Breaking News Bar

The British Invasion begins ... in Eldorado

  • The new historic marker is in place now in front of the Eldorado VFW where ti all started.

    The new historic marker is in place now in front of the Eldorado VFW where ti all started.
    Marsha Shull photo

  • Marty Scott of the Beatles tribute group, the Liverpool Legends, performs as George Harrison at Eldorado Town and Country Days on the Friday night after the marker was dedicated. The band is based in Branson, Missouri.

    Marty Scott of the Beatles tribute group, the Liverpool Legends, performs as George Harrison at Eldorado Town and Country Days on the Friday night after the marker was dedicated. The band is based in Branson, Missouri.
    Travis DENEAL PHOTO

 
By Mark Motsinger
Contributing writer
updated: 10/1/2021 4:23 PM

Fifty-eight years ago this very day, on Sept. 28, 1963 on the second floor of the VFW Post 3479 Hall in Eldorado, Illinois, the British Invasion began.

There was no lantern in the Old North Church to warn of the invasion, or a midnight ride by Paul Revere (Paul Revere & the Raiders would come later). Instead, it began in a smoke-filled room, on a small stage, in front of about 80 to 100 people.

Those present that evening didn't realize that they were witnessing history. They had come to hear a popular band called the Four Vests -- a local band who played mostly rockabilly.

After the first set, the band invited a young man in the audience to join them on the stage. He had floppy long hair and tight-fitting jeans, and the band introduced him as, "The Elvis of England." For the first time in America, a member of the Beatles played in front of a crowd.

Six months later the Beatles would perform on the Ed Sullivan Show and the phenomenon from across the pond would establish its place in rock 'n' roll history.

On Sept. 18, 2021, in front of the VFW Hall in Eldorado at 1201 Veterans Drive, an Illinois State Historical Marker was dedicated, sponsored by the Saline County Tourism Board and the Illinois State Historical Society.

But in 1963 American, none of this could have been foretold. Almost no one had heard of George Harrison or the Beatles, even though they already had a string of hits in England, with, "Please Please Me, and "She Loves You." The single, "I Want to Hold Your Hand" would be released that November.

The British music scene was still relatively unknown in America, but that would soon change. Americans were focused on Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, Little Richard and James Brown.

But in England the four boys from Liverpool played a rigorous schedule, playing almost 200 concerts in 1963 alone, in front of packed houses and screaming fans. In September 1963, the Beatles decided to take a break, and, according to an article in Smithsonian Magazine, Paul McCartney and Ringo Star went to Greece and John Lennon and his wife, Cynthia, visited Paris.

George Harrison and his brother, Peter, came to Benton, Illinois to visit their sister, Louise Caldwell, who had moved here with her husband Gordon, a Scottish mining engineer, who was employed by a local mine.

Beatle historians like to point out that this was the last time George got to be just a normal person. He hung out with local musicians, playing with them in his sister's living room or front porch. He went to a drive-in theater, bought a guitar in Mt. Vernon, watched a parade in Harrisburg, bought records at Skaggs Electric and a tie at Edwards Men's Wear, and camped at the Garden of the Gods.

George dropped his wallet while shopping in Benton with Louise, and was amazed when someone tracked him down to give it back to him. This would be the last time George would be just a skinny, long-haired kid from England. When he stepped onto that stage in Eldorado, just two days before returning to London, he and those gathered at VFW Post 3479 had no way of knowing they were witnessing the beginning of the British Invasion and rock 'n' roll history.