A quiet night in 1964 was interrupted by the unusual sound of an airliner approaching Walnut Ridge Airport. Its arrival sparked enough interest that three local teens went to investigate, only to discover John, Paul, Ringo, and George walking from the plane. The Beatles, the biggest rock band in the world, had arrived at Walnut Ridge, Arkansas.

George Harrison in Walnut Ridge Arkansas

George Harrison in Walnut Ridge Arkansas, 1964

Small Plane and Suburban

Small Plane and Suburban they returned in from Missouri to Walnut Ridge

After performing in Dallas on that Friday evening, September 18th, the Beatles were headed to a weekend vacation at Pigman Ranch, a dude ranch near Alton, Mo. The ranch was owned by Reed Pigman, Sr., who operated the charter airline on which they flew.

Beatles ticketsWalnut Ridge had the closest airport that could accommodate such a large plan, so plans were for the group to land there secretly and then depart the following Sunday, also secretly. But the secret didn’t last.

Word spread quickly around the town, especially among teens who, like the rest of the country, were in the throes of Beatle-mania. A crowd of several hundred was gathered at the airport by Sunday morning, September 20th, to greet the Beatles. Sure enough, they arrived, John and Ringo in a small plane and Paul and George in a GMC Suburban from Pigman Ranch.

There were a few hands shaken and autographs given as the Fab Four walked through the Walnut Ridge crowd, and then the Beatles settled into their seats for the flight to New York City, where they would conclude their first American tour.

The stopover at Walnut Ridge was but a footnote in the history of the legendary band, but it was much more than that for the community that had a surprise encounter with the one and only Beatles. Lasting memories were made in that brief visit.

Ringo in the crowd at Walnut Ridge, Arkansas

Ringo in the crowd at Walnut Ridge, Arkansas

Road crew

Neil Aspenall, road manager getting out of Suburban and Curt Gunthner the photographer for the tour.

 

John and Ringo walking to the plane

John and Ringo walking to the plane