From the unpublished book, "And Now Here They Are... The Beatles!"
© Mitch McGeary, Mike White and Kevin Curran
Suffolk Downs Racetrack
111 Waldemar Avenue
East Boston, MA
Capacity: 54,000 (32,000 permanent)
Number of Shows: 1 at 8:30pm
Promoter: Frank Connelly and Gerald Roberts
Emcee: Bruce Bradley and Arnie Ginsberg
CONCERT AT RACETRACK - Beatles SHOW at the PLACE and WIN
Gerald Roberts was responsible for the booking. He recalls:
Frank Connelly and I were partners for 15 to 20 years and we presented just about everybody you can think of in Boston. I was a Certified Public Accountant by profession, and I didn't want to frighten my clients by publicizing my name, that's why Frank's name is always the one seen on things including the tickets for the show. I was the financial man and the dealmaker. Norman Weiss approached Frank in 1966 and said "How would you like a crack at The Beatles?" Frank turned it over to me, and I asked Norman how much he had in mind for the show. It was $50,000 up front and $100,000 total. We didn't do a percentage of the gross, because I never agreed to do that with rock acts.
The 1966 Boston performance was conducted in what remains the most unlikely venue of The Beatles' North American tours--a racetrack. Roberts recalls the steps taken to obtain the venue:
We had to find a venue big enough to hold the show, and Fenway wasn't big enough. The only place big enough was Suffolk Downs. It was ideal because it had the grandstands and a large apron area in front. The fellow who owned the track was a man named Bill Veeck. I knew his secretary, Bea Furlong (a fitting name), and she setup a meeting with him, Frank and I to talk about renting the venue. I think Frank and I knew we would have a good afternoon with Bill that day because just prior to meeting with him, we each played a longshot bet and won. We sat with him at his private table and told him that we were interested in renting the track for a summer concert. I asked him how much he would charge and he said 'One thousand dollars, and you have to pay all the expenses.' Ten days later, after we executed a contract, he called me and said 'You son-of-a-bitch, you never told me that it was for the Beatles. Why didn't you tell me?' I told him that he hadn't asked who was performing. He laughed and said "You've conned a con-man.' We made up for it by giving him 8 box seat tickets that he used to bring his family to the show. He was a character. He was in professional baseball and did a lot of unusual things like use fielders with one arm, and midgets to pinch-hit. He eventually was kicked out of baseball.
How does one go about putting on a concert in a racetrack? One complexity Roberts had to deal with was where the spectators should sit. He recalls:
We calculated the available footage, had an engineering student draw up an approximate seating layout, and rented 22,000 chairs to go in the apron area. We had submitted the seating breakdown to Globe for ticket production, and only after the tickets were printed did we learn that Public Safety wanted to limit the number of attendees to 50,000. The racetrack had never had any more than 32,000 people before and they had gotten scared. That's why all the unused tickets exist. We advertised the show by running 4 ads in the Sunday paper. We sold the tickets by mail order, and sold everything except the tickets that could not be filled due to the Public Safety restriction.
Many Boston-area V.I.P.'s came out of the woodwork requesting choice seats for the concert. Gerald Roberts and Frank Connelly were used to this and kept many of the best seats reserved for the eventual calls. Eunice Shriver called and requested 50 good seats for members of the Kennedy clan. They were seated center stage, second row.
The Beatles were greeted earlier Thursday morning by 300 cheering fans at Logan International Airport.
Bruce Bradley remembers:
I found it strange to find myself at a racetrack to introduce the Beatles. After having emceed the Beatles' concert in 1964 I was again chosen to do the 1966 show. WBZ was still the biggest station in Boston and I was pleased I would be on stage again. I remember looking out over the audience of which was shaped in a half moon surrounding the stage and thinking, "wow, I hope the security is good." Even though there was a distance between the stage and the fans it wouldn't take much to start a full-scale assault. I was probably more worried about my wife who was 8 months pregnant and I dragged to the concert against her wishes. My reasoning was I wanted her to see the Beatles, to experiences the ultimate moment of a generation. I knew she would thank me later. For her protection I brought along another couple, friends of ours, that were both good size and could help my wife should something happen.
Nothing significant did happened except one young boy broke through the ranks and made his way to the stage. From our vantagepoint just below the stage we could see that the boy ran to each Beatle, touch them and then bolted off as quickly as he came. It was a scary moment that only last about 15 seconds.
Arnie Ginsberg remembers:
This time around I co-emceed the Beatles concert with Bruce Bradley. I was still very popular on the radio and I think they wanted to include me, maybe feeling like they owed me. Bruce and I had a pleasant rivalry going for years now so I decided to liven up the evening, at least for us. I brought a water pistol and keep spraying Bruce with it. I thought it might help his hair grow.
There was no way any one in the stands could see us horsing around because it was just so distant. That was the whole show: distant. This show was completely different than the one held two years earlier at the Boston Garden. Suffolk Downs was enormous and there just was no intimacy, not that the Garden was intimate but it was much more compact.
I don't really remember the intro for the Beatles only that Bruce and I said it together. After the Beatles came on stage I stayed next to the stage chatting with Brian Epstein about a chain letter we were both apart of. Don't ask me what it was about because I have no idea.
Gerald Roberts remembers the performance:
We brought The Beatles into the show in a hearse without a police escort. The administration building acted as a temporary hospital to administer to the fans, and to lower our insurance costs. We had 100 cops standing between the racetrack fence and the stage to keep the fans from reaching The Beatles. The stage was set up against the inside track fence about 50 feet away from the first row of people. We spent about $15,000 on the sound system, but no one heard anything anyway because of the screams. The Beatles and Brian Epstein were perfect gentlemen at all times. Brian sat with me in the clubhouse during the first part of the show.
About 300 policeman, some on horseback and others on motorcycles maintained order in the packed grandstands, protecting the track area between the stage and the stands.