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  Thursday January 29th, 2015    

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The first Beatle record in Winona (05/01/2013)
From: Al Paffrath

If you’re tired of the news being filled with unemployment numbers, economic problems, so-called “food police” telling us what we should eat, and how much of it, or waiting for yet another train passing through Winona, please consider the following information, or if you want, challenge.

I have, for many years, made the claim of having the first Beatle record in Winona. I heard “I Want To Hold Your Hand” just after the New Year 1964 on one of the distant radio stations we used to pick up in Winona at night, probably either KAAY in Little Rock or another in Shreveport. Some of you may say “How about WLS?” or suggest that it could have been KOMA in Oklahoma City, but never mind. Whatever station it was, the song blew me away. It was so different, and refreshing, than any of the other pop stuff at the time, which many critics have termed everything from simple to stagnant. This was a song that put you on your back, wondering “Where did THIS thing come from, and who in the world are The Beatles?”

I decided to go to Choate’s Record Department, in the basement, in an attempt to purchase the 45. I was a freshman at Winona State at the time, and working at Randall’s Super Valu, so money was something that I had very little of, let alone to blow it on a record. To my surprise, Choate’s not only did not have the record in stock, but had not even received any inquiries about The Beatles. I asked if they could order it, and was told that they would try to locate it and get it in for me. Now, at that time, there were really very few places in Winona to buy a record. There was Hardt’s Music, although they specialized more in musical instruments, and maybe a very limited supply at the city’s dime stores - Kresge’s, Woolworths, or Ben Franklin, in the Westgate Shopping Center. The record did, in fact, come in a short time later, and once again, I was blown away. The song itself had been enough, but the record was packaged in a picture sleeve, showing four of the most odd-looking guys I’d ever seen. It was that hair. By today’s standard, there was nothing different about it, but in early 1964 it was as radical as Rice-A-Roni. It wasn’t really that long, but it was allowed to fall down instead of being combed up. Still further excitement presented itself when I got home and played the other side...the B-Side, which in those days, was notorious for being absolute garbage, or a throw-away to fill out the 45. “I Saw Her Standing There,” however, was a knockout, maybe even better than the A-Side. Anyway, the fact that Choate’s had to order it, and nobody had previously asked about it, leads to the inescapable conclusion, that I, Al Paffrath, or “Mike” as some knew me, a lowly college freshman who looked at forking out the twenty cents for a McDonald’s cheeseburger as a rare treat, had the first Beatle record in Winona. In mid-February, I quit my job, dropped out of college, and hopped on a Greyhound for Los Angeles, where I had grown up. I had very little by the time I boarded the bus...less than twenty dollars, some clothing, a few shaving articles, a few things to read, and, my Beatles record. It was to be a one-year sabbatical. By the first week of April 1964, The Beatles had the top five records on the Billboard Chart, unequaled before or since. Very few artists have ever had as many as two. The Beatles owned 1964, as Elvis had owned 1956.

True to my plan, I returned to Winona in mid-February, 1965, again on a Greyhound, beating the flood here by two months. During that year, The Beatles had ignited a second British Invasion, and fashions, trends, and, especially hair, reflected everything British.

That’s my story. If there’s anyone out there who wants to challenge my claim, let them come forward. I will say this, though...it had better be VERY convincing, or I’ll continue the claim I’ve made over the last half-century. Think about this story the next time you’re tied up waiting for a train, about a Beatles record, and a group which came along in January 1964 to save our rock and roll souls. Before you know it, the train will have cleared the crossing, and you’ll say to yourself, “Man, THAT was quick.” (Disclaimer: This solution will not work with a switching train on Mankato Avenue.) Yeah, yeah, yeah! 


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