(ODD)yssey

Our visit to the Beatles-themed town of Walnut Ridge, Arkansas

On the way home from our Route 66 honeymoon in October 2016, Sweetums and I saw a sign for Walnut Ridge, Arkansas, a little town with a Beatles theme. It was getting dark so we didn’t see everything but it was still a fun place to stop.

Inside the surviving walls of an old brick building in the downtown area was a sculpture of silhouettes of the four Beatles replicating the cover of the Abbey Road album. There were also wooden cutouts of the Beatles, a brightly painted “Imagine” piano, window paintings and plaques explaining why this little burg of 5,000 residents is a destination for Beatles fans.

STORY CONTINUES AFTER PHOTO

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The Abbey Road sculpture in Walnut Ridge, Arkansas, commemorates the weekend in 1964 when The Beatles came to the tiny town. (Photo by Wil Elrick/Permission Required)

It began on Friday, Sept. 18, 1964, when the Beatles were flying from a performance in Dallas for some R&R. They planned to spend the weekend at Pigman Ranch in nearby Alton, Missouri, which was owned by Reed Pigman Sr., the man who operated the charter airline the Beatles used for travel. The closest airport that could accommodate the plane was at Walnut Ridge and the group hoped to secretly land and head to the ranch for a break from a heavy tour schedule. But word soon leaked and local teens were in a frenzy. When the group arrived back at the airport Sunday to fly to New York, hundreds of Walnut Ridge residents crowded the airport, getting autographs and handshakes.

STORY CONTINUES AFTER PHOTO

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The Abbey Road sculpture in Walnut Ridge, Arkansas, commemorates the weekend in 1964 when The Beatles came to the tiny town. (Photo by Wil Elrick/Permission Required)

Here is how the City of Walnut Ridge described the commemorative sculpture on its website:

“The Beatles Abbey Road Sculpture is a 10-feet-by-20-feet, 200 square foot sculpture of the iconic Abbey Road Album that was released by the Beatles in 1969, and was their last recorded album before the group dissolved. The sculpture, created by Danny West of Walnut Ridge, is a tribute to commemorate the Beatles historic stopover in Walnut Ridge Airport in September of 1964. Although the stop was a brief “In and Out” over a two-day period, many Walnut Ridge teens caught a glimpse of the Fab Four before their Sunday morning departure, many of the kids sneaked out of Church services to attend (the departure). The visit was the only time the Beatles were in Arkansas, and the sculpture is on permanent display at 110 Abbey Road, (formerly 110 southwest 2nd street) in Beatles Park.” The town also celebrates the event with a Beatles at the Ridge Music Festival each September.

STORY CONTINUES AFTER PHOTO

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Plaques explain that the Abbey Road sculpture in Walnut Ridge, Arkansas, commemorates the weekend in 1964 when The Beatles came to the tiny town. (Photo by Wil Elrick/Permission Required)

We missed seeing another local attraction because of the late hour but I looked up the Guitar Walk when we returned home. The walk honors the fact that Highway 67 through Arkansas was named the Rock n roll highway in 2009 because of the singers who traveled it in the 1950s. The Guitar Walk is a 115-foot long, 40-foot wide concrete walk shaped like a Epiphone guitar. The City of Walnut Ridge website says, “Guitar Walk is lined with historical displays which pay tribute to nine rock music pioneers who performed in northeast Arkansas. Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Conway Twitty, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and others are honored on the Guitar Walk at Cavenaugh Park. Spaced around the body of the Guitar Walk are several stations equipped with audio recordings, representing several Rockabilly legends who traveled Rock n’ Roll Highway 67 in the 1950s, including Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Conway Twitty and others. John Lennon, as well as other Beatles and numerous rockabilly and Sun Studio artists, played Epiphones, or similar guitars from other manufacturers, and that’s why plans called for the look of an Epiphone, by Gibson.”

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Walnut Ridge is also home to the Guitar Walk, which was installed to honor singers who passed through along Highway 67, which was named the Rock n roll highway in 2009 because of the number of singers who traveled it in the 1950s. (Source: City of Walnut Ridge website)
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The sculpture in downtown Walnut Ridge makes great use of an otherwise abandoned building. (Photo by Wil Elrick/Permission Required)
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Additional Beatles references in downtown Walnut Ridge include plywood cutouts, window paintings, and a colorful “Imagine” piano. (Photo by Wil Elrick/Permission Required)
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Additional Beatles references in downtown Walnut Ridge include plywood cutouts, window paintings, and a colorful “Imagine” piano. (Photo by Wil Elrick/Permission Required)
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Additional Beatles references in downtown Walnut Ridge include plywood cutouts, window paintings, and a colorful “Imagine” piano. (Photo by Wil Elrick/Permission Required)
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Additional Beatles references in downtown Walnut Ridge include plywood cutouts, window paintings, and a colorful “Imagine” piano. (Photo by Wil Elrick/Permission Required)
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Additional Beatles references in downtown Walnut Ridge include plywood cutouts, window paintings, and a colorful “Imagine” piano. (Photo by Wil Elrick/Permission Required)
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Walnut Ridge is also home to the Guitar Walk, which was installed to honor singers who passed through along Highway 67, which was named the Rock n roll highway in 2009 because of the number of singers who traveled it in the 1950s. (Source: City of Walnut Ridge website)
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Walnut Ridge is also home to the Guitar Walk, which was installed to honor singers who passed through along Highway 67, which was named the Rock n roll highway in 2009 because of the number of singers who traveled it in the 1950s. (Source: City of Walnut Ridge website)
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The Abbey Road sculpture in Walnut Ridge, Arkansas, commemorates the weekend in 1964 when The Beatles came to the tiny town. (Photo by Wil Elrick/Permission Required)
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Sweetums is either the Fifth Beatle or Bigfoot. It’s difficult to tell. (Photo by Wil Elrick/Permission Required)
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The sculpture in downtown Walnut Ridge makes great use of an otherwise abandoned building. (Photo by Wil Elrick/Permission Required)

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