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They’ve got a ticket to ride — back to 1966 — at Saturday’s Paul McCartney concert

Keyboardist and singer Ashley Underwood, on the right in red, was only 9 when he saw the Beatles in St. Louis. Pam Strasser, a third-grade teacher, was 14.
Nancy Fowler / St. Louis Public Radio. Ticket stubs provided by Steve Adams and Barbara Ward
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Keyboardist and singer Ashley Underwood, on the right in red, was only 9 when he saw the Beatles in St. Louis. Pam Strasser, a third-grade teacher, was 14.

In 1966, the civil rights movement was in full swing, protesters marched against the escalating war in Vietnam, and the Beatles were revolutionizing the U.S. music scene.

But for good Catholic girls like Pam Strasser, it was still a time of relative innocence. She and her friends used their babysitting money to buy their tickets when the Beatles came to St. Louis.

STRASSERPhoto0302.JPG
Credit Pam Strasser | Provided
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Pam Strasser at 14. She wore her sister's dress to the '66 Beatles concert without her permission and it shrunk considerably in the rain.

“We also had to have money to buy tickets for the two moms that went with us,” Strasser said. “We just thought that was the right thing to do.” 

Strasser is one of several St. Louisans for whom Saturday’s Paul McCartney concert will be a déjà vu experience.  Even without John, George and Ringo, the McCartney show will bring back fond memories of the Beatles at the old Busch Stadium.

Fifty years later, Strasser, a third-grade teacher who lives in Manchester, said the music of the Fab Four transcends time and crosses generations.

“It just speaks to everybody,” Strasser said.  “I’ve taught children whose parents have introduced them to the music and they love it as much as I do.”

Strasser’s ticket for this Saturday’s McCartney concert cost $100. Many other St. Louisans paid hundreds more.

When she was 14, it cost Strasser only $5.50 to get in —  still a lot of money, she said, with babysitting rates at 50-cents an hour.

Some lucky 1966 concert-goers got in free, thanks to this radio promotion. (It takes a few seconds for the audio to come up.)

Everyone we talked with who saw the Beatles here 50 years ago recalled the rain that beat down on a makeshift tin roof that covered the band — but made some in the audience nervous about the Beatles’ safety.

The weather meant a shifting of the schedule that resulted in several opening bands going on after the Beatles had already been on stage.

Trade ad for Beatles' 1964 Gramm Awards
Credit Wikipedia
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Trade ad for Beatles' 1964 Grammy Awards

‘I want to do that for a living’

There’s a chance of rain Saturday, so Strasser and others may want to bring an umbrella to Busch Stadium.

The forecast won’t deter Ashley Underwood of South St. Louis, who was only 9 when he saw the Beatles 50 years ago. Despite the weather and poor-quality sound, the concert was life-changing.

“I was just in awe," Underwood said. "And I said, ‘I want to do that; I want to do that for a living. I want to be surrounded by thousands and thousands of people, cheering me and screaming their heads off for me.'”

Ashley Underwood at a recent performance.
Credit Ashley Underwood | Provided
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Ashley Underwood at a recent performance.

It didn’t happen exactly that way. But Underwood has played keyboard and sung professionally on and off for 40 years, including with an old St. Louis group in the 1970’s called Powerhouse. He still regularly performs Beatles tunes.

Underwood’s daughter Katie got to know the Beatles through her father. Now the 32-year-old and her dad sing together at clubs and wineries.

Katie Underwood in front of her home in St. Louis.
Katie Underwood in front of home in St. Louis.

They’re also going together to the Paul McCartney concert – with tickets that cost $300 apiece. She hopes the legendary musician with a career spanning way beyond the Beatles will give a nod to his past.

“Obviously, you want to be like, ‘Maybe he’ll play a Beatles song here and there,’” Katie Underwood said. “But for the most part, just a really good show. You know, I mean, he’s such an entertainer and he’s such a presence that you can’t help but hope for that.”

In fact, the list of songs McCartney’s played in previous concerts on this tour include a variety  of old Beatles tunes, including “Yesterday,” “A Hard Day’s Night” and “We Can Work It Out.”

‘I’m a fuddy-duddy’

Mary Lee Chivetta is on the right. Her friend in the middle is Cece Boyer Myers who spent all night at the ticket-sales location to get their 1966 Beatles tickets.
Credit Mary Lee Chivetta | Provided
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Mary Lee Chivetta is on the right. Her friend in the middle is Cece Boyer Myers who spent all night at the ticket-sales location to get their 1966 Beatles tickets.

Not everyone who saw the Beatles in ’66 remained a fan. At 18, Mary Lee Chivetta of Ballwin was into the Beatles but she didn’t enjoy the concert very much. She said the sound wasn’t good, and from where she sat, she could only see their backs.

“It was a letdown,” Chivetta said. As she grew up, her tastes changed to classical music — but no 20th or 21st century stuff. So McCartney’s classical foray doesn’t interest her.

Mary Lee Chivetta in her Ballwin backyard
Credit Nancy Fowler | St. Louis Public Radio
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Mary Lee Chivetta in her Ballwin backyard

When she heard his St. Louis concert sold out the first day, Chivetta couldn’t believe it.

“Holy cow! He can still draw that kind of a crowd,” Chivetta said.

McCartney shouldn’t take it personally. Chivetta doesn’t like to go to any rock or pop concerts.

“It’s too loud and too noisy and people stand up,” she said. “I’m a fuddy-duddy. What can I say?”

Chivetta said she doesn’t know anyone who’s going to see McCartney. She and her husband are anticipating their favorite musical treat.  “Our first symphony is September 23 and we’re already looking forward to it,” Chivetta said.

Watch and hear a compilation of scenes from the Beatles' 1966 appearance in St. Louis.

Follow Nancy Fowler on Twitter: @NancyFowlerSTL 

Inform our coverage

This report was prepared with help from our Public Insight Network.  Click here to learn more or join our conversation. 

Nancy is a veteran journalist whose career spans television, radio, print and online media. Her passions include the arts and social justice, and she particularly delights in the stories of people living and working in that intersection.

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