In 1964, a 16-year-old girl escapes an unhappy home in Cleveland by running away to London to meet the Beatles—and unwittingly becomes an international news story …
The moment she hears “I Want to Hold Your Hand” played for the very first time on the radio (while doing her homework), it jolts her like an electric shock. This new music — the Beatles! — inspire in her an ecstatic new sense of freedom.
With a friend, she hatches a bold plan to escape their dreary lives and run away to London to meet the Fab Four.
On their own for the first time—in “Beatleland”—they explore a new city, a new culture, and a new life, visiting the hippest clubs of Soho, meeting some nice English boys, hitchhiking to Liverpool …
But unbeknownst to the runaways have become international news—and a hunt is on.
This book is a wonderfully entertaining story and a vivid firsthand account of the early days of Beatlemania.
If you’re a Beatles fan, you’ll enjoy the ride!
How I Ran Away to England to Meet the Beatles and Got Rock and Roll Banned in Cleveland (A True Story from 1964)
Paperback book / 284 page / 30 photos
Read a sample …
It was Christmas break, 1963, and I sat in the kitchen trying to stay awake while writing a homework essay. Homework during break just wasn’t fair, but it had to be done. I turned on the large portable orange and white radio that was my lifeline to the outer world, pointed the telescoping chrome antenna toward the window, and turned the dial to 1420 WHK. …
“Dominique” by the Singing Nun came on. She sang it in French, so I didn’t know what she was saying, but she had a sweet voice and accompanied herself on an acoustic guitar, which was cool for a nun. Even though teens couldn’t dance to it, the song was in the number-one spot on the Billboard Top 10. As an Irish Catholic girl who went to a Catholic girls’ high school with nuns as teachers, I had to love this song or risk going straight to hell upon death—or maybe even sooner. All the nuns went wild, so to speak, over this accomplishment by one of their own. …
I turned the dial from WHK to KYW. A new disc jockey, Jerry G, had just arrived at KYW from Chicago. Chicago—the big city I knew of only because that’s where my mother went with her boyfriend after abandoning her three children and husband. I didn’t hold that against Chicago, though. Maybe, I hoped, this new disc jockey brought some records with him that we hadn’t yet heard in Cleveland.
Jerry G was on, announcing a new group with a one-word name. Beagles? I didn’t hear the name clearly. Then, a sound I’d never heard before. The guitar chords and harmony electrified me. I jumped up from my kitchen chair, grabbed the radio with both hands, and held it close, straining to hear every note, every word.
The song was “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”
After the song finished, Jerry G announced the group’s name again: “And that was the Beatles . . .” He described them as a new singing sensation from England.
I almost knocked my chair over as I lunged for the yellow telephone on the kitchen wall. I grabbed the receiver and called the station. Busy. I redialed. Busy again. I must have dialed the number a dozen times hoping to speak to Jerry G and ask him to play the Beatles song again, but I couldn’t get through. Every kid in Cleveland must have been calling.
The Beatles! I wanted to hold their hands too, and right then. The words presented such a simple, yet powerful, request. I needed someone to hold my hand. I’d never experienced that feeling before. I couldn’t think of anyone who had held my hand with love, ever. Holding someone’s hand meant they thought you were worthwhile, that they cared about you. It meant that they were telling you everything was going to be okay, that you were not alone in the world.
My heart wanted that.
I had to see what the Beatles looked like. I wanted to learn everything about them—as soon as possible. Now, aside from seeing Jesus in heaven, I had something to live for. …
Janice and her girlfriend Marty are just one day away from running off to England. First, though, they must see the Beatles in concert!
The Beatles concert on September 15 at Cleveland’s Public Hall was the last event—and the main event—before the next stage of our plan. The concert was supposed to start at eight p.m. As kids and adults began filling the hall, we edged through the crowd and made our way down the aisle. Hearts pounding, Marty and I found our seats: front row center—best seats in the house. There was no way to get any closer to the Beatles than we were. We were so excited! It was hard to just sit and wait to see them, knowing they were right behind the curtain.
The place was completely packed. The opening acts were the Bill Black Combo, the Exciters, Clarence “Frogman” Henry, and Jackie DeShannon. All we wanted was the Beatles. Where were the Beatles? The Fab Four, those lovely Liverpudlian British-accented lads. We had waited for this moment for months.
“I love Paul.”
“Ringo is so cute.”
“John is so handsome.”
