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Fans to share evening of intimate conversation with Beatles friends
NEW YORK, NY -- January 10, 2014 -- On Thursday February 6, 1964 the Beatles were preparing to leave London for their first US visit. The following day they were greeted by thousands of young American fans at JFK Airport. Within minutes of their arrival, using their self-effacing wit, they had totally charmed the cynical New York press corps. After that, the rest of the nation was a breeze. On the Sunday evening, they performed live to a record-breaking 73 million viewers on the Ed Sullivan Show. A whopping 40% of the population. (Equivalent to 125 million viewers in 2014). The world changed...
The Beatles of course achieved their enduring success with a little help from their friends. On Thursday, February 6, the eve of the 50th anniversary of that momentous weekend, the prestigious New York cultural institution the 92nd Street Y will present an evening of intimate conversation with some of those friends - Peter Asher, Donovan, Billy J. Kramer, Freda Kelly and Vince Calandra, moderated by Beatles scholar Martin Lewis, who has curated this event.
This event is in partnership with The Fest for Beatles Fans, which has presented Beatles fan conventions in the US since 1974. Their 120th convention will be held in NYC on the weekend of February 7th, 8th & 9th, for more information visit www.TheFest.com.
Peter Asher was one of the people closest to Paul McCartney and the Beatles in the 1960s. He was Paul McCartney's roommate 1963-1965 when Paul lived in the same London house as Asher and his sister Jane Asher (Paul's girlfriend 1963-1968). As one half of the singing duo Peter & Gordon, he recorded ten worldwide Top Ten hits between 1964-1967, including several songs written specially for them by Paul McCartney. Their first hit, "A World Without Love," was a #1 in 30 nations. Asher was a key figure in the 1960s London counter-culture and founder of the Indica book shop/art gallery where John and Yoko met.
Between 1968-1970 Peter Asher was head of A&R for the Beatles' Apple Records, where he discovered and produced James Taylor. Since 1970 he has been one of the world's leading artist managers (James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt, Joni Mitchell, Randy Newman, Carole King) and record producers (James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt, Bonnie Raitt, Cher, Diana Ross, 10,000 Maniacs, Lyle Lovett, Graham Nash, Stevie Nicks, Boz Scaggs, Keith Richards, Jackson Browne and Ringo Starr). He has produced twelve Grammy(R) Award-winning recordings, and received the "Producer of the Year" Grammy in 1977 and 1989. He continues to produce music including for movies such as Sherlock Holmes 2, Madagascar 3 and Pirates of the Caribbean 4, working with Hans Zimmer. In recent years he has also been performing his critically-acclaimed one-man-show, "A Musical Memoir of the 60s and Beyond."
After first meeting the Beatles in 1965, Donovan rapidly became part of their inner circle and was regarded by them as a close friend and musical peer. Between 1965-1970 he scored 14 major worldwide chart hits and had multiple successful albums. He accompanied the Beatles on the spiritual quest that took them to India in 1968. During their Indian trip he taught Lennon, McCartney and Harrison some of his folk guitar skills - manifested in White Album songs such as "Dear Prudence," "Julia," "I Will," "Mother Nature's Son," and "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." ("Donovan is all over the the White Album" - George Harrison on the Beatles Anthology.)
Donovan remained close with Harrison (who wrote a verse for Donovan's song "Hurdy Gurdy Man") and McCartney (who commissioned songs from Donovan for an album he produced of singer Mary Hopkin). In April 2009, he reunited with Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr for a concert benefitting the David Lynch Transcendental Meditation Foundation at Radio City Music Hall in New York. Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012, Donovan continues to be a musical force - drawing on his 50-year history and 500-song repertoire while simultaneously creating fresh music - such as his new (yet rooted-in-roots) album Shadows of Blue recorded in Nashville.
An aspiring musician in his native Liverpool, in 1962 Billy Kramer came to the attention of the Beatles' manager Brian Epstein who was keen to foster other talents alongside the Beatles. Paired with a Manchester group called the Dakotas, he was soon signed to a recording contract by George Martin who also became his producer. He struck an easy rapport with the Beatles, it was Lennon who added the middle initial "J" to his stage name, and after having a worldwide hit with his cover of Lennon's "Do You Want to Know a Secret?"
