Just when you’re convinced that not another word could possibly be penned about The Beatles, along comes a book that not only (brilliantly) covers fab, new territory but does so with meticulous research and artistic attention to detail. Sara Schmidt’s new volume, Dear Beatle People: The Story of The Beatles North American Fan Clubs is such a book. And it’s destined to become a collector’s item.
A gorgeous hardback volume with over 100 new photos (many in color) featuring a one-of-a-kind cover by esteemed Beatles artist Eric Cash, Dear Beatle People captures the essence of the 1960s fan club experience. On each page, fan photos, concert tickets, club charters, and rare keepsakes are artfully arranged in museum-quality display under the auspices of layout designer Amy McGrath Hughes. And the content – researched and written by Schmidt and edited by Janet Davis of Octopus’ Garden – is fascinating. There is much to discover in the pages of this exquisitely presented volume.
For example, what North American City boasted the first Beatles Fan Club? Chicago, New Orleans, Philadelphia, and New York all claim the distinction. (The answer is New Orleans, but the who, what, where, and whys are intriguing!) Which North American cities boasted “sanctioned” fan clubs? Which cities had “independent” organizations? And what, pray tell, was the difference between the two? Schmidt can tell you.
Some sprawling metropolitan towns – such as New York City and Dallas, Texas – had competing organizations. But at times, these “warring groups” would grudgingly relent their independence, band together, and employ strength-in-numbers to impress local governments into bringing John, Paul, George, and Ringo to their locale.
Stories such as these fill Dear Beatle People. You’ll discover what typical fan club meetings entailed, what revenue-raising projects and service projects the loyal fan clubs undertook, and what connection these North American clubs had with the NEMS organization in Liverpool and London. You’ll find out which Beatles wives had their own fan clubs and how fan clubs who strayed from the “NEMS norm” were admonished. Over the last six years, Schmidt has interviewed hundreds of former fan club officers and members, carefully gathering their reminiscences, photos, and memorabilia. She has collected data, compared stories, and made certain that historical accuracy aligned with precious but blurred memories.
The tales Schmidt uncovered along the way are priceless. What was San Diego’s “Mt. Beatle,” and why was it summarily abandoned after one harrowing day in the sun? How did the Dallas Beatles Fan Clubs cleverly ensure that they would get to “meet The Beatles” twice in one tour visit? And what did Marti Edwards, the Chicagoland Beatle People President, say to John Lennon when she handed him her club’s commemorative plaque? Schmidt’s six years of painstaking research, compilation, and composition of this volume are evident; the stories she includes are interesting, concise, and illustrated with never-before-seen photographs.
When asked which fan story she most enjoyed discovering during the research for Dear Beatle People, Schmidt responded, “I heard so many interesting stories for this book! My ‘favorite’ one changes every time I read the manuscript. Today my favorite story is about the president of the North Texas Beatles Fan Club president, Elaine. Because of her work for the largest Beatles fan club in North America at the time, she was able to meet the Beatles in Houston in 1965 – right after fans attacked the boys’ airplane on the tarmac, holding them ‘hostage’ for almost an hour. Despite the inconvenience, Paul was flirty with the cute 15-year-old as she presented them with button-down cowboy shirts. And the episode has a very funny ending from John. Don’t miss this one!”
Schmidt is no ingenue to work of this sort. In 2016, she published the respected Happiness is Seeing The Beatles: Beatlemania in St. Louis. And for the last 14 years, she has also compiled and managed the exemplary website https://www.meetthebeatlesforreal.com which shares true stories of ordinary people who encountered The Beatles via chance meetings. Schmidt’s experience in vetting such accounts and sorting fabrication from fact is her long suit. And in Dear Beatles People, she incorporates authentic stories of fans from small towns to megapolises, presenting each event in historical detail that brings people and circumstances to life.
To hear Sara Schmidt, Eric Cash, Janet Davis, and Amy McGrath Hughes share stories about Dear Beatle People on the “She Said She Said” podcast, go to: https://shesaidshesaid.podbean.com/e/sara-schmidt-releases-dear-beatle-people/
-Jude Southerland Kessler
Photo courtesy of Sara Schmidt
PS — While we’re on the topic of Rock History, you might enjoy our YouTube series of daily one-minute nuggets of memorable moments…