When The Beatles made their U.S. debut on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964, Elvis Presley was the king of rock and roll, but a wind was blowing from across the pond, and L.A.’s No. 1 rock DJ, Bob Eubanks (who later became the long-running host of The Newlywed Game) sensed it. When other promoters balked at the idea of shelling out $25,000 to bring the Fab Four to town, Eubanks and business partner Mickey Brown took a loan against one of their real estate ventures and landed the hottest act in pop music on the storied stage of the Hollywood Bowl on Aug. 23, 1964.
The anniversary of that legendary show will be celebrated over the weekend with a three-day tribute running Friday to Sunday, The Beatles’ 50th at the Bowl. Ringmaster Dave Stewart will be joined by Eubanks, now 76, as well as Billy Ray Cyrus, Vanessa Amorosi, Allen Stone and Liv Warfield. Mary Lambert will perform Friday and Saturday and Michelle Branch and Martina McBride will be there Saturday and Sunday.
“The nice people at the Hollywood Bowl said, ‘Look we’re not going to be able to sell this thing out right away,’ ” Eubanks tells The Hollywood Reporter about launching his career as a concert promoter with the show. “We sold it out in three and a half hours, which was a record at that time, certainly at the Bowl.”
With tickets topping out at $7, the 30-minute set consisted of a dozen songs including classics like “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “All My Loving” and “A Hard Day’s Night.”
Eubanks brought the band back for two more shows: at the Bowl in 1965 and at Dodger Stadium in 1966 — their penultimate show. He says they were wide-eyed and naive in ’64, a little more seasoned in ’65, and over it by the time ’66 rolled around. “Lennon had just made the statement that we’re more popular than Jesus Christ and they were getting all kinds of problems with the press on that,” recalls Eubanks. “It was obvious that they were tired of each other, tired of touring and were ready to call it a day.”
He also recalls the trouble it took to get them out of Dodger Stadium due to fans. After an aborted attempt to exit through the center field bleachers in a limo, Eubanks decided to get them out past 40,000 screaming concertgoers the same way he brought them in — via armored car. But someone let the air out of the tires and Eubanks and the band were stuck in the dugout. The armored car had been sent to a gas station for air, and meanwhile Lennon was fuming about being late to a party.
They were soon on their way through the crowd and to freedom though — hidden beneath blankets in the back of an ambulance. But when the vehicle broke from the mob and the driver gave it the gas, they hit a speed bump and dropped the radiator in the middle of the road. The armored car was just returning from the service station when Eubanks rushed them out of the ambulance and the mob surged. “All of a sudden the Hell’s Angels showed up and they circled the armored car,” Eubanks recalls. “The kids spread out, and the Hell’s Angels led the armored car out of Dodger Stadium and that’s the last time I saw The Beatles or the Hell’s Angels.”
When Eubanks promoted The Rolling Stones that same year he found a bigger nightmare awaiting him at the Long Beach Arena. “I couldn’t get [Mick] Jagger off the stage,” he sighs. “I said, Mick you’ve got to get off the stage. He said, ‘I promise we will.’ ” But instead he took his time at the end of the show, greeting fans while thousands amassed outside, making an easy escape impossible. In the end they were loaded into a car, lying on their backs with their feet propping up the ceiling as fans piled on top.
“A lady called me and said what are you going to do about my daughter’s foot that the car ran over?” Eubanks laughs. “I said well, I guess a Band-Aid.”
The other act he promoted in 1966 was a folk singer named Bob Dylan who made the fateful decision to pick up an electric guitar months earlier. The crowd was anxious to hear his latest hit, “Like a Rolling Stone” but all Dylan could tell them was, “Aw man, I didn’t bring a G harmonica.” Within seconds, six of them landed on the stage and Dylan played. It wasn’t until after the intermission things got ugly. He took the stage with an electric guitar and literally half the audience of 13,000 headed for the exit.
Eubanks was 26 when he met The Beatles, and 50 years later looks forward to sharing some stories this weekend. “When they first walked on the stage I got goose bumps,” he sighs. “To think I had something to do with that.”