Gary James' Second Interview With
George Harrison's sister
Louise Harrison

She's a former radio talk show host and radio correspondent. She is the founder of We Care Global Family Inc., an organization dedicated to saving the planet. She is also the sister of Beatle George Harrison. In 2014 she published My Kid Brother's Band: A.K.A. The Beatles. On March 5th, 2016, Louise Harrison and The Liverpool Legends will promote Help Keep Music Alive, an organization that raises money and awareness for school music and art departments around the United States. The Liverpool Legends, a Beatles tribute act, will perform at Carnegie Hall in New York City, recreating The Beatles concert there in February, 1964.

Q - Louise, when I last spoke to you, you were involved in an organization dedicated to saving the environment.

A - We changed the name to Drop In, meaning you need to drop in and take care of the planet.

Q - And you're still involved with that, aren't you?

A - Well, I'd still like to see the planet saved, but right now I'm more involved in something called Help Keep Music Alive. I have a Beatles tribute band now called Liverpool Legends and the reason is because we're going to have a show at Carnegie Hall on March 5th (2016).

Q - Are you the manager of Liverpool Legends.

A - Strictly speaking I don't consider myself a manager. I consider myself more like their Mum, (laughs) if you can understand that perspective. I'm with them. We all work together. Any guys who play Beatle music are going to be unmanageable anyway, so the idea of being a manager is a bit silly. So, I consider myself their Mum.

Q - Marty, who plays George in Liverpool Legends, looks so much like him it's almost eerie.

A - Yes, it is.

Q - When you look at him, does it ever freak you out?

A - Well, I'm used to it now. Actually, I have a grandson who looks more like his Uncle George than Marty does.

Q - When The Beatles performed in Carnegie Hall, they played there in February.

A - Yes. I think it was either the 11th or 12th. They did the Coliseum in Washington, D.C. and the next night they did Carnegie Hall. I was with them for that whole trip.

Q - You probably couldn't get Carnegie Hall for that February recreation of The Beatles' 52nd Anniversary concert, could you?

A - I don't think that was even in the scenario because this particular show that we're doing doesn't have too much to do with The Beatles. It has more to do with a charity that is into educating children through travel, taking them places and introducing them to new experiences in life like maybe taking them to the Twin Towers or somewhere that's notable across the country and helping them to learn about the rest of the country besides where they live. So, we're raising money for that particular charity.

Q - You're talking about Help Keep Music Alive?

A - No. Actually Help Keep Music Alive is our own charity. It is a bit confusing. We do these shows with high school bands. We get in touch with the music directors at various schools across the country and send them the charts for the music we play in our show and then they practice it for a couple of months and along we come and do a concert and raise money for the school, the music department. So that's our own charity. But this time we're actually doing a show on behalf of another charity.

Q - I always find it sad that people have to do shows to fund school music programs considering the taxes are so high.

A - It really is ridiculous that the schools are sort of being de-funded. Well, that was really what kind of gave us the incentive to do this because we had been hearing about so many schools that couldn't even pay teachers to teach music anymore. When I had my environmental organization one of my themes was if there's a problem to suit every taste, if there's a problem you can do something about. Pitch in and become part of the solution. Basically I was taking my own advice and when we heard about the schools being out of funds for these music departments, we thought, well okay, we're musicians, maybe that's something we can do something to help. That's what started Help Keep Music Alive.

Q - On the back of the dust jacket of your book is a photo taken in September, 1963 in Beaton, Illinois where you're standing between your two brothers (George and Peter).

A - That's right.

Q - Peter has the Elvis style haircut while George has the Beatles haircut. Did anyone in downtown Beaton ever stop and stare at George?

A - At that time in evolution in this country (the U.S.) I remember when I first came to this country in 1963 I was a little bit horrified because in England they way the culture was, if somebody was in jail or prison for a while they shaved their heads. And so when I came over to the United States and I saw all these people with their shaven heads I thought, oh gosh, an awful lot of criminals in this country. I didn't realize that was the style at the time. I think they called it the crew cut. So, everybody had the shaven head. So consequently the normal haircut that you had in England was considered quite revolutionary. That's why there was so much talk about the Beatle haircut.

