Missouri and Ozarks History

Information and comments about historical people and events of Missouri, the Ozarks region, and surrounding area.

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I'm a freelance writer specializing in the history of the Ozarks and surrounding region. I've written sixteen nonfiction books, two historical novels, and numerous articles. My latest books are Wicked Women of Missouri, Yanked Into Eternity: Lynchings and Hangings in Missouri, and Show-Me Atrocities: Infamous Incidents in Missouri History.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Beatles' Stopover in the Ozarks

The only time the Beatles ever came to the Ozarks was during the weekend of September 18-20, 1964, when they were at the height of their popularity and near the end of their first full-fledged concert tour of America (their brief stay in the United States earlier in the year when they appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show was not actually a tour). They appeared in Dallas on Friday evening, September 18, and, after the show, immediately hopped on a chartered plane owned and operated by Reed Pigman, owner of American Flyers Airlines, and headed for Pigman's ranch near Alton, Missouri, for a brief getaway before their final appearance of the tour scheduled for New York City on the night of September 20. The plane touched down at an airstrip at the edge of Walnut Ridge, Arkansas, shortly after midnight on the morning of the 19th. Three local teenage boys, who had seen and heard the plane circling the town prior to landing, raced to the airstrip and were startled to find the Beatles deplaning and boarding a second, smaller aircraft for the flight to the Alton ranch. After exchanging a few words with the Fab Four as they crossed the tarmac, the excited youths watched the small plane take off, and then they hurried to spread the word throughout Walnut Ridge of what they had witnessed.
The small seven-seat plane landed at a private airstrip on Pigman's ranch, where the Beatles spent all day Saturday, fishing, riding horses, and playing cards. By the time they returned to Walnut Ridge on Sunday to resume their tour, word of the Fab Four's visit 36 hours earlier and rumors of their probable return had spread in the small Arkansas town, and between 200 and 300 excited but polite fans were at the airstrip to greet them when they arrived about noon and boarded the chartered plane for New York.
The Beatles stay in the Ozarks was brief, but now, more than 47 years later, it is still remembered and even memorialized at Alton and Walnut Ridge. In Missouri, the present owners of the Pigman ranch have developed the property as residential estates, and they use the fact that the Beatles once stayed at the site as a selling point. In Arkansas, a "Beatles at the Ridge" sculpture was unveiled in Walnut Ridge last fall during an event commemorating the Fab Four's brief visit to the town, and both the city and Lawrence County are now using the area's historic, albeit small, connection to the Beatles as a tourism draw.


Blogger Jerry Miller said...

I lived near Ava, Mo in 1964 and remember reading the in the Springfield, Mo news paper that the Beatles visited St John's Hospital during this period. There were photos of the Beatles riding and pushing wheel chairs and gurneys in the hall ways of the hospital. This information should be the archives of the Springfield newspaper.
I know Alton, Mo is at least 100 miles East of Springfield so I don't know if this visit to the ranch near Alton was the occasion for the hospital visit or not.

Jerry Miller

January 15, 2014 at 7:56 PM  

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