When The Beatles Rocked The Bowl: Bob Eubanks Recalls The 1964-65 SoCal Mania
Perhaps best known as the affable host of “The Newlywed Game” who often saw couples hit each other with cue cards, Bob Eubanks first and foremost worked in music. This included working as a DJ for KRLA, owning the North Hollywood Cinnamon Cinders venue, managing artists like Merle Haggard, Barbara Mandrell and Dolly Parton, and working as a music promoter. As the latter , he put on two landmark Beatles concerts at the Hollywood Bowl in 1965 and 1966 (in addition to Dodger Stadium in 1967) that lives on in lore and acetate. Pollstar caught up with Mr. Eubanks, now 84 years young, to learn more about how he landed the Fab Four, why Natalie Cole, Sinatra and Michael Landon wanted tickets and putting his house up to buy the show.
The Hollywood Bowl’s celebrating its 100th anniversary and its biggest concert moment was The Beatles playing there in ‘64 and ‘65, which you had a hand in. How did that happen?
Bob Eubanks: When The Beatles did “The Ed Sullivan Show,” 70 million people watched, and that was on Feb. 9th, ’64. Originally, they signed with a soul music label because the president of Capitol said they were just another boy band. But they didn’t have a No. 1 hit until “I Want to Hold Your Hand” came along and that was on Capitol. And even though the mother of the president of Capitol said they’re the worst piece of crap she’d ever heard, the record became No. 1 and they had made a vow they wouldn’t tour America until they had a No. 1 record. So the record became No. 1 and they signed with GAC, the General Artists Corporation, as their agency. What happened was that GAC went to their normal people and a company called Sight & Sound Productions and they turned them down.
I was disc jockey at KRLA and could tell what was going on. I was never a great song picker, but I could tell something was really good with this one. I had a couple of young adult nightclubs here in town called the Cinnamon Cinders, and Wednesday night was talent night. I would buy talent like Ike & Tina Turner, The Righteous Brothers and The Beach Boys, you name it. The fact that I was a talent buyer and a disc jockey on the hot radio show, I went to them and said, “I want them.” And they said, “Well, you’ve never produced a concert in your life.” I said, “You’re right. I want them.” They finally said, “OK, you can have The Beatles if you have The Bowl.” And then I went to the Hollywood Bowl, and they said, “Okay, you can have The Bowl if you have The Beatles.” So I finally got everybody together and we agreed on a date. Brian Epstein, The Beatles’ manager, wanted more money than any act had been guaranteed at the Hollywood Bowl, a $25,000 guarantee. I didn’t have it; I was making $12,500 a year at KRLA.
How’d you get the money?
I had a business partner; he and I had a house in Hidden Hills near Calabasas. So I walked in to Security National Bank. The guy said, “What do you want it for?” And I told him about The Beatles and he said, “Get out of here!” So I went to a little storefront bank in Woodland Hills called Transworld Bank. They had just repo’d a motorcycle and it was dripping oil, but the manager’s son was a big Beatles fan so he loaned me the $25,000 on the house.
How did you promote it?
I didn’t buy any advertising. Heck, I didn’t need it. There were three ways you could get tickets and that was at the Bowl, The Automobile Club of Southern California and Wallichs Music City. We announced in August we would put the tickets on sale. That morning at the Bowl kids were in the trees with a line almost down to Hollywood Boulevard in line waiting to buy tickets. Natalie Cole was there with a limo driver. And she said, “Well, I like my dad’s music better, but The Beatles are cuter.”
How did it sell?
I had a lady working for me named Terry Brown and she said to the box office guy, “Can we sell this out in one day?” He laughed and said, “Yeah, you’re crazy. You’d be lucky to sell this out in a week.” And about an hour later, he came to her and said, “We’re sold out.”
They had press conferences before the shows, right?
Yes, each year I had to have a press conference and I had it at my Cinnamon Cinder in North Hollywood. They were so glib and really funny, almost like they had rehearsed it.
How’d it go at the Bowl?
We got them into the Bowl and they went on and I remember Debbie Reynolds came to me with security and said, “I would love to meet The Beatles.” And I said, “Well, hang on. I’ll be right back.” I walk into the dressing room where John Lennon is sitting there with Lauren Bacall. And I said, “John, Debbie Reynolds is out here. And she really wants to meet you guys.” And he looked at Lauren Bacall and she shook her head, “No.” He said, “We don’t wanna meet her.” I was like, “You’re kidding me.”
How was the show?
At the Hollywood Bowl, they were wonderful. The Bowl people were very nice. Each year, they only did a half hour. And they always ended with Little Richard’s “Long Tall Sally,” that was one of Paul’s favorites.
What was security like?
I remember about two hours before the show a busload of marshals came up the driveway. I said, “What are you guys doing here?” He said, “Well, we’re here to protect the Hills up behind the Volvo.” I said, “Oh, good.” I said, “Who’s paying for you?” He says, “You are.”
How were the financials?
I had a partner and after the first ’64 Beatles concert, I made a grand total of $4,000.
Now here’s the problem, I got my money back for the house. People say that Brian Epstein was a good manager and he may have been, but he would only let me charge $3, $4, $5, $6, and $7 all three years they toured. They could have done a $7 ticket; they could have gotten $40 for it for God’s sakes, but that’s not the way it worked. Even the two years at the Bowl and the one at Dodger Stadium.
How was the ’65 Bowl show?
The second year, they were tired. They’d been touring and they were just tired, but they did want to do something: They wanted to meet Elvis Presley. And so Colonel Parker, Elvis’ manager and Brian Epstein, The Beatles manager, got together, which would be like Larry the Cable Guy meeting Albert Einstein. They had a meeting at Elvis’ house and they invited Elvis to come to the Hollywood Bowl, which he didn’t do. But while they were waiting for Elvis to come in, Paul found this little thing you hold in your hand and you point at the TV and you can change the channel. He had never seen anything like that before. And was mesmerized by it.
So the Bowl didn’t really do much rock ’n’ roll then; was it outrageous to Philharmonic fans that these mop-headed rock ’n’ roll kids were coming in?
No, I didn’t get that at all. Everybody wanted tickets. Sinatra wanted to buy I think 30 tickets for his staff. I traded Michael Landon an appearance on the rock ‘n’ roll TV show I was doing for a couple of tickets. Everybody wanted to be there. The Hollywood Bowl was the perfect place for them.