Gary James' Interview With The Beatles' Road Manager
It was the hottest ticket in the Summer of 1964 - if you could get it! We're speaking of course about a ticket to a Beatles concert in the U.S. That summer found The Beatles at the height of their popularity. Backstage and traveling with The Beatles was Bob Bonis, their road manager.
Q - Wasn't Mal Evans The Beatles road manager?
A - He was the British road manager. He was the equipment guy, not the road manager. His job was to set up equipment and sort of like a security guy. Neil Aspinall was the very British road manager. In the U.S. he did very little road managing. He couldn't. His job was to hang out with The Beatles and make sure everything was cool with them. Malcolm was a roadie. He set up all the equipment.
Q - We know you did the '64 tour, but how many tours and how many years were you associated with The Beatles?
A - '64, '65, '66. Only the American tours. The Stones were the ones I went to Europe with. The Stones had first crack at me. According to the press, The Stones and Beatles were supposed to be bitter enemies, whereas they were quite friendly. They made sure that they never toured roughly at the same time, or if they did, they were continents apart.
Q - It was on the recommendation of The Rolling Stones that Brian Epstein hired you to be the road manager for The Beatles?
A - Kind of. I was the road manager for The Beatles.
Q - Who in The Beatles organization recommended you to Brian Epstein?
A - Well, it was partially The Stones. The Stones had just won the Melody Maker poll for the Best New Group in England. The Beatles won Best in World category because The Beatles had been formed a couple of years earlier. I took the Stones on their first American tour, which was June of '64, before the big Beatles tour. They sent a Melody Maker reporter with us for two weeks. You know. The Stones had a terrible reputation which they worked very hard to get. They were no problem at all actually. The point was, if The Beatles were the goody two shoes, The Stones were like the horrible kids. They went out of their way to make sure that's the reputation they got, as did their manager, publicist Andy Oldham. So, in other words, the guy from Melody Maker was sending back reports saying, "You're not going to believe this, but there's a guy named Mike Douglas, in Cleveland who has a show in the morning, and this guy Bob Bonis has 'em down there at 7 A.M. on time. Or, this guy Bob Bonis did such and such. They were really great. They were no problem. The point is, all we had to do was go over what the agency wanted, what their management wanted, and if there was something they were really dead set against, we didn't do it. That's all. So, all of that stuff was going back to England, and so Brian saw some of that and called The Stones management office, who gave me a hearty recommendation. And of course the other thing was, there was only myself and another guy who did the Dave Clark stuff. Dave Clark was very big at that time. Those were the only two guys who had the kind of experience necessary to do The Beatles tours. So, that was it. And, they got both of us. Does that answer your question?
Q - Part of it. Now, how did you get your job with The Stones?
A - A guy named Norman Weiss who was an agent at GAC (General Artists Corp.) who I worked with before when I was an agent at an old company, MCA, which the government broke up, at least the agency part of it. You still have MCA Records and films. Norman remembered that I always had a reputation for handling tough, wise-guys and I was the logical choice as far as Norman was concerned. I was running a management firm for Jazz people. I had left being an agent and was doing that. Norman had recommended me and that was it.
Q - How tough was it for a "groupie" to get past The Beatles security?
A - Almost impossible. In '65, and '66, we carried ex-F.B.I. guys to stay by the elevator. Brian (Epstein - Beatles manager) was super, super worried about their image. You couldn't get in, unless it was something like Seattle, where girls were hiding in the bathroom.
Q - What about the stories of orgies taking place on the tour, and hookers being
brought back to the hotel rooms after the concerts?
A - One disc jockey, thinking he'd do a favor, did bring a bunch back in Atlantic City, and The Beatles wouldn't touch them. So what happened is, the press and the disc jockeys took care of the young ladies. Brian was super conscious of anything the press would love to grab, and it would be that of course.
Q - So what would The Beatles do after a concert, when they were back in their hotel
A - In Atlantic City we saw a couple of movies, or we'd play cards. In Atlantic City I went out and got a Monopoly set. We'd play that for hours.
Q - Did The Beatles get on each other's nerves a lot? They were always so closely
confined in their hotel rooms?
A - No. It was surprising. They always had a suite. George and Ringo stayed together
in one room, and John and Paul in the other bedroom, and a big, big room in between. That's an interesting point, because I was shocked that everything went so well, unlike The Stones and the scenes with Brian (Jones).
Q - He was trouble?
A - Well, they were trouble to him. He was trouble to them. It was one of those things. And that went back a long way from when they were paid, and he would disappear with the money, when he was sort of the leader. But that's another chapter.
Q - Were you there when Elvis and The Beatles met each other?
A - I was there in LA., yes, but I did not go. I mean it was just a very private situation. Malcom went, because oddly enough, he was an Elvis freak. But, that was about it. There was no problem. I didn't have to go everywhere with them, especially in places like LA. I was the one who went with George to The Whiskey A Go Go when we had that big scene.
Q - Why didn't The Beatles like disc jockey Murray The K?
A - Because he kept calling himself The Fifth Beatle. That was the only thing. It got to them after awhile. They kept reading about The Fifth Beatle and they knew how hard they worked to get there.
Q - You've said The Beatles would tell the most far-fetched stories about themselves, and the press would believe it. Can you give me an example?
A - I don't even remember anymore. Did I say that? (Laughs). They were far-fetched. I mean it was just jokes. The press was so serious. Every word was like a gem.
Q - Some of the questions asked of The Beatles at Press Conferences were absolutely ridiculous. They were beyond stupid.
A - Those press conferences were fixed. Brian allowed roughly l or 2 press people on the plane that paid usually by the week. Brian made them pay to be on the plane. They didn't just come on, the way the press does now. He made them pay I think, $1,000 a week. Those people got the stories. The press conferences were a total bore. Questions like, 'Do you sleep in your pajamas'? and a lot of that junk. So what happened is, the plane people, or someone like myself would scream from the back, a pre-arranged question that would at least make it a little more interesting. And, we'd wait for some kind of funny answer. The guys were unaware of what our questions were, but they knew they'd get some different questions from us, just to make it more interesting for them. Otherwise, they'd be bored to tears. Same question, city after city.
Q - Were The Beatles as funny off camera, as they were in A Hard Days Night?
A - Frankly, I found them even funnier. You know, they would do a show that would have me on the floor. They would do a whole Palladium show for you - Beatles at The Palladium, with the old time comics, and the songs, and the movement up and down before them in the hotel suite with acoustic guitars. Never in the dressing room or anything like that with other people around. It was hilarious. It would've been classic if it had been filmed. They were all funny. Maybe John a little deeper and more biting then the others, but they were all funny - even Ringo and quiet George.