Pat DiCesare: The Beatles 1964
The Beatles 1964
The first time that I had ever heard of the Beatles was in 1963 when I managed a disc distribution outlet in Pittsburgh called Regal Records. Record stores started to call me for Beatles singles and LPs in late 1963. I could tell by the demand for their records that this group was special. Back then if an artist sold a million records countrywide, we could sell about 50,000 of that release in the Pittsburgh trading area. If they followed up with an LP, we could sell about 5000 of the 12″ vinyl in Pittsburgh. The Beatles had three hit singles out at the same time, which was unprecedented. There was also a fourth song that was only available on an LP that Capitol Records had released. That meant that if a Beatles’ fan wanted that particular song, they had to buy the entire LP. I had never seen this before, but the LP was selling like a hot single.
Tim Tormey was “thee” concert promoter at that time in Pittsburgh and my mentor. Tim and I had a good relationship, and I believe that he thought of me more as a son than an employee. He taught me volumes about the business. We talked every day about the possibility of bringing different acts into town for live performances.
Since Tim was no longer in the record distribution business, he lost the feel for what was selling, what was hot, or what was coming. One day, I casually said to Tim “there’s a new act that’s going to be big. They’re called The Beatles.” I could tell he wasn’t aware of them. Tim was kind of conservative with his taste for music. If it wasn’t Nat “King” Cole, Frank Sinatra, or Sarah Vaughn, he wasn’t listening. He was managing Lou Christie who had several big hits with “The Gypsie Cried”, and “Two Faces Have I.” But by the time the American tour was announced, everyone and their grandmother knew about the Beatles.
One day Tim said to me, “What do you think of bringing the Beatles in for a concert?” “I think it’s a great idea…. can we get them?” I asked. “Yes, I think so, but they’re expensive,” he replied.
Tim’s connection to any possibility of being the promoter to bring the Beatles to Pittsburgh was an agent with The William Morris Agency in New York. Her name was Roz Ross. Roz was the responsible agent at William Morris for Tim’s act Lou Christie. She also helped Tim arrange his national tours. Tim asked Roz, “How could I get the Beatles to come to Pittsburgh?” She explained – “I don’t have anything to do with them. Norman Weiss has control of them. Do you know him?” That’s the way this business works. You have to establish a relationship with an agent and the agency. That’s the way you get their acts. The problem was that Tim didn’t know Norman.
By now, others in Pittsburgh began announcing that they had the Beatles. Lenny Litman announced in the newspapers that he had a date held at the Civic Arena for the Beatles. Disc jockeys at KDKA radio began announcing that they had a date for the Beatles. Tim was discouraged, but did not give up. He kept calling Roz and asked her to talk to Norman Weiss for him. She said, “Save yourself the aggravation and disappointment. Forget about The Beatles. You’ll never get them.”
Then it happened. One day Tim got a call from Roz who was excited. She said, “Tim, do you have $5,000?” “No. Why?” he asked. She said, “If you could take $5,000 cash to the Club Elegant in Brooklyn and leave it with the bartender, there is a good chance that you could get The Beatles.”
Neither Tim nor I had $5,000. You have to remember that at that time a school teachers’ salary might have been $3,500 for the year. I was a young guy in my 20s and Tim was living from show to show. Tim approached various investors in Pittsburgh that we had done business with in the past. But, when Tim told them he had to leave the cash “with a bartender in Brooklyn,” and that there was no guarantee that he could get the date or that the bartender was for real, no one would invest the $5,000.
While Tim and I were talking about getting acts to perform on The Easter “Shower of Stars” show, he started talking to me about The Beatles. I asked him, “Did you get the $5,000 yet?” “No, and I don’t think I am going to get it. Everyone turned me down. Roz told me if I don’t have the money by tomorrow, I will lose the date. Do you have any ideas,” he asked? “Tim, hold her off, let me see what I can do,” I said.
Betting the House
It was late in the afternoon. I was still at my distributorship. I usually left at closing time, a little after 5pm and made the one hour drive home. I had time on the ride to reflect on this whole situation. Tim and I had partnered many shows before, and I had promoted shows on my own. But now, I was a college student who took a semester break to manage Regal Records for Tim, Nick Cenci and Herbie Cohen. Even though Nick and Herbie were in business with Tim they wouldn’t advance the money for what I thought was a “sure thing.” They thought it was too risky.
I had no doubt about that. But, still, I thought it was reasonable to pay someone $5,000 cash for the right to get the Beatles. After all, record stores had actually been offering me money on the side to get them Beatle records ahead of other stores. They were asking for the opportunity to pay more money – just to have the records! They thought of this payoff as advertising costs. If they had the Beatles record and their competitors didn’t, that would bring in more traffic. I never accepted their money because I couldn’t explain to the other record stores why I gave one store the record and not the other. I tried to distribute the records evenly whenever I got a shipment. The bottom line is that in my heart, I really wasn’t worried about risking the $5,000. The possibility of getting the Beatles excited me. Sure it was a risk, but everything we did in this business was a risk. If we recorded an artist, there was no guarantee that we could get airplay or sell records. There was no guarantee that when we put an act on the stage that anyone would buy a ticket. We were always at risk.
