Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Beatles Come to Pigman Ranch

by Pa Rock
Missouri Citizen Journalist

Today marks an important anniversary in my little corner of the woods.  Fifty years ago on this very date the Beatles (yes, those Beatles) flew into rural Oregon County, Missouri, in a small single-engine plane and landed on a rugged grass runway.   Their pilot was Reed Pigman.

The Beatles had just finished a concert stop in Dallas and had a free weekend before their final show of their first American tour – in New York City.  Mr. Pigman owned a commercial flying outfit called American Flyers which had contracted to transport the Fab Four on their first American tour.   As that tour was winding down, the group found itself with a free weekend and no plans.  Pigman convinced them to spend the time at his 13,000 acre cattle ranch near Alton, Missouri.  It was, at the time, the largest working ranch in the state – and it was nestled in the beautiful Ozarks.

The legend goes that they brought no musical instruments, and instead concentrated on swimming, fishing, riding horses, and relaxing.  Some excited locals did find out about their presence and managed to make it onto the ranch for an up-close look at the world famous performers.

It was twenty years later before I first heard that the Beatles had actually spent a weekend in the Ozarks.  A friend was dating an elementary school teacher who told him about the visit and said that she had been one of the lucky ones to have made it onto the ranch.  I told my friend that sounded like some country version of an urban legend.  He responded, “But Rock, she showed me the pictures she took!”

Brian Epstein, the Beatles manager, accompanied the boys from Liverpool on their Ozarks outing.  Epstein turned thirty during the visit – fifty years ago today, actually.  He died of a drug overdose less than three years later.

Local celebrations were held this past weekend, with a highlight being a concert by a Beatles tribute band at West Plains’ Civic Center last Friday night.  I wasn’t there, but I heard that 1,200 happy souls sang along to every song!

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