The Surprising Connection Between A Central Illinois Drive-In And The Beatles
In September of 1963, a long-haired boy named George took a break from his band in England to vacation in central Illinois. It would be the last trip he took without the star of fame blinding him everywhere he went.
George Harrison and his new band The Beatles were beginning to find success in their home country of England. After months of recording and touring the guys decided they needed a break and everyone took a short vacation.
...in September Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr visited Greece. John Lennon and his wife went to Paris. George (Harrison) chose to visit his sister, in Benton, Illinois (pop.7000)
Benton, Illinois is what you would call "way" south in Illinois. Once you've hit downstate Illinois, go a little bit farther, about an hour south of St. Louis and you'll find it.
There's a billboard of George Harrison in Benton now,
but in 1963 he was just a quiet kid that had long hair and ripped jeans. An overwhelming theme in the Smithsonian Magazine article about his trip was that he needed a haircut.
Louise's brother was nice enough and got along with everyone he met. One of Louise's friends played guitar and she introduced the two to each other.
“He didn’t seem especially ambitious about the band he was in back home, but he was serious about being a better musician.
The one thing in central Illinois that definitely blew George away was when Louise took him to the Marion Drive-In to see Wonderful to Be Young. Drive-in movies weren't a thing in England and explained the whole setup to interviewers in England when he returned home.
You drive your car in and you see all these little things like parking meters, but they’re not parking meters; they’re speakers, and you pull them in the car and wind your window up, and it’s great.” The concept wouldn’t work in England, he went on, because “all you would see of the movie would be the windshield wipers going back and forth.”
Unfortunately, the Marion Drive-In is no more but you can still visit Benton and see some of the other places visited by a rock and roll legend in the summer of 1963.
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