Fake Beatles?

I was amused to read of a 1964 Beatles tour of South America that . . . er . . . wasn’t.  The BBC reports:

Early in 1964, as Beatlemania swept the world, newspaper headlines announced that The Beatles would be travelling to South America later that year. Millions awaited their arrival with bated breath – and in July, when four young moptops descended into Buenos Aires Airport, it seemed that teenage dreams were about to come true.

The Beatles were actually nowhere near Argentina at the time. The British group – who split 50 years ago this month – were back home in London, on a rare rest stop between concerts and recording. But with or without their knowledge, four young guys from Florida named Tom, Vic, Bill and Dave had taken their place.

There had been a terrible mix-up.

Previously a bar band called The Ardells, the quartet were now ‘The American Beetles’, or sometimes just ‘The Beetles’ for short. “When The Beatles got to be famous,” their manager Bob Yorey recalls in The Day The Beatles Came To Argentina, a 2017 documentary directed by Fernando Pérez, “I said, ‘You know what? They’re the English Beatles. I’m gonna make up a group…’

“I got these four guys and I said, ‘Listen. Grow your hair and we’re gonna call you ‘The American Beetles’.’” They duly obliged. “We wore our hair the same, we dressed the same, we wore suits. It was pretty good”, Bill Ande, their lead guitarist, tells BBC Culture, over the phone. Both a joke and a timely cash-grab, the group’s rebrand had won them big crowds and fresh attention from promoters back home. 

An impresario named Rudy Duclós spotted them in a Miami club. He was from Argentina, he explained, and he was keen to book them on a tour of South America. Yet in selling the group to promoters and venues, Duclós hadn’t quite mentioned the ‘American Beetles’ part. He’d pitched them as the real thing. Contracts were signed, the press was primed, and teenagers anxiously awaited their arrival. The Beatles were coming.

The resulting mix-up was chaotic, catastrophic, and highly amusing.

‘They have hair in their vocal cords! They sing bad, but they act worse!’ went one headline. ‘The Beetles showed that all the talent they have is in their hair!’ screamed another. Crónica called the tour ‘a farce far greater than their disputed male presence’, and devoted column inches throughout the month to their attacks. The American Beetles were ‘antimelodic’, ‘howling songwriters’, and drew comparisons to los pelucones, the wig-wearing conservatives of 19th-Century Chile. As for their singing, reporters claimed bluntly, ‘…they are awful’.

There’s much more at the link.  It’s highly amusing in hindsight, but at the time it must have been quite the experience for the faux Beatles.


1 comment

  1. Pete Best, the Beatles drummer before Ringo, released an album in 1965 called "Best of the Beatles". Which surprised buyers of it because it didn't contain any Beatles songs.

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