George Harrison made a secret trip to the US incognito five months before Beatlemania crossed the pond, his estranged sister has revealed.
The music legend slipped into the country in September 1963 without fanfare, travelled the Midwest and played with a local band.
It was the last time that the Beatle, who would have celebrated his 75th birthday on February 25, felt ‘like a normal human being’, said 86-year-old Louise Harrison.
George Harrison made a secret trip to the US incognito five months before Beatlemania crossed the pond, revealed his 86-year-old sister (pictured) who runs a Beatles tribute band
WORLDLY POSSESSIONS: THE WEALTH OF GEORGE HARRISON
- When George Harrison died in 2001 he left the vast majority of his $300 million fortune to his wife Olivia and son Dhani.
- He gave 10 percent to the Hare Krishna faith he famously embraced in the 1960s.
- His assets included a series of properties around the world, including one on Hamilton Island in Australia, near the Great Barrier Reef, and a secluded ocean-front home on the Hawaiian island of Maui.
- He also owned Friar Park – a 120-room mansion in Henley-on-Thames, where he was stabbed by a crazed intruder in 1999.
- His estate also included the rights to his hit songs, including My Sweet Lord – which was part of his mega-hit triple album, All Things Must Pass.
Louise, who lives in a trailer near Branson, rural Missouri, and relies on welfare payments, struggles to make ends meet managing a Beatles cover band since her brother’s death in 2001.
She revealed that she hadn’t been told about his terminal illness or the terrible pain he suffered until two weeks before he passed away aged 58 after a long battle with lung cancer.
He had been living at his 120-room home in Henley-on-Thames with his wife Olivia and son Dhani.
Olivia kept her and George’s other siblings in the dark about his medical issues for years, she said.
But further heartache was to come.
Despite the star being worth more than $300 million when he died, Louise said she was cut off from the family and her $2,000-a-month pension was stopped.
She was not given a reason why the allowance terminated by Olivia or the couple’s son Dhani, but knows she would still be receiving the money if he was still alive.
‘I don’t care about the money, it’s been over ten years and I haven’t made any ripples,’ she previously said.
Louise (pictured in earlier years), who moved to the US more than 50 years ago, says her brother’s low-key trip was far different to the lifestyle he had when Beatlemania broke out in America during the 1960s
Louise had moved to America with her husband earlier that year and was living in Benton, Illinois, when her little brother, 11 years her junior, came to visit
Louise, who moved to the US more than 50 years ago, says her brother’s visit when he was 20 years old was very different to the lifestyle he would later have.
‘It was probably the last time in his life that George could ever go anywhere without being recognised and mobbed by fans, the last time he could feel like a normal human being,’ she said.
‘When he got off the plane in St Louis there wasn’t a single fan waiting.
‘Nobody tore at his clothes or screamed for his autograph. No squads of police, no gangs of reporters. It was such a relief for him.
‘In the middle of all that craziness George enjoyed a holiday in the US where he could feel human again.’
‘It was probably the last time in his life that George (pictured left with the iconic band) could ever go anywhere without being recognised and mobbed by fans, the last time he could feel like a normal human being,’ said Louise
Louise had moved to America with her husband earlier that year and was living in Benton, Illinois, when her little brother, 11 years her junior, came to visit.
‘George and I went camping out in the wilds, barbecued sausages and roasted marshmallows,’ she said.
‘He was happy roughing it. He was always very down-to-earth. He spent hours playing with my kids and their train set. When George grew up we never had any toys like that.
‘We went to Saturday night dances at the Veterans’ Hall, drinking and having a good time. He loved being just George again rather than a Beatle.’
George (pictured with his parents Harold and Louise in Liverpool) joined a local band The Four Vest on stage during his secret US trip and ended up playing with them at a birthday party
She took him diners where waitresses served customers on roller-skates, introduced him to drive-ins and went shopping together at record stores.
And when a local band The Four Vests were entertaining at the Veterans’ Hall in Eldorado, Illinois, and heard George was a British musician, they invited him on stage.
They played Roll Over Beethoven and a Hank Williams song together – the first performance by a Beatle in America.
‘The audience suddenly began cheering, shouting, dancing like crazy,’ said Louise.
‘George set the place on fire. Everyone said that he had to join the band but he explained he already had a group in England.’
The legend was invited to play alongside the band the next week at a birthday party in Benton, where he gave a 90-minute performance.
Louise, who lives in a trailer near Branson, rural Missouri, relies on welfare payments and struggles to make ends meet
George had been living at his 120-room home in Henley-on-Thames with his wife Olivia and son Dhani when he passed away
Louise claims that she and other siblings were left in the dark by George’s wife, Olivia (right with George in 1979), who she says kept George’s illness from the family
But as soon as Beatlemania hit America five months after the secret trip, things changed dramatically.
‘It was absolutely crazy,’ said Louise, who joined up with The Beatles in New York.
‘Fans were crawling over our limousines wherever we went. Out of the rear window we would see the road strewn with clothes, shoes, bags and fallen fans.
‘George told me, ‘If we’d known what was waiting for us we’d never have got off the plane.’
She added: ‘I met the rest of The Beatles for the first time and it was like having three more brothers.
‘Paul was the group’s best PR, always signing autographs, making fans happy. Jolly old Ringo never had a bad word to say about anyone. John was always commenting on society’s inequalities.
‘George earned a reputation as the quiet Beatle on that trip but he actually had a sore throat and could hardly talk. I spent much of that visit nursing him.’
Louise, who grew up with George in a terraced house in Liverpool with an outside toilet, said he ‘was a loving and compassionate child’.
‘He was born at home and I held him in my arms. His fingernails were fully grown and he had a little tuft of hair and wide eyes. It was love at first sight,’ she recalled.
‘I would often babysit him or take him to movies. Times were tough. My bus driver dad and our mum were always singing but we had no musical instruments and we had no idea George would become a musician.
‘When George first saw Elvis on TV he asked our dad to buy him a guitar. He said, ‘You know that guy on the TV last night? That’s the kind of job I can do.”
Louise, who grew up with George in a terraced house in Liverpool with an outside toilet, said he ‘was a loving and compassionate child’ (pictured with George and her other brothers)
Now 17 years after his death, Louise (pictured with George) says she and her brother, who remained close throughout their lives, will always have a special bond
Now 17 years after his death, Louise says she and her brother, who remained close throughout their lives, will always have a special bond.
‘He had no fear of dying. He was looking forward to whatever came next,’ she said.
‘We both believed in reincarnation and came up with a secret signal so that we would recognise each other in future lives.
‘I love and miss him but I’m not sad that he’s gone. He was ready to move on and was excited about what life after death had in store.’