On Tour With The Beatles

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Fifty years ago today, The Beatles landed in New York, ready to make their historic appearance on the Ed Sullivan show on Feb. 9, 1964.

At that time, Larry Kane was the 21-year-old news director at WFUN, a radio station in Miami. Out of a request to interview the band came an invitation for Kane to follow The Beatles on their 1964 and 1965 tours of the United States — the only reporter to do so.

As Kane tells Here & Now's Robin Young, he had doubts about the assignment. He told his boss, "'You and I both know this band will be here in September and gone in November.'"

The access he had lead to three books about The Beatles: "Ticket To Ride," "Lennon Revealed" and his latest, "When They Were Boys: The True Story of the Beatles' Rise to the Top."

Interview Highlights: Larry Kane

First impressions of The Beatles

"I had a lot of news going on that year, you know, the Cuban exodus for Miami, the Vietnam War escalating. So when I got the invitation after I wrote them just an odd letter asking them for an interview in Jacksonville, I went to my bosses and said, 'Give it to a DJ, because frankly, I'm too busy for this, and you and I both know that this group will be here in September and gone in November."

"My father pulled me aside just before I left for San Francisco and the big tour, and he said, 'Larry, watch your back. They're a menace to society.' And he was dead serious. And I said, 'What do you mean?' He said, 'They're a menace to society. They're gonna destroy America as we know it.' And this is the way most people over 30 felt."

"I arrive in San Francisco and I go to meet the four of them, and I have a lovely time with Paul, who's never met a mirror, a comb or an audience he didn't like. And Ringo, who's just so intellectually curious. It shocks people when I tell them that. And George, who's very much into his music, and he never said much, but when he did say something, it was usually significant, Robin. When we were making an emergency landing in Portland the next year, he yelled out to me, 'Larry, if anything happens in this plane, it's Beatles and children first!' And but then, Lennon — Lennon looks at my Robert Hall suit — it was the deepest, deepest discount brand you could buy — and he looks at my shoes up to my head, and he said, 'Who are you?' And I introduced myself, and he said, 'Sir, you look like a round peg in a square hole. You, my friend, are a nerd from the 1950s.'"

How he earned their trust

"I began to ask them questions about serious things, and herein lies the story of my success with the boys. I asked them questions that were serious. I didn't ask them what hemline they liked, what they ate for breakfast. I asked them questions about the war in Vietnam, the immigration controversy, which was raging through Great Britain. And all of a sudden, I walked down through the hall, figuring, 'I'm done, I'll never see the inside of the airplane because we've had these bad moments.' And there are two hands around my shoulder, and he grabs me around, bear-hugs me, and anyone who knows John Lennon, he's not a huggy-kissy guy, especially with men. And he says, 'I'm sorry, mate.'"

Living history with the 'fab four'

"I said, 'Did you know' — and this was August 20 — 'that on September 11, the Gator Bowl is going to be separated by race?' Paul McCartney got up and said, 'There is no way we're gonna do it.' He was red in the face. John Lennon said — what, I can't tell you right now. George Harrison and Ringo Starr said, 'We're not playin' there.' And apoplectic in the corner was Brian [Epstein], who understood that they weren't gonna play there. Now, nothing was ever resolved until we got to Key West the day before were supposed to arrive, on September 10, 1964. Brian came to us and said, 'The Gator Bowl will be integrated for the first time.'"

"John Lennon was volatile. He and I had a battle on the plane, a scream-out, in 1966 ... I had just gone into the military. I had obligations. I'd gotten out of basic training and I joined them for three stops on the tour. For about an hour from St. Louis to New York, until he was red in the face and dry in the mouth, we argued about war, and he said to me, 'Wait a second.' He called over McCartney, he said, 'Paul, as soon as we get to New York, we're spiriting him out of the country and we're gonna have him work for us, because I want him to avoid that war.' I was touched by it, but we had this big argument. He was passionate and very loving."


  • Larry Kane, journalist and news anchor. His latest book is "When They Were Boys: The True Story of the Beatles' Rise to the Top." He tweets @larrykane.

This segment aired on February 7, 2014.


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