Last Fall, Dan and I spent 10 days at South Marcum, a Corps of Engineer campground right near Benton, Illinois. Read about that trip here. As a young girl, I remember hearing that George Harrison’s sister lived in Benton, Illinois. As we drove in, I was reminded of this fact by a large,colorful and energetic mural along side Highway 57. Benton is proud of this heritage, and even has a George Harrison Commemorative Mural which can be seen from the highway.
In the Benton Town Square, there is a plaque commemorating George’s visit. It’s a very informative plaque, but unfortunately, probably not readable in this post. Basically, in September 1963, about 5 months before that famous Ed Sullivan show, George visited his sister, Louise, in Benton. That visit made him the first Beatle in America, and it gave Benton bragging rights. The plaque even gave the address of the house where Louise lived – where George stayed. George spent 18 days there, exploring the area, going on the radio and even buying a guitar in nearby Mount Vernon. Shortly after his visit, America and Benton, Illinois would never be the same.
During our visit, I reached out to the Talk Benton Facebook page to try to learn more about George’s visit. I had a nice response with several items to note. This post is really just an organization of what I learned.
Here is a link to a 2001 feature story on George Harrison in Benton: https://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/george-harrison-slept-here/Content?oid=905555
This is a feature story from 2013, the 50th anniversary of George’s visit to Benton: https://www.illinoistimes.com/springfield/they-saw-him-standing-here/Content?oid=11439532
There is a documentary by Bob Bartel entitled, “A Beatle in Benton”. This documentary is in the library at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Available for purchase at Cache River Press. You can also buy it or rent it on Youtube.
I read that Louis was working on a book: “The Harrison Hug” by Louise Harrison Caldwell (2013). However, I could not find this book.
Book: “Before He Was Fab: George Harrison’s First American Visit” by Jim Kirkpatrick (1999) – Available on Amazon & Cache River Press. Kids, if you are reading this, this would make a good Christmas gift for me next year.
Here is a 2013 Update on Louise Caldwell Harrison: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2514041/Beatle-George-Harrisons-sister-Louise-82-lives-broke-rural-Missouri.html
I reached out to the Talk Benton Facebook group again when writing this post. I asked if Benton put on any events related to George’s visit. No one mentioned any. Maybe there could be a Beatles weekend. It could have a concert, a look alike contest, sell Beatles stuff, maybe offer fish n chips. A Beatles 5K. A showing of the documentary outside on an inflatable screen in a park, like they do movies. A fundraiser for the museum. Oh wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. If I was in charge of tourism for Benton, I would develop this idea. However, I am not in charge of the tourism; I am only in charge of my blog. So what I can do is to write about the idea, and I can hope.
Reading the articles, makes me wonder about Louise today. I believe she is about 85 years old; how is she doing? Whatever happened to Bob Bartel, the man who created the documentary? He lived in Springfield, Illinois. What happened to all the Beatles items he collected? Could those items be the basis for a museum (maybe in the McCann house) someday? Could a GoFundMe page help with start up costs? Maybe Paul could pitch in.
On the Talk Benton Facebook page, several wrote of personal stories or connections to Louise. Wouldn’t it be great to capture these stories? The museum could have a section with audio or written transcripts of these happenings. Is anybody listening?
If you’re not a Beatles fan, you probably don’t understand. You’re probably not even still reading this. But for those of us who are, this Beatle connection to Benton is history. It’s a treasure to remind of us the Fab Four, a changing time in our country, our youth, and the music. Ah, the music. I want to hold your hand . . . . Dan.
So I’ve written my piece. I’ve expressed my thoughts. If you have any thoughts, comments, answers to my questions, please do respond in the comments. It would be great for us Beatles fans to share. For now though, I am going to just Let it Be.