Warwick Woman Recalls The Beatles’ 1965 Shea Stadium Show
Warwick, Rhode Island's Debbie Rich remembers it as though it were yesterday. Friends phoned at 6 a.m. on a steamy Sunday in July 1965 to say they'd heard her name called out on now-defunct Providence radio station 1290 WICE.
That meant she had 12 minutes and 90 seconds to call the station to qualify for tickets to see The Beatles live at New York's Shea Stadium the following month. Rich met the deadline and won the tickets. The rest is history.
Sid Bernstein Presents The Beatles on August 15, 1965, was the first stadium show, packing more than 55,000 fans into Shea Stadium. It was the highest-grossing show for the Fab Four or anyone else up to that point. It was one for the record books.
Rich was only 12 years old when she and 19 other contest winners and three WICE DJs, acting as chaperones, boarded a bus for New York. Because of her young age, Rich's parents had to agree to let her go on the trip.
"They had no idea what they were granting permission to," she said.
Rich recalled the scene at Shea was pure chaos.
"It was just like what you see in the films. Girls crying and fainting, others jumping over the outfield fence and running across the field," she said. "I saw someone get hit by a car in the parking lot."
Rich recalled bringing a portable reel-to-reel tape recorder to Shea Stadium to record the show, "but all I got was screams!," she said.
Rich said winning the tickets to see The Beatles sparked an interest in radio broadcasting. A resident of Warwick, Rhode Island, Deb Rich is a member of the Rhode Island Radio & Television Hall of Fame, a member of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA), and has appeared in several films.
Rich's favorite Beatle is the late George Harrison. She has Harrison's autograph, having met him at an event in Providence. Rich's favorite Beatles song is "Here Comes the Sun," and her favorite album is Rubber Soul. Like many fans of that era, "The Beatles wrote the soundtrack of my life," she said.
Although August 15, 1965, was the only time Rich would see The Beatles perform as a band, she would see individual band members perform throughout the years, including the tribute to Harrison at Royal Albert Hall in London in 2002 featuring Paul McCartney and Eric Clapton.
Paul McCartney appears at Fenway Park in Boston on June 7 and Ringo Starr on June 12 at the Providence Performing Arts Center. You can bet Deb Rich will be at both shows with a heart full of Beatles memories and a mom at home waiting to hear about all of the details.