For the grand sum of $5.50, Memphis residents could have attended the only local performance of the Beatles. As one of only 14 stops during their summer tour, the Beatles scheduled two shows at the Mid-South Coliseum for August 19, 1966.
The Memphis engagement lives large in the lore of the Beatles for the controversy surrounding the concert. A month before the Memphis shows, a controversial article appeared in the magazine Datebook in which John Lennon was misquoted as he attempted to describe the hysteria surrounding the band’s fame.
The statement, which compared the fame of the Beatles with Jesus, caused an uproar in the American South. Memphis, the only southern stop on the tour, became the focal point of protest. Calls to ban the group from performing came from elected officials and were supported by marches in front of the Mid-South Coliseum. The Ku Klux Klan joined in the protest and publicly hinted that if the Beatles appeared, they did so at their own risk.
The date of the concert arrived and the sounds of protestors were drowned out by the screams of fans. The afternoon performance went on without incident. But, in the middle of their evening performance a thrown firecracker exploded onstage causing the band to duck. Realizing what had happened they continued performing.
Eventually, the protests of the summer of 1966 and, in particular, their experience in Memphis led the Beatles to decide never to tour again.