Former Tri-State resident and Beatles sister Louise Harrison dies at 91
Louise Harrison was partially responsible for the first time a Beatle performed in America. And it took place in Southern Illinois.
In September 1963, she invited her brother George Harrison to visit her at her home in Benton, Illinois. He and John Lennon and Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr were already huge stars in their native England, where songs like "Love Me Do," "Please Please Me" and – biggest of all – "She Loves You" had fans stalking them through the streets.
But they hadn't hit it big in the U.S. yet, and George needed a place to relax. He thought a small Midwestern town would be a good place for a vacation.
He, Louise and their brother Peter hiked through Garden of the Gods and went to George's first drive-in movie. The Beatle even bought a Rickenbacker guitar while he was in town, and one night, at the Eldorado VFW, he hopped on stage to play a few tunes with local band The Four Vests.
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"Everyone was dancing to the music," Louise's friend, Daryl Chady, told the Southern Illinoisan in 1995. "When George Harrison got up to play, we all stopped and watched him because he was such a good guitar player. We really did not have any idea who he was. I'm not even sure they mentioned the word 'Beatles.'"
A few months later, the Beatles were a sensation. Their appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show" changed popular music forever, and they went on to become the biggest band in history. And the first time any of them ever performed in the U.S. was at an unassuming club in Southern Illinois.
It all happened because of Louise Harrison. She died Monday at a Florida nursing home, friends announced on her Facebook page. She was 91.
Louise Harrison's life
According to her 2014 autobiography "My Kid Brother's Band ... a.k.a. The Beatles," she moved to the U.S. in the late 1950s. Her first husband was an engineer who found work with a string of coal companies. That eventually landed them in Benton, where Louise worked tirelessly to promote The Beatles to clueless American radio DJs.
But one took notice. One afternoon, Louise carted a stack of records to WFRX in West Frankfort, Illinois, and handed them over to a teenager named Marcia Raubach.
"Marcia became a big fan and the first deejay in the U.S. to play Beatle records regularly," the Evansville Press wrote in a 1964 profile of Louise. "And when George came to the U.S., she was one of the first people he met."
Louise eventually moved away from Benton. She had struggles in her personal life, enduring divorce and bouncing between Illinois, Missouri, and other spots across the country before eventually landing in Florida.
Later in life, she became a frequent subject of the British tabloids, who claimed George's widow and son cut her out of Harrison's will and blocked all contact with her. In her book, Louise wrote that she'd signed a nondisclosure agreement. Whatever happened, she refused to say anything bad about her brother, whom she loved.
She kept her ties with the band's legacy, though. Eventually, a group bought her former home at 113 McCann St. and turned it into the Hard Day's Nite Bed and Breakfast, which has since closed.
Louise also went on to help form the Beatles tribute band The Liverpool Legends, who've performed in Evansville at least twice.
"It was shortly after my brother died (in 2001) that I met the guy, Marty Scott, who now plays George in my band," she told the Courier & Press before a show in 2016. "It was about six weeks after, and I always had this spooky feeling that wherever George went after he died, he saw this Marty and thought 'there is a George character who can look after my sister now.'"
Scott wrote a tribute to Louise on Facebook after her death.
"She made so many people happy in her very unique life," he said in part. "Her story really deserves to be told someday."
Editor's note: A previous version of this story had an incorrect last name for Marcia Raubach.
Contact Jon Webb at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on Evansville Courier & Press: Former Tri-State resident and Beatles sister Louise Harrison dies