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Beatlemania Comes to Portland

Ladies and Gentlemen… The Beatles! opens at the Oregon Historical Society May 10

Presented by Oregon Historical Society May 6, 2019

Press conference at Maple Leaf Center, Toronto, Canada, September 7, 1964, ©The Bob Bonis Archive

On August 22, 1965, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr landed at Portland International Airport. The Beatles waved at crowds of screaming, crying fans, as they made their way towards the Memorial Coliseum for the first of two performances that day – the only time they would perform in Oregon.

Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney wave from limo as they leave the Portland Airport for the Coliseum. Oregon Historical Society Research Library, CN 015791

Multnomah County Sheriff’s reservists keep an eye on the screaming crowd of Beatles fans at the Portland Airport. Oregon Historical Society Research Library, CN 015790

By the time The Beatles visited Portland, Beatlemania was already running rampant through America. Their popularity in the U.S. skyrocketed on February 7, 1964, when The Beatles came to America for the first of the group's three North American tours. With cameras flashing and reporters jostling, they were whisked from the newly named John F. Kennedy International Airport into Manhattan amid the shouts of New York-area teens, braving the cold for a mere glimpse of the band. Then, that Sunday, the veritable king of the television variety show, Ed Sullivan, introduced them to a captivated American audience of more than 73 million viewers — at the time a television record.

The Beatles perform in Kansas City, Missouri, September 17, 1964, ©The Bob Bonis Archive

The Beatles forever changed rock and roll, and during their height, affected nearly every aspect of pop culture. In celebration of the mark The Beatles have made on American history, the Oregon Historical Society in downtown Portland is excited to host Ladies and Gentlemen… The Beatles! Curated by the GRAMMY Museum® and Fab Four Exhibits, this exhibit, which has traveled nationally and internationally, takes us back to the early ‘60s when rock and roll was re-energized — some say saved — by four lads from Liverpool.

On exhibit May 10 – November 12, 2019, Ladies and Gentleman… The Beatles! covers the period from early 1964 through mid-1966 — the years Beatlemania ran rampant in America. Over 100 objects, ephemera, and interactive elements fill the gallery, some on exhibit for the first time. One of the most prominent cases features Paul McCartney's jacket from The Beatles' historic 1965 Shea Stadium concert, and, for the first time on exhibit, one of McCartney’s bass guitars. McCartney also wore this iconic jacket at the band’s 1965 Portland performance.

Paul McCartney's Shea Stadium jacket, also worn for the band’s Portland, Oregon, performance, courtesy www.fabfourexhibits.com

Unique to the Oregon Historical Society’s version of the exhibit is a case of ephemera from The Beatles’ Portland performances, which includes the original performance contract and rider between NEMS and Northwest Releasing to bring The Beatles to Portland, as well as an original press pass.

Original performance contract and rider between NEMS and Northwest Releasing to bring The Beatles to Portland, courtesy www.fabfourexhibits.com

Other exhibition highlights include:

  • Ringo Starr's black-on-black striped suit worn in The Beatles' debut film A Hard Day's Night and Ringo's Abbey Road crosswalk jacket
  • Paul McCartney's original handwritten lyric sheet for the song, "What You're Doing" (August 1964) 
  • Handwritten set lists from The Beatles' concerts, including the earliest known set list (Grosvenor Ballroom, June 1960) and the one used onstage at the group's first ever American concert (Washington D.C., February 11, 1964) 
  • Gold records of I Want To Hold Your Hand and Rubber Soul
  • Venue contracts from the band's American tours 
  • An eye-popping display of mass-produced merchandising items 
  • Kid-friendly interactive elements including a virtual drumming lesson from Ringo and a playable home-made skiffle bass
Ringo Starr's black-on-black striped suit worn in The Beatles' debut film A Hard Day's Night, courtesy www.fabfourexhibits.com

Virtual drumming lesson with Ringo Starr

Plan Your Visit:

Location: Oregon Historical Society, 1200 SW Park Avenue, Portland

Hours: Monday – Saturday 10am – 5pm; Sunday 12pm – 5pm

Admission: $10; discounts are available for students, seniors, teachers, and youth. Admission is free every day for OHS members and Multnomah County residents.

Exhibit Dates: May 10 – November 12, 2019

Reginald Owen Residence, Bel Air, California, August 23-25, 1964, ©The Bob Bonis Archive

Mark Your Calendar!

Behind-the-Scenes Exhibit Tours

Saturday, May 11 & Sunday, May 12, 2019

Tours begin at 2pm and are included in regular museum admission

Join us for exclusive behind-the-scenes tours on opening weekend led by Fab Four Exhibits partner Chuck Gunderson. He is the country's leading expert on The Beatles' three North American concert tours and is the author of Some Fun Tonight! The Backstage Story of How the Beatles Rocked America: The Historic Tours of 1964 to 1966. The Fab Four Exhibits partners are avid fans and collectors as well as Beatles scholars with an extensive knowledge of the group's history.

Family Day: Rock and Roll

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Activities from 12pm – 4pm

Enjoy performances by local youth rock bands Bach to Rock, School of Rock, and RiverCity Rock Star Academy, and make a 60s inspired souvenir from one of our activity stations!