The Beatles weren’t originally scheduled to perform at the Municipal Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. Their day off was cancelled, however, after local promoter Charles O Finley persuaded the group’s manager Brian Epstein to let them play.
Our days off were sacred. If you look at our 1964 timetable you can see why. I didn’t realise until recently that we used to have a whole year of work, and then get something like 23rd November off – and then have to judge a beauty competition that day. So, by the time we got to Kansas City, we probably needed a day off. I can’t actually remember falling out with Brian about him wanting us to work on a day off, we’d talk to each other rather than fall out.
Charles Finley was the controversial owner of the Oakland Athletics Major League Baseball team, who at the time were based in Kansas City. He initially offered Epstein $50,000 but was turned down. He increased his bid to $100,000 but was again rejected. Finley then raised his offer to $150,000 – at the time the highest sum ever paid for a single performance – which Epstein accepted.
I remember the Kansas offer – for them to play an additional, unscheduled gig – kept coming up. It started out at $60,000 and they were saying ‘no’ because they had so few days off. Already that year they’d been to Paris, the States, appeared on the Ed Sullivan shows, come home and made the A Hard Day’s Night record and movie. Then flown straight off on a world tour, and back to England for more concerts, TV and radio shows. And a visit to Sweden and straight after that an American tour.
They weren’t getting any rest. A day off was precious; so if Brian wanted to fill one of their days off with an extra gig, they’d have to stop and think. To play thirty-five American cities was a big tour in those days. They’d play a gig on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, in different cities all over the States – flying in, hotel, press conference, gig, back to the hotel, flying out.
Brian had booked a 35-gig tour and they knew what they were doing and were committed to that. But to shove one more show in the middle was another story. So, The Beatles kept saying ‘no’, and the money kept going up. They agreed to do it in the end. The offer started at $60,000 and finally went to $150,000.
The Beatles arrived at Municipal Airport at 2am, with around 100 fans waiting in the pouring rain to greet them. The group were taken by limousine to the Muehlebach Tower hotel where they stayed in the 18th floor penthouse. The hotel later sold their bed linen to a Chicago businessman, who resold it in small pieces as souvenirs.
Tickets cost between $2 and $8.50. The Beatles added their version of the ‘Kansas City/Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey!’ medley to the setlist, which included 12 other songs: ‘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 show lasted just 32 minutes, for each of which The Beatles made $4,687. The opening act was a local group, Jack Nead and the Jumping Jacks, followed by, in order of appearance, The Bill Black Combo, The Exciters, Clarence ‘Frogman’ Henry, and Jackie DeShannon.
The Beatles attracted sell-out crowds throughout their inaugural US tour, except in Kansas City. The group attracted a crowd of 20,207, well below the Municipal Stadium’s capacity of 35,000. The concert was billed with the slogan “Today’s Beatles Fans Are Tomorrow’s Baseball Fans.”
The low attendance was due to local animosity toward Finley, who guaranteed the payment of $150,000 out of his own pocket regardless of ticket sales. It is believed that he lost between $50,000 and $100,000. Ticket sales may also have been low because of high price for the best seats, which at $8.50 were the most expensive for any of The Beatles’ US tours.
On 4 November 2008 a two-minute film containing silent footage of The Beatles performing at the concert was sold at auction for £4,100 ($6,600).
Also on this day...
- 2017: Paul McCartney live: Madison Square Garden, New York City
- 2010: Gibson to issue three John Lennon acoustic guitars
- 1976: UK album release: Ringo’s Rotogravure by Ringo Starr
- 1968: Recording, mixing: Helter Skelter, I Will
- 1962: Live: Queen’s Hall, Widnes
- 1962: Live: Cavern Club, Liverpool (lunchtime)
- 1961: Live: Hambleton Hall, Liverpool
- 1960: Live: Indra Club, Hamburg
Want more? Visit the Beatles history section.