The Way It Was – Olympia Stadium

The Tony Spina Collection, Walter P. Reuther Library, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University.

1964 Olympia Stadium, the old home of the Detroit Red Wings at Grand River Avenue and McGraw Street, was often the scene of loud, cheering hockey fans. But 50 years ago this month, on Sunday, Sept. 6, 1964, the arena erupted in a different kind of pandemonium. Screaming, delirious fans greeted The Beatles at two appearances on that day, 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. The lads from Liverpool were making the rounds on their first official North American tour, and they ignited bedlam wherever they appeared. Ticket prices at Olympia ranged from $5 for choice seats to $2 for balcony standing room. Between shows here The Beatles held a press conference backstage. When asked which artists most influenced them, George Harrison said, “The Detroit Sound. Tamla-Motown artists are our favorites. The Miracles.” Then John Lennon chimed in with “We like Marvin Gaye.” Harrison added, “The Impressions, Marvin Gaye.” And Harrison and Paul McCartney uttered “Mary Wells” together. The band stayed at the Whittier Hotel on the east side, but a rumor spread that they were at the Sheraton-Cadillac downtown, so swarms of fans hung around the hotel while its switchboard was bombarded with calls inquiring about the group. The Beatles returned to Detroit on Aug. 13, 1966, but the group, weary from touring, appeared in their last formal concert on Aug. 29 of that year at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park.


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