Could first U.S. Beatles concert been held at Bladensburg VFD in Maryland?

Beatles DC 1

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Mark Opsasnick’s “Capitol Rock”

If a couple of disc jockeys at a Wheaton, Maryland radio station had their way, the 50th anniversary of the Beatles first concert in the U.S. would have been celebrated last year instead of tomorrow. And the location of the reenactment concert wouldn’t be in an old arena along the railroad tracks north of Union Station in Northeast Washington, DC. It would be at Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department Station 809, the Bladensburg Volunteer Fire Department.

The Beatles playing a fire hall in PG County? Not quite as crazy as the idea sounds now. According to the book Capitol Rock by Mark Opsasnick, that was the plan WDON’s Don Dillard and Barry Richards were working hard to put in place in late 1963. The station even had stickers printed saying “The Beatles Are Coming!”.

MD PG Bladensburg VFD 2

Starting in the middle of the last century, a number of the volunteer fire departments in Prince George’s County became well known for the dances and concerts held at their fire halls. Early in their careers country music legends like Patsy Cline, Roy Clark and Jimmy Dean regularly played the firehouses in Oxon Hill, Beltsville, Branchville and Bladensburg. Dillard and Richards had brought Chubby Checker and Bo Diddley to Bladensburg.

From Capitol Rock:

Don Dillard confirms this account:  “We tried to get the Beatles, but there wasn’t much of a chance.  It was going to be at Bladensburg and we tried to line them up.  I remember we were going through Capitol Records, but they finally said no….I really don’t know if we ever had much of a chance at getting them.”

The Beatles signing with Capitol Records on December 13, 1963 and the groups representation by General Artists Corporation really put an end to the notion this first concert would be held in a fire hall with a capacity of 800. The concert ended up about five miles from Company 9 at the 8000 seat Washington Coliseum on February 11, 1964.

Capitol ROck cover

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