Walnut Ridge and the Beatles

It started in September 1964. Four young men from Liverpool needed some rest and relaxation. It had been a stellar year for the guys – John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr. In August, the foursome, known worldwide as the Beatles, returned to the U.S. for their American tour, performing in concert 30 times in 23 cities. They had five singles in the Top 5, their first movie, “A Hard Day’s Night,” premiered in the United States, and fans couldn’t get enough of the Fab Four. But the “four” were exhausted and needed some down time. A ranch in Missouri was offered to the group and a small Arkansas town was chosen for the perfect stop to change planes because the airport had a large runway and there wouldn’t be a huge crowd waiting for them. Well, part of that was true.

What no one realized at the time is that three teenagers saw the plane circling the Walnut Ridge Airport and drove out to see what was happening. They arrived just in time to see the Beatles depart from the airplane onto a smaller aircraft. Needless to say, word spread quickly around the small town.

When four of the most recognized celebrities returned to Walnut Ridge that Sunday, nearly 300 people were waiting, to their surprise. And thus, Walnut Ridge became the only Arkansas community the Beatles visited, if only for a short time. In recent years, Walnut Ridge has embraced the Beatles history. There is a life-size sculpture of the Beatles as they appear on the “Abbey Road” album. Nearby, the Guitar Walk, a 115-foot-long by 40-foot-wide guitar based on John Lennon’s Epiphone Casino, honors musicians that played along the historic Highway 67. Each September, the city hosts the Beatles at the Ridge festival.  Businesses and storefronts throughout Walnut Ridge now sport Beatles signs, collages and caricatures year-round. www.beatlesattheridge.com/festival-info/history