Q - When you saw George then, you didn't think anything of his hair length?

A - I was accustomed to people to actually having some hair on their heads. (laughs)

Q - The Beatle haircut is a better way to wear your hair.

A - Yeah, especially in the Summer time. You've got some hair on your head that keeps the heat off you from frying your brain.

Q - And in the Winter it keeps you from freezing.

A - That's true. (laughs)

Q - Now it almost seems like we've gone back in time where guys are having their heads shaved.

A - Or whatever. I don't know. I don't understand some of the trends at all. It is what it is.

Q - What I didn't read in your book was the time George was in New York City, standing on a corner and the limousine carrying President Kennedy passed by. Did he ever mention that to you?

A - No. There's an awful lot of myths that do come out. In fact, there was even talk about when he was in Boston that he'd asked some girl to elope with him, which was totally, totally fake, but there's always running around The Beatles these weird stories. I've never heard about anything like that because John F. Kennedy was shot before George came to the country. I think it's one of the many myths that people make up to make the thing more exciting.

Q - You were helping to promote The Beatles' records in the U.S.

A - Yes.

Q - Isn't that something the record company does? Where was Capitol Records?

A - During that year when I first started running around the country, probably around May or June of '63, what I was doing was taking the singles my Mum was sending me and going around to the radio stations. I was saying, "This is my kid brother's band. They're number one in England. You probably oughta be playing them." All I was getting from the DJs and the program directors was, "Oh, this stuff is garbage. Nobody's ever gonna want to listen to that." I realized too; I started getting Cashbox and Billboard and various other magazines to start to learn about the music business in this country because it's so totally different. In England if you get BBC that's all you need. You're in for the entire country, but in this country back then and still today there are thousands of individual completely separate radio stations. And in order to get national coverage you have to do a whole lot more than just walk into a radio station with a record and so there was a lot of payola going on. Brian (Epstein) was in England and he didn't know anything about America. I was writing letters to him, telling him all the things I was discovering. I found out that Capitol, Columbia and RCA were the three major record labels at that time. So I was writing, saying "You need to get the guys on a record (label) that has a lot of clout, otherwise you're never going to get them played." And so he did start trying to get on a better label. He switched from Vee Jay to Swan and I remember being horrified when he sent me a letter saying, "The next record is not going out on Vee Jay. It's going out on Swan." I thought to myself, that's not much better, but of course he didn't know the difference over there in England. He didn't understand anything about the American market. Then I discovered too that Capitol was also a subsidiary of E.M.I. and they were with E.M.I. in England. So then Brian did start to try to get them on Capitol, but Capitol kept turning them down for most of the year. It wasn't until almost at the end of the year that they took "I Want To Hold Your Hand" and promoted it. So, it was just a big old struggle and I did my best to try and help Brian understand how different it was here. I was writing him sixteen page letters every week. At the bottom of the letter I would put, "P.S. Get them on The Ed Sullivan Show," because again, in England that was something they never heard of.

Q - As it happened, Ed Sullivan was at the airport when The Beatles were either coming or going.

A - Coming back from Sweden.

Q - You didn't care much for Brian Epstein's managerial skills. You write that you thought it was wrong for Murray The K to be given exclusive access to The Beatles in 1964. I would say in defence of Brian Epstein how would he have known how much interest there would've been in The Beatles?

A - The other thing he didn't know, he didn't understand there was such great competition between all the different radio stations. Let's face it, Murray The K obviously persuaded him to let him have the exclusive rights to The Beatles. It wasn't so much Brian's managerial skills as just simply not knowing about America. He didn't understand that all of the different radio stations that use a certain format would be competing with each other. It was intense competition. And so consequently when Murray The K had total access to them and nobody else did, that's what happened to me, I was trying to get rid of all the noisy people outside of George's room when he was trying to sleep, when he was so ill with strep throat. The doctor had given him medication to sleep and all of these DJs were outside the corridor of his room in The Plaza. George said, "Can you get rid of those guys?" The only way I was able to get rid of them was I went out and talked to them. They told me, "We've been promoting The Beatles the last couple of weeks and nobody's giving us any access. We can't even talk to them." I went along to the radio station with them to see the 40,000 postcards that they'd received from the fans because they'd been playing The Beatles' music. That was the kind of thing that was happening. It wasn't really Brian's fault. It's just that he was in England. He didn't know the American system. but it was a shame because the rest of the guys who'd been promoting The Beatles didn't have any access to them at all.

