A lot of folks in the music business talk about betting the house on a hunch, but veteran Top 40 deejay and TV show host Bob Eubanks is one who literally did just that when he arranged for the Beatles to play at the Hollywood Bowl 50 years ago.
That event is being celebrated this weekend with three nights of concerts at the Bowl curated by Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics. Stewart will preside over a cross-genre bill with singers Martina McBride, Michelle Branch, Billy Ray Cyrus, Mary Lambert, Allen Stone and Vanessa Amorosi, who will re-create the Beatles' set list from that 1964 show and then offer up other Beatles tunes as well.
Eubanks and his former KRLA-AM (1110) cohort Dave Hull also will be on hand to share stories about their role in that show.
After the Beatles' watershed performances on "The Ed Sullivan Show" in February of '64, the group announced it would undertake its first U.S. tour. Eubanks was part of the team of deejays at KRLA, one of the top rock and pop radio stations in L.A. at the time, and had operated a chain of Cinnamon Cinder nightclubs when he put to it to promote the Beatles' L.A. tour stop. Eubanks and team got the chance after another local promoter, who'd been more comfortable booking established showroom entertainers such as Frank Sinatra, turned the Liverpool moptops down.
"They only wanted to play the Hollywood Bowl, because of its iconic status," Eubanks, 76, said this week in a silky baritone that sounds as smooth as ever. "Thank you Brian Epstein for that. There was another organization — I won't name names — that tried to take the show away from me and wanted to put them into the Coliseum. Had they played the Coliseum they would have done well. But they wanted the prestige of the Hollywood Bowl."
Their fee for the night was $25,000, a princely sum half a century ago, even to a relatively high-profile entertainment-world figure like Eubanks. He made the leap from radio to television as host of the long-running game show "The Newlywed Game," then "Card Sharks" and for years has anchored KTLA-TV's coverage of the Rose Parade in Pasadena, among his many endeavors.
"My business partner, Mickey Brown, and I owned a house together as an investment, and I convinced him it was a good idea to bring in the Beatles," he said. "So we borrowed $25,000 against the house to do that show. I couldn't get the Hollywood Bowl without the Beatles, and I couldn't get the Beatles without the Hollywood Bowl."
The fan frenzy at that show, as on all the group's other tour stops that year, has been well-documented. Yet despite the intense interest in the group, and the fact that the concert sold out quickly — "We had been told it would be impossible to sell out the Bowl in one day, but it sold out in 3 1/2 hours, without computers, without the Internet," Eubanks recalled — he said he and Brown didn't make a lot of money on that first tour stop.
"During the afternoon a busload of marshals came in, and said, 'We're here to protect the homes up above on that hill.' I said, 'That's cool. Who's paying you guys?' They said, 'You are.' One of the county supervisors thought that up," Eubanks said with a chuckle.
Eubanks also promoted the band's return visits to the Bowl in 1965 and its third and final L.A. concert on Aug. 28, 1966, at Dodger Stadium. That was the night before the final bona fide public concert of the group's career at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, after which the quartet restricted itself to the recording studio, films and special televised performances.
"They got tired of touring," Eubanks said, recalling their demeanor during the Dodger Stadium show. "After the '66 tour they just didn't want to do that anymore. My personal opinion is they were tired of being hassled and being chased. They said, 'OK, we're done.'"
For Eubanks, who has created a website, www.bebeatles.com, showcasing his memories, photos and memorabilia related to the Beatles, the period of musical experimentation and growth during the 1960s remains "a magical time for me.... That 1964 Beatles tour was basically the beginning of the concert business. That was the first concert I promoted, but I went on to do 100 concerts a year for 20 years. It gets in your blood.
"Not only was it the beginning of a new era in music," he said, "it was the beginning of the concert business itself. I'm feel very blessed to be a part of that. I never take it for granted."