My dad usually got off work at five from his job at Westinghouse in East Pittsburgh, and I got there a little later. I still lived at 344 4th Street in Trafford with my mom and dad. Dad would usually be finished eating and would be sitting in his favorite lounge chair. He would have his pipe and tobacco and matches within reach and would be watching the six o’clock news on television. This day was no different. While we were eating in the kitchen, I started to tell him about the Beatles and the $5,000.
Of course, my father didn’t know anything about the Beatles – if they were a singing group, a car or some bugs on the back porch, but he sat and listened. I don’t think he ever made more than $100 a week working as a shipper at Westinghouse Electric. He never had an opportunity to save money because he had such a large family – 9 kids. But, my dad was the type of guy who would give you his right arm. When I told him I needed five thousand dollars, he didn’t comment much. He just listened to my story with a solemn and reflective look on his face.
The next day when he came home from work we sat at the table eating dinner. As I was eating, he slid an envelope across the table-cloth. I didn’t think much of that and he said, “go on, open it.” I opened the envelope and inside was a cashier’s check. It was made out to me in the amount of five thousand dollars. “Dad, where did you get that? That’s a lot of money and I know you don’t have that kind of money.” “You’re right, I don’t have that kind of money, but I borrowed it from the credit union at work. They’ve put a lien on the house,” he said.
I felt like crying right there. I didn’t ask him to do this. He just listened to what I told him and went out and did this for me. I agonized over the thought of taking this money. He worked all of his life and still had not paid his house off and now he was willing to lend me more money than he made in the year. What if the bartender in Brooklyn would just keep this money and never book the Beatles anyway?
“Dad, I can’t take this, are you sure you want to do this?” I asked.
“Yes, go do the show with your Beatles,” he said.
This was a difficult thing for me to do – take his money. He never ever asked me anymore about the money or the Beatles. He just had a tremendous amount of confidence in me and my judgment. As for me, it was something I will never forget in my life.
5.90 to see The Beatles
I immediately called Tim, “Tim, I got the money. Call Roz right now and tell her we can wire the money tonight or tomorrow. Hurry so we don’t lose the date”, I said excitedly. An hour later Tim called me, “You’re sure you have the money”, he asked? “Roz said we could wire the money to an attorney if that made us feel any better.” “Yeah, who is more trustworthy a bartender or an attorney”, I asked? Tim laughed and said,” It’s a toss up.”
The next day, it was cold and there was snow on the ground. It was a usual depressing Pittsburgh cloudy sky day. I had feelings of mixed emotions. I felt guilty about taking my dad’s money and at the same time not knowing if it was secured. The cloudy cold weather didn’t help. Half of me said “don’t worry” the other, “how could you do this?” I met Tim at the Western Union office on Smithfield Street in Pittsburgh. We went into the office and wired the $5,000 to the attorney in New York.
When we walked out the office in the bitter cold Tim said, “Well, partner, there goes your father’s five grand. I hope we can trust the attorney and not lose the money”. We were 50 – 50 partners. We never had a signed agreement between us. We had done many things together with never a contract – only a handshake. I never worried about Tim living up to his word, he was an honest person. I trusted him. No business ran like the concert business. No banks or attorneys would endorse our way of doing business. But, that’s the way it was done. That was probably why no one else was willing to come up with the money.
The next week, the attorney called and asked us to check out some open dates for September at the Civic Arena. This was exciting. Now we were convinced that the Beatles were serious about playing Pittsburgh and that the attorney with our $5000 had actually told the Beatles agent to deal with us for a Pittsburgh performance.
A few weeks later, the agent confirmed and solidified the date. On September 14, 1964 The Beatles would play Pittsburgh. Our excitement over having a concert date for the Beatles was diminished, however, when the agent informed us that the price for the Beatles would be a whopping and outrageous $35,000. In 1964 whenever we put a touring show together, one headliner would go out on a bus with about ten supporting artists and route across the country. The most amount of money that we ever paid a headliner to do a one nighter was about $3500.
Tim went back to the agency and negotiated the guarantee down to $25,000.00.
He called me and asked, “Do you think the Beatles could sell the arena out on their own?” I said – “Absolutely.” He said, “You know we always put a lot of support acts on with the headliner to sell out. Do you think we need any other acts?” “Trust me, you don’t need anyone else on the show,” I said. Tim explained, “I negotiated the $35,000.00 down to $25,000.00, but it has to be against 60% of the gross sales whichever is higher.” This was the first time an act demanded and received a percentage of the gate as well as a guarantee. What this meant was that The Beatles could make over $35,000 if the date sold out.