Q - Those were DJs from New York City radio stations?

A - Well, they were from all over actually, but the main ones I talked to were The Good Guys. I can't remember the call letters now. They were The Good Guys in New York City.

Q - I can't think of another manager at that time in history who could've managed The Beatles. Brian Epstein was the guy.

A - They had such an impact. I've said this too, I don't think any one person or any two or three people were responsible for The Beatles except The Beatles themselves and their talent and the sheer impact they had. I've likened them to a comet that was streaking across the heavens and there wasn't anybody that was going to help it or stop it. It was something that was self-propelled more or less.

Q - And still going!

A - Yeah. I think whoever would've gotten involved with it, it would've been a success.

Q - You never got to see The Beatles in Hamburg, Germany or The Cavern Club in Liverpool because you were here in the States?

A - That's right.

Q - Did you see them at Shea Stadium?

A - I didn't see them at Shea Stadium. After being with them that week when they did The Ed Sullivan Show, the Coliseum and Carnegie Hall, when I went back to Illinois it happened that there was some crazy story going around that somebody cut Ringo's hair when he was at the British Ambassador's house the night before the Coliseum concert and he was pretty upset about that. There's so many myths about The Beatles. The story was being told on the air that the British Ambassador's wife, Lady Ormsby Gore, had wrestled him to the ground and cut a chunk of his hair. That was absolute nonsense. She was a very dignified lady and had nothing to do with the hair cutting except when Ringo was really angry about it he came over to the table where Lady Ormsby Gore and I were sitting and he said, "I need a limo. I need to get back to the hotel. I don't want to be here." This story was going around and I happened to call one of the radio stations that was talking about it, and they knew me pretty well because I'd been bugging 'em about playing Beatles' reords all through 1963. When I called in and asked them to correct this story they did so. That sort of accidentally got me into the career of doing Beatle reports because there was so much nonsense going on about them. Every day there was another crazy story coming out and so they had me do Beatle reports where I did these little sixty second reports, Monday through Friday, of what was really happening as opposed to all of the garbage that was out there.

Q - Isn't it amazing that there's no end to all of the material coming out on The Beatles?

A - That's right.

Q - Ron Howard is working on a film of how The Beatles sounded in the mid-'60s.

A - They absolutely abhorred the idea of being recorded 'live' because with all of the noise that was going on, all of the screaming, they were unable to produce the music they were wanting to produce in a decent fashion. As far as they were concerned it was a travesty of what they were trying to do to put out recordings of 'live' concerts. They were strongly opposed to any of their stuff being recorded.

Q - Brian Epstein should've had you onboard in that management office of his.

A - (laughs) Well, he didn't need to have me onboard because I was already doing everything I could.

Q - He could've had you open an office New York City.

A - Oh, no. We didn't need to do that. Let's face it, I wasn't doing it for money. I never asked to be paid. I never even asked for my phone calls to be paid or anything like that. I was just doing it because I loved my little brother and I wanted to see him get somewhere.

Q - And he did get somewhere!

A - Yeah. I'm not looking for fame and glory. I did what I did and managed to get my brother noticed and his band and that was my purpose.

Q - And carrying on the legacy with Liverpool Legends.

A - Absolutely. And we'll be back on the same stage that those guys played on back in '64. My life has been so chaotic and interesting. People say to me, "Oh, are you excited?" I say, "After all the things that have happened in my life there are very few things that get me excited," but I must admit I'm very pleased with what we're doing at Carnegie Hall. It'll be kind of interesting to see if I can sit in the same spot that I did back all those years ago with Cynthia (Lennon).

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For more, be sure to read Gary James first interview with Louise Harrison