Beatles Visit Walnut Ridge

It was late on a Friday evening when the biggest band in Rock ‘n’ Roll history landed secretly in an unsuspecting, small Southern town. Had the large airplane not roused the curiosity of a few folks in town, Walnut Ridge, Ark., might never have known about its famous visitors. But word did get around, and by the time the Beatles flew out from the airport two days later, a lot of locals were there to cheer them on.  That brief visit is now the stuff of local legend.

Abbey Road artwork

It was September 18, 1964, and the Beatles had finished a show in Dallas.  They were set for a weekend vacation to a dude ranch in southern Missouri, but the only nearby airport that was large enough to handle their plane was at Walnut Ridge.  So, the plan was for them to drop in unannounced, avoiding the screaming crowds that had by then become the norm for the group.

It was Jack Allison, who to this day operates the Polar Freeze restaurant in Walnut Ridge, who first suspected something.  Himself a pilot, Jack knew when he saw such a large plane fly over town that something unusual was going on.  Three local teens drove by to say hello to Jack, and he told them to head to the airport and make sure everything there was OK.  And when those three boys arrived at the airport, they found themselves face-to-face with John, Paul, Ringo and George.

The local teens had the surreal experience of a casual and friendly conversation with the Beatles.  Then the boys rushed back into town to report their famous visitors.  Which, of course, no one believed.  Including Jack Allison!

But word did eventually get around town, and enough believed it that by Sunday morning a sizable crowd of giddy Beatles fans was there. In fact, quite a few of them spent Saturday night at the airport, just to be sure they didn’t miss seeing the Fab Four. 

They weren’t disappointed.  Later that morning, a small plane carrying John and Ringo arrived.  Paul and George, who didn’t trust the single engine aircraft, arrived in a Chevy Suburban.  The four then loaded onto the larger aircraft that carried them on their tour, amidst the screams and cheers of the local crowd, and then they were on their way.

In their wake they left a bevy of photos and even some 8mm film footage, a few autographs and decades worth of stories from the folks who were there.