While we were waiting for September 14 to come about, I was drafted into the Army National Guard. I received a notice to report to active duty at Fort Knox, Kentucky at the end of May, which meant that I wouldn’t finish my six months until the end of November.
This also meant that I would miss the Beatles show.
Before I left, Tim and I met constantly. We agonized over what the ticket prices should be. Up to this point, our ticket prices at the arena had ranged from a $1.50 to $2.50, and capping most often at $3.50. We offered three different sections with three different prices. Obviously, the highest price was for the closest seat to the stage. Tim calculated and re-calculated what all the expenses would be and what we could charge for tickets. At the time, the city of Pittsburgh had a 10% amusement tax, and there was a 10% federal tax on each ticket. So right off the top 20% of the ticket price had to go to amusement taxes. We figured that people would pay more money for this show and set the price at $5.90. That way, after taxes, we would net $5.00 per ticket. In addition to their high amusement tax, the city still had to determine how many police officers should be on site for the show.
When Tim went to the city to obtain a permit to do the concert, he was informed that the police Chief Mahoney insisted that in order to get the city’s permission to do the show we must hire and pay for 200 uniformed police officers. Normally at a concert at the arena we would have no more than twenty police officers and we never had an incident.
Tim was able to negotiate that down to 100 men at $50.00 per. The rumor was that even though we paid for 100 police no one was sure if there were actually that many cops there. Tim did not count them. Mahoney insisted that Tim had to pay him the money in cash and that he would pay his men. We trusted in the elected officials, another changing element of our times. Tim insisted until the day he died that there were not 100 cops, and he saw Mahoney only paying some of the men $20.00. Others didn’t want to be paid, they just wanted to get in and see the show.
When it was announced that we got the show for Pittsburgh, both KDKA and KQV wanted to “present” the show. Since we were in the record and concert business and needed to get our artist’s records played, we were in constant contact with radio stations. KD was the big station in Pittsburgh with 50,000 watts. They had a lot of well known jocks, Rege Cordic, Art Pallen and Clark Race, who was my friend. They had a wide range and had the biggest listening audience. If they wanted to get behind an artist, they could and did make hits. But, they had an attitude and would always give us a hard time. Now they were coming to us with all kind of deals if we would let them present The Beatles. KQV had Chuck Brinkman who would hang out at Tim’s office at the Carlton House everyday and was begging for KQV to present the show. Tim told Chuck to bring his boss John Rooke to his office.
Tim was the best negotiator in the business. When he met with John, he got everything he wanted. KQV would do all the future shows at no cost for advertising. Whenever Tim brought a concert in to town he would get the works. John agreed to play their records and say things like “The Shower of Stars” time is…., The Shower of Stars weather is ….. They would play our artists records more frequently before a show. It was an amazing deal. Obviously KQV got to say they were presenting the Beatles – although Tim and I were the promoters.
Normally, we sold tickets in advance at National Record Mart. We sold our tickets there because we knew the Shapiro brothers who owned a chain of store. They were good guys who could be trusted. They also would give us advances on our sales. Other businesses in other cities that didn’t know us who sold tickets wouldn’t do that.
But this show was different. Tim wanted to sell the tickets by mail order only. I didn’t think it made sense, but if he wanted to do it, I didn’t care. “How are you going to handle all the mail?” I asked.
“I know these nuns, I trust them. I will pay them to put the tickets in a self addressed stamped envelope that the buyers must send us with their order, send them back to the buyers and to deposit the money. Don’t worry, we can trust the nuns. My sister is a nun in New York,” he said rather proudly.
Beatles’ Share: $37,000
Tim was from New York and had the accent to go with it. The show sold out as fast as the nuns could handle the mail – in a day and a half. There were a few tickets distributed to National Record Mart and the Civic Arena. All 12,600 tickets were sold months before the show played, therefore Tim had about $75,000.00 in his checking account. He had to send the act a $12,500.00 deposit. And, he sent me a check for $5,000.00, which I gave back to my dad with a sigh of relief. Dad was proud of the fact that he could and did help me.
Everyone in town was caught up in Beatle fever. One of the problems was that we could not get a hotel who would agree to let the Beatles stay there. They were afraid that the kids would destroy the place. Secret arrangements were made that the Beatles would not stay in Pittsburgh before or after the show. They would stay in Cleveland for the next three days, and fly in and out from Cleveland to the other cities they performed.
On the day of the show, in the late afternoon, two limousines were accompanied by six police cars who escorted the group into Gate 5 which was the back stage of the arena. They thought that if they got there early, there would be no crowd expecting them. But that was not the case. The area was jammed packed with fans hoping to get a look at their stars. The plans were to ‘sneak’ the act in unnoticed, but the six police cars had their sirens blaring during the trip from the airport to the arena. How did they think that was sneaking them in unnoticed?
