Most music fans think of the British Invasion of music artists as happening in 1964 when The Beatles took America by storm.
But for me the big year was 1965 when I ended up standing next to several of them in Atlanta, including Peter Noone (lead vocalist of Herman's Hermits), Tom Jones, Peter and Gordon, and even the four lads from Liverpool themselves.
My lucky break came through Ralph Bridges, who headed Atlanta-based Alkahest Artists & Attractions. His son, Scott Bridges, currently carries on his father's work with the company.
I was writing for the University of Georgia's student newspaper, The Red & Black, when I got in contact with Mr. Bridges, who had booked folk singers Peter, Paul &Mary into the old Atlanta Municipal Auditorium on Jan. 24, 1965. He not only allowed me full backstage access but also urged me to return for future shows. His angle, of course, was some ink in The Red & Black on shows he was booking.
In the spring of 1965, Herman's Hermits (Can't You Hear My Heartbeat, Mrs. Brown You've Got A Lovely Daughter) made their first American tour. I not only ended up being with lead vocalist Mr. Noone, but Mr. Bridges asked me to conduct an impromptu news conference for other reporters.
I remember Mr. Noone as entertaining onstage but devoid of personality off, but maybe that was just jet lag. Few people remember that when Herman's Hermits played Atlanta in August 1967, their opening act was The Who. Now, that's a strange combination.
On Aug. 18, 1965, during their second U.S. tour, The Beatles performed in the relatively new Atlanta Fulton County Stadium. Mr. Bridges got me into the news conference that afternoon, just outside The Beatles' dressing rooms.
When the conference was over and The Beatles went through the locker room doors, the other reporters left but I hung around. That's how I got to meet John Lennon.
I remember he had large jingle bells on an ankle strap. He was polite and signed a piece of blue-lined paper from my reporter's notebook but apparently was a bit miffed at running into an autograph hound. I heard him say to his companion as they were walking away, "Might have known I would have run into one of those bahs-tards."
I often thought in later years what an honor it was being called a "bahs-tard" by the bigger-than-life singer-songwriter.
My ticket for that concert cost $5.50 including taxes.
A week later, Mr. Bridges took Dick Clark's Spring Caravan of Stars tour to Atlanta's Municipal Auditorium, headlined by British act Peter and Gordon (World Without Love, I Go to Pieces and Nobody I Know).
The concert also featured The Turtles (an American group trying to sound British), Billy Joe Royal, Ronnie Dove (later to live at West Lake in Columbia County), The Shirelles, Mel Carter, Brian Hyland and some others.
I was backstage for all of that show and met almost everyone on it..
Years later, I told Mr. Royal about being with him and Tom Jones at that show. He smiled and told me about how he and Mr. Jones toured Georgia drive-in theaters after the Caravan of Stars tour ended.
They performed outside the concessions stands on the back of flatbed trailers. Mr. Jones looked out over the rows of cars and asked Mr. Royal how they would know if the crowd liked them. Mr. Royal replied, "They'll honk their horns and blink their lights."
Mr. Jones still is shaking his body in Las Vegas. Peter and Gordon just resurrected their act for their first tour in about 25 years. Paul McCartney is back on the road, and former Beatle Ringo Starr pops up every now and then.
And, as for me, the British Invasion of '65 remains vivid with a lot of great American memories.
Don Rhodes has written about country music for 34 years. He can be reached at (706) 823-3214 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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