[imagesource: Bill Ande]
A couple of years ago, a friend persuaded me to accompany him to a supposed secret Creed concert on a beach in Cape Town.
I’m not a fan of Creed’s music because I have standards, but I went along anyway.
On the beach, we found a massive rig, security, and hundreds of people ready to partake in some mid-level rock music.
Just as the “Creed, Creed, Creed” chanting reached its peak, a lone man wondered onstage with a guitar. His name? Chris Creed.
You can fill in the rest.
The Creed scam upset a few people, but it has nothing on the con that convinced the whole of South America that The Beatles would be gracing local stages in 1964.
Over to BBC:
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.
Previously a bar band called The Ardells, the quartet were now going by The American Beetles, or The Beetles for short. When Beatlemania went global, their manager decided to rebrand them as the American version of the British pop 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.
Here they are on American Bandstand the same year that they went to South America:
The South American tour was booked by a man named Rudy Duclós, who had spotted them in a Miami club. Unfortunately, while he sold the group to venues and promoters, he failed to mention the ‘American’ part, selling them as ‘The Beetles’. The band was then promoted in the press as The Beatles.
Carlos Santino was a child in 1964. “I remember the moment when they announced that The Beatles [would] come to Argentina because of my cousin”, Santino recalls in the Pérez documentary. “She was going nuts.”
Bidding wars and media competition was rife as news stations fought to host them, venues tried to book them, and fans did everything they could to score tickets.
“When we got off the plane, the police and the bodyguards said ‘Listen, you get inside there’ – they made a ‘V’ – ‘and the minute we start running, don’t stop, just continue’”, their manager, Bob Yorey tells BBC Culture. “There were a lot of people at the airport, and they didn’t want no problems. It was kind of scary.”
Then the kidnappings started.
The band’s lead guitarist, Bill Ande, tells BBC Culture that “when we got off the plane, they took us to a TV station”, where “[their] drummer was kidnapped by a different station and they went through a whole thing to get him back”.
The band eventually made it to Channel 9 in one piece, although rumour has it Channel 13 managed to retain one of the members for some time before he could be liberated.
Before long the band was busted. They weren’t the real Beatles, and the country was extremely upset about it.
The South American press were less forgiving. “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”.
You can read the full story here.
Search ‘The Beetles’ or ‘American Beetles’ now and you’ll find pictures of rare insects in the States.
For a moment there, though, they got a taste of Beatlemania.
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