The setup for the Beatles was amazingly simple. According to the recollections of Bob Miller, the business agent for the Stagehands Union, the Beatles arrived in a Ford Econoline van that held all of their equipment. Today, it’s not unusual to see thirty or more semi-trucks and trailers with a dozen luxury tour buses at a concert for setup. At the time, we would use the same sound system for a concert at the arena as was utilized for a sporting event. It would not be for a few more years that companies like Clair Brothers in Lititz, Pennsylvania, would assemble sound systems for concerts in arenas.
The dressing room was the Penguins locker room. In an effort to ‘decorate’ the cement block walls and hide the lockers, there was an arrangement with Kaufmann’s Department Store for them to decorate and furnish the dressing rooms. They did it reluctantly, thinking that their couches, tables, lamps, tv’s etc might be trashed. As it turned out, after the show, they announced that they were selling The Beatles dressing room furniture and they received a huge premium over the prices they wanted. The Beatles said it was the best dressing room on the tour.
Brian Epstien thought that the Beatles needed support acts on the show. He certainly didn’t need them to sell tickets. The act didn’t want to have to do the entire show themselves. They wanted to save their throats so that they could sing less time and get through the entire tour. The audience didn’t like the idea. At first the “Fun Lovin’ Five” came on stage. This was all the DJ’s from KQV. This was their big moment – what they lived for. They didn’t want or expect to be paid. Their egos were fed by being on stage in front of a sellout crowd – and it was The Beatles. They could tell their grandchildren and great grandchildren. There was Hal Murray, Steve Rizen, Dave Scott, Dex Allen and of course Chuck Brinkman. The only problem was that the audience didn’t want to see or hear them. They wanted the Beatles. In addition to the DJs, there were “opening acts.” Clarence “Frogman” Henry, Jackie DeShannon, The Exciters, and the Bill Black Combo. After each act, a KQV jock came on the stage and announced the previous act off, “Let’s hear it now for Clarence ‘Frogman’ Henry.” And now for the act you’ve all be waiting for!” A scream beyond anything ever heard before went up, and the DJ knew he made a mistake teasing the crowd but now had to say, “and now Jackie DeShannon.” Poor Jackie. No one wanted to see or hear her and they let her know it with “we want The Beatles” chanting. When the Beatles finally took the stage, there was so much noise that everyone said you couldn’t hear them sing.
While the show is going on, unfortunately, the promoter is in the box office doing the accounting work with the arena who gets their take, the city who gets there taxes, other vendors and most importantly the artists representative. Sometimes it’s the manager, but this group had a road manager. I guess Brian Epstien didn’t want to do this part of the job. We call this “settling a show.”
When the accounting was settled, the Beatles made $37,000. That was the highest amount of money we had ever paid an act. It was also $2,000.00 more than the original guarantee that they wanted. For our end, after all expenses were paid, Tim and I split $8,800.00. “What do you want to do with your half?” he asked. I asked Tim to mail me $100 a week to Fort Sill. I was the richest soldier in the army.
The year before, to satisfy my mother (“Pat why don’t you become a school teacher, they were the only ones who worked during the depression”), I taught school for a year. After school and on weekends, I still was in the music business. My salary for teaching was $300.00 per month. In the concert business, I made $4,400.00 in one night.
Oh, What a Feeling
A few years later, I asked mom, “What’s the payoff of your home?” She said, “I don’t know, but I think it is around $3,500.00.” The next day I sent her a check for $3,500.00 with a note, “Thanks mom and dad for giving me the chance of a lifetime.”
A year later, I visited their home and sat at the kitchen table as we always did. Dad was quick to bring something to the table for me to eat. I slid an envelope over to my mother and said, “Here this is for you, open it.”
My mom opened the envelope and there was a check from me to my mom and dad. Mom said, “Oh $50.00 thank you Pat, what’s this for?” And very quickly she corrected herself and said, “Oh, this is for $500.00. Pat what is this?” My mother had been blind in one eye for all of my life and sometimes had difficulty seeing. My dad then looked closer at the check and said, “That check is for $5,000.00.” My mother quickly handed the check back to me and said, “Pat, you better not fool around like this with checks, you could get yourself in trouble. Now take this check back and stop this fooling.”
I said, “No mom the check is for you and dad and it is good, take it.”
“What’s this for Pat,” she asked.
“Do you remember in ’64 you got me the $5,000.00 for The Beatles,” I said.
“But Pat, you already gave us the $5,000.00 back and you paid off this house,” she said.
“This is just a bonus, go ahead and take it,” I said. That was one of the greatest feelings of my life.
Pat DiCesare can be reached at [email protected].