Music entrepreneur Brian Epstein heard rumors in the fall of 1961 about an electrifying band that was entertaining crowds in his hometown of Liverpool, England. When he found out the band was playing a noon set at the Cavern Club, he decided to go. It changed his life, and the world of music forever.
He discovered the Beatles.
New York Times best-selling author Vivek Tiwary, who wrote the book “The Fifth Beatle,” will be the featured author at the Beatles at The Ridge festival this weekend in Walnut Ridge. The Liverpool Legends, a Beatles tribute band will play Saturday night, while Tiwary is slated to speak Friday night at the festival’s symposium. Authors from around the country and even one from Great Britain are expected to attend the symposium, festival co-founder and Walnut Ridge Mayor Charles Snapp told Talk Business & Politics.
Tiwary wrote a graphic book about Epstein, who Paul McCartney referred to as “the Fifth Beatle.” Epstein managed the Beatles until his untimely death from a drug overdose in 1967. Epstein was reportedly good friends with each of the band members, and many music historians think part of the group’s demise was due in part to his death.
At least 10,000 people are expected to attend the two-day event, he said. More than 100 vendors will be on hand, and many other bands and performers are slated to entertain, he said. This year a second stage will be used, and several Christian music bands will play in addition to the rock-n-roll, bluegrass, and country music that has been offered in the past.
“This should be one of our best Beatles at The Ridge,” Snapp said. “We’ve extended our format with the Christian bands … the weather is supposed to be perfect.”
This will be the eighth time the largest city in Lawrence County has held the festival. Walnut Ridge is unique in that it’s the only city in Arkansas the band visited while they were together, according to historians.
Business owner Jack Allison saw a peculiar aircraft in flight over his hometown late night Sept. 18, 1964. It was large, and as he spied it from a parking lot, it was clear to him the plane was headed to the Walnut Ridge Airport.
Allison instructed three teenage boys to investigate it. When they arrived at the runway, the plane door opened and immortals strolled onto the tarmac. It was the only time the Beatles – George, John, Paul, and Ringo – visited the Natural State as a group.
The Beatles landed at the airport that night on their way from Dallas to New York. The foursome was tired, and they decided to take some time off from their tour and rest at the Reed Pigman dude ranch, near Alton, Mo. Their plane was too big to land at most airports in the region, so it was decided that Walnut Ridge’s Airport, a former pilot training base during World War II, would be the best place to land.
A smaller plane waited on the runway to whisk the band members away when they arrived. Paul McCartney was scared to fly in the small plane, and he left in a truck. The band came back two days later. Teenagers throughout the Ozarks learned the famed band was in the region, and turned out in full force to greet them before they left. Snapp’s sister, Carrie Mae Snapp, along with a few others, sneaked onto the plane and stole items, including cigarette butts and pillow cases.
The Beatles at the Ridge festival has garnered worldwide attention. The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and other publications have published feature stories. A list of the top ten places to view Beatles history around the world was released a few years ago, and Walnut Ridge was listed as the fourth place to visit. The town appears on many Google searches involving the famed musical group.
The festival received about $74,000 in donations, sponsorships, and vendors fees for this year’s event, Snapp said. The only taxpayer funds that go into the cost is security from the police and the firefighters, he added.