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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”

Benton in Franklin County, Illinois — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)
 

The First Beatle In America

George Harrison

 
 
The First Beatle In America George Harrison Marker image. Click for full size.
By Jason Voigt, circa 2014
1. The First Beatle In America George Harrison Marker
Inscription.  In the late summer of 1963, four musicians from Liverpool, England — John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr — collectively known as the Beatles, were poised to conquer pop culture and music history. With three hit singles in England, the band anticipated their first number one record in America by taking separate holidays. Lennon to Paris, McCartney and Starr to Greece, and Harrison to America. Traveling with his older brother, Peter, Harrison came to Southern Illinois to visit their sister, Louise Harrison Caldwell, for a fortnight in the small mining town of Benton, Illinois. While in "Egypt" Harrison stayed in his sister's home at 113 McCann Street, jammed with several local musicians, performed at a VFW Hall in Eldorado with the Four Vests, bought a guitar in Mt. Vernon, sang "Happy Birthday" at a Bocce Ball Club in Benton, and went camping in the Garden of the Gods and other sites in the Shawnee National Forest. Many of the Beatles' first recordings were played over the radio station WRFX-AM in West Frankfort and Harrison was interviewed by a local teenager, Marcia Schafer, the first interview by a Beatle
The First Beatle In America Marker image. Click for full size.
By Jason Voigt, March 5, 2020
2. The First Beatle In America Marker
near band shelter
in America. Harrison returned to England and came back to America with the Beatles the following February after "I Want To Hold Your Hand" rose to number one on the U.S. charts. Harrison went on to write such classic songs as "Taxman", "While My Guitar Gently Weeps", and "Something", the second most recorded song in the Beatles catalog. He died in 2001.
 
Erected 2013 by The Franklin County Historic Preservation Society and the Illinois State Historical Society.
 
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Arts, Letters, MusicEntertainment. In addition, it is included in the Illinois State Historical Society, and the The Beatles 🎶 series lists.
 
Location. 37° 59.783′ N, 88° 55.201′ W. Marker is in Benton, Illinois, in Franklin County. Marker can be reached from the intersection of Carter Drive and Public Square, on the right when traveling east. Marker is located at Capitol City Park in Benton, Illinois. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 1102 Public Square, Benton IL 62812, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 1 other marker is within walking distance of this marker. Home of John & Mary Logan 1856-1861 (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line).
 
More about this marker. Marker was dedicated on September 21, 2013, and was unveiled by Louise Harrison. Several hundred people were reportedly in attendance. That date was to coincide with the 50th anniversary of George's historic visit to Benton.
 
Regarding The First Beatle In America. Louise
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Harrison and her then-husband, Dr. Gordon Caldwell, moved to Benton, Illinois from England in March of 1963, after Gordon found engineering work with a coal company there. In September 1963, Louise's younger brother, George Harrison became the first Beatle to set foot on American soil when his plane landed at Lambert Field in St. Louis. Louise picked up George and his brother and afterwards, visited two St. Louis Top 40 stations where she had arranged meetings. She had mailed Beatles' records and press clippings from Europe to those stations, hoping that her younger brother's band would find some breaking ground on American rock and roll radio. According to St. Louis disc jockey Ron Elz (from his book The Amazing Johnny Rabbitt St. Louis Trivia Game), he recalled that Louise had set up meetings with him, as he worked for KXOK. As a favor to Louise, Elz agreed to play one of the records on his nightly "Make It or Break It" segment. A majority of listeners called and said to "break it". They met for lunch, listened to a few of the records, and the Harrison siblings were off to Benton. Elz would later introduce the Beatles on-stage at San Francisco's Cow Palace, nearly a year later.

Marcia Schafer (mentioned on the marker), whose father owned the radio station she worked at as a teenager, was one of the first in addition to Elz to play Beatles recordings on the radio
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in the United States. However, historians point to disc jockey Dick Biondi, for playing "Please Please Me" on Chicago's WLS-AM in February 1963. Many others with that "first to play Beatles" claim include New York DJ Murray the K.
 
Additional keywords. rock and roll
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on February 11, 2021. It was originally submitted on April 8, 2019, by Jason Voigt of Glen Carbon, Illinois. This page has been viewed 268 times since then and 27 times this year. Last updated on February 11, 2021, by Carl Gordon Moore Jr. of North East, Maryland. Photos:   1. submitted on April 8, 2019, by Jason Voigt of Glen Carbon, Illinois.   2. submitted on March 19, 2020, by Jason Voigt of Glen Carbon, Illinois. • Devry Becker Jones was the editor who published this page.
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Mar. 8, 2021