Billy J. Kramer was the recipient of a slew of songs specially written for him by Lennon & McCartney. These recordings included global hits such as "Bad to Me," "I'll Keep You Satisfied" and "From A Window." (He tried, unsuccessfully, to persuade them to let him record the first version of "I Want to Hold Your Hand"!) Other hits followed ("Little Children," "Trains and Boats and Planes"). Kramer has lived in the USA since the 1980s and continues to perform live and make new recordings. His new album titled I Won the Fight includes "To Liverpool with Love" a paean to his hometown and his manager and friend Brian Epstein.
In 1962, Freda Kelly was a 17-year-old devoted Beatles fan who faithfully attended their lunchtime performances in Liverpool's Cavern Club. She came to the attention of Beatles manager Brian Epstein who recruited her to be his secretary. Within a short period of time she was deputed to run the group's burgeoning fan club. As the Beatles became first a British, and then a worldwide phenomenon, her workload expanded to take care of hundreds of thousands of fans. In that pre-computer era, Kelly chose to answer every single letter personally and was noted for her warmth to the fans.
Freda also became a very trusted confidante to all four Beatles. On their first recording made as a Christmas greeting to fan-club members they all referred to her as "Good Ol' Freda!", an endearment that was used as the title of the recent documentary about her. Freda continued to run the fan club from her native Liverpool (her father forbade her to live in London when Epstein and the Beatles made that move in 1964) and continued working even after the group disbanded. It was not till 1972 that she closed the fan club. Few people were closer to the individual Beatles or more loyal than "Good Ol' Freda" - now a grandmother and still a dedicated Beatles fan.
Vince Calandra was a 29 year-old production executive working for the Ed Sullivan Show in February 1964. As the youngest member of the production crew he was delegated to look after the Beatles during their time at the Ed Sullivan Theatre and he spent extensive time with the group. On the day before their live US TV debut in front of a record-breaking 73 million Americans, the Beatles were required for extensive camera rehearsals. George Harrison was ill with a strep throat that day, and Sullivan chose Calandra to be Harrison's stand-in for the rehearsals, making him a Beatle-for-the-day! Sullivan even crowned Calandra with a Beatles wig for his stint.
In August 1965, Calandra was Associate Producer for the TV production of the Beatles' ground-breaking Shea Stadium concert that was filmed by Ed Sullivan's production company. Over the following four decades Calandra went on to have a very illustrious career in television as an artist relations executive for programs such as the Mike Douglas Show and he was Talent Director for all the celebrity-heavy TV specials produced by the AFI 1990-2004.
Beatles scholar Martin Lewis, who has written about the Beatles for Encyclopedia Britannica and Time magazine, started his career as a protege of former Beatles publicist Derek Taylor. He subsequently became a noted producer, co-creating/producing the Secret Policeman's Ball benefit series for Amnesty International, marketing strategist (Oscar campaigns for such films as The King's Speech and Crash) and performing humorist ("incites and inspires with his witticisms" - Village Voice; "intelligently funny" - Paper Magazine). His very extensive work in the Beatles universe since 1967 includes producing and marketing the DVD Edition of A Hard Day's Night, his campaigns as US marketing strategist for the Beatles Anthology and The Beatles Live at the BBC and working for Paul McCartney on several projects. In 1998 he wrote the companion narrative for the reissue of Brian Epstein's 1964 autobiography, and with support from his friend George Martin, he initiated and ran the (recently successful) worldwide campaign to have Epstein inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame. In 2008 - with the blessing of Paul and Yoko - he instigated NASA beaming the Beatles recording "Across the Universe" into deep space, literally across the universe...
IT WAS 50 YEARS AGO TODAY... Celebrating 50 Years of The Beatles in the USA, an intimate conversation with Peter Asher, Donovan, Billy J. Kramer, Freda Kelly, Vince Calandra, and other special guests, curated and moderated by Martin Lewis, will take place on Thursday, February 6, 8:15 pm. Tickets from $29 are available at www.92Y.org/Beatles or by phone at 212-415-5500.
• The Birth of Beatlemania - a new special report for Encyclopedia Britannica
• How the Beatles Broke in the US - a new treatise on the astonishing story
Published January 10, 2014