The stage was covered floor to ceiling with a heavy, red velvety curtain with the call letters for the radio station WHK and the word BEATLES spelled out in something glittery against the backdrop of the curtain. The Exciters finished their set, and we held on for the Beatles.
Ringo’s drums sat like a crown on a stand draped with light-blue pleated fabric. In front of Ringo stood Paul on the left of the stage, George in the center, and John on the right.
Oh my God! They were there, onstage, right in front of us.
Girls screamed, cried, and lost their minds.
The screaming was so loud you could barely hear anything the Beatles sang or played. The first song was “Twist and Shout,” followed by “You Can’t Do That,” then “All My Loving.” I watched and adored. My heart pounded.
In the middle of “All My Loving,” the crowd of fans, mostly girls, unable to contain their excitement, started rushing down the aisles. The Beatles had performed for only about ten minutes. Screaming, yelling, and crying filled the auditorium. I put my hands over my ears. It was the loudest, most continuous screaming I’d ever heard in my life.
A mob of Beatle fans stampeded toward the stage with outstretched arms flailing in the air and wildly waving signs. A tsunami of Beatlemania crushed the wall of police officers who tried to hold them back from the brass rail about ten feet from the stage. A few girls got through and clambered onto the stage, still screaming as they headed for the Beatles.
This was not the “delicious insanity” that described crazed fans in the Original Beatles Book magazine, which was one of my favorites. This was complete—even dangerous—insanity. I held on to my seat, terrified of what the crowd might do next. …
In London, the girls visit the hippest music clubs of Soho with two nice young English boys, Mick and John (no, not that Mick and not that John)
Do you think they’ll show up at the Marquee Club?” Marty asked. We were taking the Central line from Holland Park back to the Tottenham Court station. From there, we walked over to the Marquee Club. Mick was leaning against the building smoking a cigarette, talking with John and a few others.
“Here we are,” I said to Mick and John.
“Ah, here they are Johnny,” Mick said. “Looking lovely.”
Mick said he and John wanted to take us to a different club. Since we had liked the Marquee, they thought we might enjoy the Crawdaddy Club.
“Too far to walk,” Mick added, “but we can take a taxi.”
“Have you girls taken a taxi in London yet?” John asked.
We told him about the taxis we’d taken and how much we liked them. So much more elegant than taxis back home.
Along the way, Mick and John told us that the Rolling Stones had played the Crawdaddy Club many times.
“They used to be the house band,” John said.
It seemed like the Stones played in so many London clubs.
The Crawdaddy Club was bigger and dressier than the Marquee. Some of the boys wore suits, and the girls wore dresses. We didn’t get a table but walked around with soft drinks in hand enjoying the music.
For me, it was another great night of live music and dancing around and around. Mick and I had so much fun; I found it hard to believe it was real. Marty and John were dancing, too. I was glad to see her having fun. She had seemed a bit distracted during the last couple of days, but she hadn’t said if something was bothering her. We were friends, former neighbors, and the best of Beatle pals, but we had never spent so much time together before.
Around ten, the four of us finally sat down at a table together after several dances and caught our breath. A group called the T-Bones was playing.
“The Rolling Stones played here as a regular band,” Mick said. “After they took off and got big, a group called the Yardbirds took over as Crawdaddy’s regular band, but they’re taking off now, too.”
“Have you heard of the Yardbirds in the States yet?” John asked.
I said I wasn’t sure, but the name sounded familiar.
“Don’t worry,” he continued. “You’ll be hearing about them a lot when you get back home.”
I gave Marty a quick look. What were we doing? I wondered to myself. Should I tell Mick the story and the plan to stay here for the rest of my life? I was tempted. …
Janice Mitchell is a retired federal investigator, a private investigator, and a lifelong Beatles fan.
As an award-winning investigator, Mitchell worked on high-profile capital, criminal, and civil cases in New York City, including the Wendy’s Massacre and the Carnegie Deli Murders. She has also worked on international investigations for Rolex, Gucci, Warner Bros., Levi Strauss, Hard Rock Café, and other trademarks. She was dubbed “a modern-day Nancy Drew” on CourtTV after she uncovered new evidence in a criminal case that led to the exoneration of a wrongfully convicted man.
After 9/11, Mitchell relocated from New York City back to her hometown of Cleveland, where she lives with with her Yorkshire Terrier, Dashiell Hammett. She is a supporter of animal rescue organizations.
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