The day The Beatles hid out at Pigman Ranch
October 14, 2017
Millionaire Ranch owner offers ranch for a few days fun. Did the Fab Four just take him up on it?
I was born in Texas County, Missouri in 1949. Most counties in the state are named for illustrious statesmen, geological formations or some of them have Native American names. Texas County was named that because it was the biggest county in the state by area, and it was named for the biggest state—at the time—in the Union. The county is a large rectangular block in the southern part of the state.
Another county rests below Texas County—Howell County is its name. West Plains is the largest town Howell County and it could probably be called the Country Music Capitol of Missouri. Porter Wagoner is from Howell County, a boulevard there is named for him there in West Plains. By the way, Porter Wagoner and I had the same first grade teacher, for what it’s worth. There is a tiny town in Howell County that would probably not ever be on you list of places to visit. In 1964, some strangers rode into that town under a veil of secrecy.
In an area where farming is the main vocation, and bib overalls are a common form of dress, the strangers would have stuck out like sore thumbs—if anyone were paying attention—but the farmers and the ranchers likely had more on their minds than figuring out who the strangers were in their midst. Times could be hard depending on the weather conditions and the price of crops, beef, or poultry going to market. New faces or unusual hair-dos were not a hot topic—the hill people had cousins from all over, and sometimes they came to visit, or to help get in crops, and sometimes they did look plum strange.
In 2014, the little town of Alton in Howell, County, MO, had a big festival to honor the 50th year anniversary of the visitation of the revered strangers—strangers that had needed some R & R in the worst way. Somehow they made their way to the Pigman Ranch and were able to rest up and get new leases on life.
Why was this area selected? How did they find out about it? Who pointed them in that direction? At the 50th Anniversary Festival, a big to-do was made over a car that a couple of locals owned. I was the very automobile used to ferry the strangers around when they made their visit so long ago. There was a look-alike contest as part of the festival, where people could try to imitate the appearance of the strangers to win prizes.
The name the locals gave to their anniversary event was Ozarks Beatlemania. Yes, that is who the strangers were that came to the Pigman Ranch. They were the Fab Four in the flesh. An important guest came to the anniversary event. It was Louise Harrison, the late George Harrison’s sister.
Louise got the idea in 2005 to hand-pick a group of performers that looked and sounded like the actual Beatles, and put them in a Branson, Missouri Venue, The Liverpool Legends. The show has been a big success there. The Liverpool Legends Tribute Band actually kicked off the festival in a concert at the West Plains Civic Center and Louise Harrison attended as an honored guest.
The Beatles coming to Southern Missouri in 1964 will always be one of life’s big mysteries to me. How on earth did this out-of-the-way place get picked for a few days of rest and relaxation? Another mystery—how did they go undetected? Screaming girls seem to have radar that can seek out such happenings. It would have to be that someone involved was the friend of a friend of a friend (or something).
Information I have gleaned from The Beatles Bible page indicates that the owner of the Pigman Ranch, Reed Pigman, offered to fly the Beatles to his ranch after their September 18, 1964 concert in Dallas, Texas.
Brian Epstein recorded his thoughts in an article in the October 1, 1964 edition of Mersey Beat. In the article, he explained that they took a chartered Electra from Dallas and they landed at a deserted airfield 70 miles from their destination. Reed Pigman met them at the airstrip with his seven-seater and then he flew them on to the ranch.
Reed, himself piloted the tiny plane and George, for one, was anxious. It was pitch black, Ozark hills and hollows all around. The millionaire pilot held a little map on his lap and kept saying, “I don’t know where I am…” George had observed him wiping mist off the windscreen by hand. When Pigman did figure out where he was, he set the plane down on a strip where lights in tin cans had been set out on the strip to show the landing spot. Some curious teenage boys knew something was up and tried to sneak a peek at the passengers. They could not resist starting rumors, but nothing much came from their squealing.
The Beatles took no musical instruments to the ranch. They were there solely to rest up and relax. They hunted, fished, shot off guns, drove go-carts and pretty much had the time of their lives. Some teenage daughters of ranch hands were given permission to witness the escapades at a distance. What a treat that must have been for them.
Brian Epstein admitted that his time in the Ozarks Hills was one of his happiest times. He also related how Paul had taken a tumble from a high- spirited horse when they went horseback riding. They forded streams on horseback, ignoring any saddle sores or bruises.
Millionaire Ranch owner offers ranch for a few days fun. Did they just take him up on it? Was that all there was to it? Is that how the whole thing came about?
Living Beatles, Ringo and Paul could not be reached for comment.
Sara Marie Hogg is the author of the award-winning Quite Curious, a collection of true stories about the unknown and unexplained. Please click HERE to purchase your copy on Amazon.