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Chicago Beatles
2 November 2015
8.53pm
John
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In his book Shout!, Philip Norman suggests that in December 1963 a DJ on WWDC in Washington DC was the first to play "I Want To Hold Your Hand " in the US. Then he writes: "a second, identical commotion was reported from Chicago. A radio station was being besieged by inquiries after playing a song called "I Want to Hold Your Hands" by the British group The Beatles. Apparently, it had been sent on tape from a friend of the disc jockey's at WWDC, Washington." We know the Washington DC deejay was Carroll James but does any one know which Chicago radio station this was and who was the DJ who first played "I Want to Hold Your Hands"?

3 November 2015
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Ron Nasty
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Obviously, we're all awaiting Lewisohn and Volume 2 to get a new - and probably revealing - take on The Beatles and America in 1963.

There are more details now on how Carroll James came to be playing I Want To Hold Your Hand  since Norman wrote his version of the events.

It started when Walter Cronkite aired a report about The Beatles on 10 December 1963. It showed footage of them performing at Bournemouth's Winter Gardens on 16 November. After seeing them on Cronkite, 14-year-old Marsha Albert from Maryland wrote to James asking why his radio station didn't play music like that. James may well have been aware that Capitol were about to release their first Beatles single (it would have been on lists of upcoming releases). He couldn't get an advance copy from Capitol though, but became aware it was already out in the UK, and so contacted British Airways who agreed to fly in a copy for him (alas, no British Airways stewardess girlfriend).

Marsha was invited onto his show on 17 December and given the honour of introducing the first radio play of I Want To Hold Your Hand , with the words, "Ladies and Gentlemen, for the first time in the United States, here are The Beatles singing I Want To Hold Your Hand ".

It was James himself who taped and sent a copy to a DJ in Chicago. There is no evidence I know of about who that DJ was. However, I do have a suggestion of a probable suspect - Dick Biondi of WLS in Chicago.

Many people claim to have been the first to play The Beatles on US radio, for instance, Murray the K would claim having played She Loves You  on 28 September, and George's visit to sister Louise in Benton, Illinois, where they managed to get a couple of records played on WFRX-AM.

The first DJ to air The Beatles in the US was, most likely, Dick Biondi in February. Dick's show on WLS was where new music was played, and on 25 February Chicago-based label Vee-Jay released Please Please Me by The Beattles [sic]. Radio stations produced charts at that time of the songs they were playing the most, and the WLS chart was called the "Silver Dollar Survey". Please Please Me  featured on this chart for the weeks-ending 8 and 15 March (at Numbers 40 and 35 respectively). The 8 March chart says the station has been playing the record for 3 weeks, which takes it back to a possible advance copy around the 22 February.

Biondi's show reached 48 States, so it could be said he introduced America to The Beatles. Biondi was doing a similar show to James, and it seems likely they were aware of each other. That James did a copy for a Chicago DJ, and the first DJ to play The Beatles in the US was in Chicago, that seems like some coincidence.

The following people thank Ron Nasty for this post:

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"I only said we were bigger than Rod... and now there's all this!" Ron Nasty

To @ Ron Nasty it's @ mja6758
The Beatles Bible 2020 non-Canon Poll Part One: 1958-1963 and Part Two: 1964-August 1966

3 November 2015
9.20am
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Jolly Jimmy
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As a local Chicago area boy, I think Ron is correct about Dick Biondi.

I read in many publications about Dick being the first to play a Beatle song on the radio.  I don't recall specific song, but it was indeed a Vee-Jay release.  Because Beatlemania had not yet taken affect, it did not get much notice at the time.

Dick is indeed a DJ icon both locally and nationally.  Until recently, he was still a DJ for a local oldies station until they changed formats.

You are all my friends.

3 November 2015
11.38am
John
St Peters Church
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Ron Nasty said
Obviously, we're all awaiting Lewisohn and Volume 2 to get a new - and probably revealing - take on The Beatles and America in 1963.

There are more details now on how Carroll James came to be playing I Want To Hold Your Hand  since Norman wrote his version of the events.

It started when Walter Cronkite aired a report about The Beatles on 10 December 1963. It showed footage of them performing at Bournemouth's Winter Gardens on 16 November. After seeing them on Cronkite, 14-year-old Marsha Albert from Maryland wrote to James asking why his radio station didn't play music like that. James may well have been aware that Capitol were about to release their first Beatles single (it would have been on lists of upcoming releases). He couldn't get an advance copy from Capitol though, but became aware it was already out in the UK, and so contacted British Airways who agreed to fly in a copy for him (alas, no British Airways stewardess girlfriend).

Marsha was invited onto his show on 17 December and given the honour of introducing the first radio play of I Want To Hold Your Hand , with the words, "Ladies and Gentlemen, for the first time in the United States, here are The Beatles singing I Want To Hold Your Hand ".

It was James himself who taped and sent a copy to a DJ in Chicago. There is no evidence I know of about who that DJ was. However, I do have a suggestion of a probable suspect - Dick Biondi of WLS in Chicago.

Many people claim to have been the first to play The Beatles on US radio, for instance, Murray the K would claim having played She Loves You  on 28 September, and George's visit to sister Louise in Benton, Illinois, where they managed to get a couple of records played on WFRX-AM.

The first DJ to air The Beatles in the US was, most likely, Dick Biondi in February. Dick's show on WLS was where new music was played, and on 25 February Chicago-based label Vee-Jay released Please Please Me by The Beattles [sic]. Radio stations produced charts at that time of the songs they were playing the most, and the WLS chart was called the "Silver Dollar Survey". Please Please Me  featured on this chart for the weeks-ending 8 and 15 March (at Numbers 40 and 35 respectively). The 8 March chart says the station has been playing the record for 3 weeks, which takes it back to a possible advance copy around the 22 February.

Biondi's show reached 48 States, so it could be said he introduced America to The Beatles. Biondi was doing a similar show to James, and it seems likely they were aware of each other. That James did a copy for a Chicago DJ, and the first DJ to play The Beatles in the US was in Chicago, that seems like some coincidence.

Good post but Dick Biondi had left WLS by May 1963 so it was not him. Whoever it was, they set off Beatlemania in the Midwest and beyond. I think it may be Art Roberts or Ron Riley but I am not sure. I'd like to find out.

3 November 2015
12.19pm
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Jolly Jimmy
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Per Wikipedia, it was Dick Biondi who played Please Please Me on WLS in February 1963. That would be shortly after its  first Vee-Jay release.   If accurate, that means he did this before his May departure.

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3 November 2015
2.06pm
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Ron Nasty
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Doing a bit more research, you're right about Biondi having left WLS in May 1963. Between the two other candidates you suggest, Art Roberts seems the more likely. It was him who took over Biondi's timeslot, and by December 1963 he had already started the first American Beatles Fan Club.

"I only said we were bigger than Rod... and now there's all this!" Ron Nasty

To @ Ron Nasty it's @ mja6758
The Beatles Bible 2020 non-Canon Poll Part One: 1958-1963 and Part Two: 1964-August 1966

3 November 2015
5.02pm
John
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Ron Nasty said
Doing a bit more research, you're right about Biondi having left WLS in May 1963. Between the two other candidates you suggest, Art Roberts seems the more likely. It was him who took over Biondi's timeslot, and by December 1963 he had already started the first American Beatles Fan Club.

I think it might be Art Roberts as well. I know he claimed he started the first American Beatles fan club but I'm not sure it was by December 1963.

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