Day off in Alton, Missouri

Following their concert in Dallas, Texas on 18 September 1964, The Beatles were flown to a ranch in Missouri for a rest day.

The aeroplane belonged to Reed Pigman, who also owned a ranch in Alton, Missouri. The Beatles used the ranch as a hideaway prior to a trip to New York for the final concert of their first US tour.

En route to Alton, they stopped briefly at Walnut Ridge to change planes. The secluded airport was ideal for avoiding the attention of fans.

We flew from Dallas to an intermediate airport where Pigman met us in a little plane with the one wing, on top, and with one or maybe two engines. It was so like Buddy Holly, that one; that was probably the closest we came to that sort of musicians’ death. I don’t mean it nearly crashed because it didn’t, but the guy had a little map on his knee, with a light, as we were flying along and he was saying, ‘Oh, I don’t know where we are,’ and it’s pitch black and there are mountains all around and he’s rubbing the windscreen trying to get the mist off. Finally he found where we were and we landed in a field with tin cans on fire to guide us in.

Their efforts weren’t entirely undetected by the fans. Night-time arrivals at the airstrip were rare in 1964, and three teenage boys ran to the airport to see who the unexpected visitors were. News of The Beatles’ arrival quickly spread throughout Walnut Ridge throughout the weekend.

The second aeroplane was a seven-seater. After boarding just after midnight on 19 September they were taken to the ranch in the Ozark Mountains, where they spent 36 hours relaxing, swimming, hiking, horse riding, go-karting, shooting and fishing.

The Beatles in Alton, Missouri, 19 September 1964

For me – apart from the natural pride I felt in seeing the Beatles perform in such places as the Hollywood Bowl, the vast Red Rock Stadium in the Colorado mountains, and the wonderful State Fair Coliseum in Indianapolis – my happiest time was spent on a ranch in the Ozark Hills in South Missouri. This was on September 19, my 30th birthday, and the day before our final American concert in New York.

From Dallas we flew in our chartered Electra jet to a deserted airfield 70 miles from the ranch in the small hours of the 19th and our host, the millionaire owner of the airline, met us – the Beatles, Neil Aspinall, Derek Taylor and myself. He piloted us in his own seven-seater, twin-engined aircraft to his private air strip at the ranch.

We spent that night, the whole of Saturday and the following night at the ranch, fishing, horse riding, and lazing about in the warm autumn sunshine, and it was a tremendous tonic for the Beatles, who though they had stood up to the tour very well, were very tired young men.

On the flight from Dallas at one minute past midnight Paul took over the aircraft intercom and announced that it was my birthday and the Beatles sang Happy Birthday, presenting me with an antique telephone and a set of water glasses.

The Beatles, though not devoted to sport, took readily to the saddle, however, and fought majestically for three hours with four high-spirited farm horses, fording the river, climbing steep rocky banks, and emerging without a fall but with several bruises. So much did Paul enjoy riding that he awoke at 7am on Sunday for a further attempt which proved even more painful than the first.

Brian Epstein
Mersey Beat magazine, 1 October 1964

No musical instruments were taken to the Pigman ranch, and The Beatles held no rehearsals or performances while there.

Last updated: 15 September 2016
The Beatles live: Memorial Auditorium, Dallas
The Beatles live: Paramount Theatre, New York City
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