live: City Park Stadium, New Orleans

This was The Beatles’ only concert in New Orleans, Louisiana. They played before a capacity crowd of 12,000 at the City Park Stadium, and were in the city for less than 24 hours.

The Beatles had arrived in the early hours of the morning. Captain Pres Cooper, the pilot of their charter aeroplane, an American Flyers Airline Lockheed 188 Electra, contacted New Orleans Lakefront Airport ahead of their landing. A helicopter was to have taken the passengers directly to their hotel, the Congress Inn on Chef Menteur Highway.

Poster for The Beatles in New Orleans, 16 September 1964

The helicopter, however, was grounded with a mechanical problem. Limousines were arranged, but were driven to the wrong airport – New Orleans International. Captain Cooper diverted to the airport, and landed the aeroplane at Moisant Field, a secluded spot at the west end of the airfield.

The Beatles and their small entourage were driven to the Congress Inn. They were initially accompanied by a police motorcade, but became separated during the journey. As their limousine neared the hotel, it was spotted by fans who quickly surrounded it.

The police arrived and forced the fans aside, but as the limousine reversed it hit a Kenner Police Department escort car, causing slight damage. The Beatles ran through the motel lobby, into the laundry room and finally into their three-room suite, room 100.

Upon their arrival, Brian Epstein was horrified to find that the hotel was a single-story building; at the time, The Beatles had trouble finding hotels willing to have them as guests, due to the crowds of teenage fans they attracted wherever they went.

The Beatles took to their rooms, remaining there until their late-afternoon press conference. For the first time on this tour, manager Epstein allowed a newsreel cameraman to film the conference.

Ticket for The Beatles in New Orleans, 16 September 1964

During the afternoon Mayor Victor Schiro arrived at the hotel to give them a key to the city, and proclaimed 16 September 1964 ‘Beatles Day’ in New Orleans.

The group had one major request in the city: they wanted to meet Fats Domino. The musician agreed to meet The Beatles in their dressing room at the City Park Stadium immediately prior to their performance.

Fats Domino we admired. We met him in New Orleans. He had a very big diamond watch in the shape of a star, which was very impressive.

The stage at City Park Stadium was situated on the far side of the venue, well away from the audience. However, during the performance of ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’ more than 100 fans broke through a police cordon and ran across the field towards the stage. It took 225 police officers more than 20 minutes before order was restored, with mounted police patrolling the area of the breach.

Around 200 fans collapsed through excitement and exhaustion. One girl broke her arm, but refused hospital treatment until the show had ended.

The Beatles performed their standard 12-song set: ‘Twist And Shout’, ‘You Can’t Do That’, ‘All My Loving’, ‘She Loves You’, ‘Things We Said Today’, ‘Roll Over Beethoven’, ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’, ‘If I Fell’, ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’, ‘Boys’, ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ and ‘Long Tall Sally’.

The concert was recorded, and was broadcast by the WNOE-AM radio station on the 10th anniversary of the concert. The songs were mostly inaudible due to the fans’ screams, but The Beatles’ between-song stage banter was captured. After the fans’ attempted stage invasion, John Lennon remarked: “We’d like to continue with our next number, if you would stop playing football in the middle of the field.” Prior to the final song, ‘Long Tall Sally’, Paul McCartney told the crowd: “We’d like to thank everybody for coming, including the football players.”

The Beatles’ performance lasted just half an hour. The other acts on the bill were, in order of appearance, The Bill Black Combo, The Exciters, Clarence ‘Frogman’ Henry, and Jackie DeShannon. Henry had joined the tour in Philadelphia two weeks earlier, replacing The Righteous Brothers who had complained that the crowds were more interested in screaming for The Beatles than listening to them sing.

Last updated: 24 January 2024
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