In 1964, Ron Chapman wasn’t the king of Dallas radio, the most listened-to morning radio personality ever in the Southwest. Nor was he a Texas Radio Hall of Famer. Heck, he wasn’t even Ron Chapman.
Half of the “Charlie and Harrigan” morning team at KLIF-AM playing Top 40 hits, Chapman worked under the pseudonym of Irving Harrigan. And he was also a man without a tape recorder backstage at Memorial Auditorium in 1964, before the Beatles’ one and only concert in Dallas. While his radio rivals attempted to gather sound of themselves asking the Beatles pre-concert questions, Chapman wandered over to the stage manager.
“I told him I was the emcee here to introduce the band,” Chapman says. “No one DJ was supposed to do that. [Beatles manager] Brian Epstein was very careful not to let one radio station take the credit. But the stage manager just said, ‘Thank God you’re here.’
“It was pure karma that night that I found myself on the stage saying, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, KLIF presents the Beatles!’ And I stayed out on the stage as they walked out and plugged in their instruments into those tiny 2-foot Vox speakers so I could get in all the photos. But no one could hear a word, because the concert was just girls screaming and, to give you an old word, flashcubes popping.”
Like Hilburn, Chapman was fascinated with the Beatles as soon as they took that Ed Sullivan stage. But he had no clue where they were headed.
“The second song they did on Ed Sullivan, I believe, was from The Music Man. I said, ‘Wow, they do know music.’ I didn’t know how special or what kind of phenomenon they were going to be. We just didn’t know that,” Chapman says.
It’s difficult to convey to people under 30 (or is it 40?) the significance of a family gathered ’round a black-and-white 15-inch television to watch a particular show at a given time. With the advent of DVR and YouTube, immediacy is largely unnecessary. That was not the case in 1964. If you were going to see the Beatles, learn more about this phenomena that remained largely unknown in most of America, then you had no choice but to be front and center on Sunday night to watch CBS.
And so we watched. Oh, yes, how we watched.