Don’t you do it… Don’t you dare

By Jude Southerland Kessler, special to the Fest Blog

“Don’t you do it…don’t you dare!” is the very phrase that inspired…


  • My nine-year-old decision to jump from the top of Mom’s Mimosa tree…a fall that sprained both my ankles, in the very first week of summer.
  • My “rash” decision to move far away from my Louisiana family and friends to reside in Maryland where my boyfriend, Rande, was going to the Naval Academy. (Rande and I have now been married 40 years.)
  • And my decision to write “yet another” biography about John Lennon in the face of various groans and moans of: “Haven’t we had enough of such books already?”


Being dared NOT to do something has two out of three times worked wonders “in my life.” Indeed, quite often, daring someone NOT to do something produces miraculous results. So, let me give it a go!


Don’t do it!!!! Don’t leave your soft, slightly stained sofa and your “25% More! Free!” bag of Fritos Originals (which explains your greasy remote) to actually get up, get packed, and attend the Chicago Fest for Beatles Fans at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare, Aug. 9-11. Please…stay seated!! Relax into your comfy nest of cookie crumbs and lint, and nestle in for yet another riveting episode of “Everybody Loves Raymond.” It’s so much simpler. And besides, who needs a whole “weekend of unforgettable,” eh? Not you, right? You’re past all that!


Don’t do it…don’t be in the Main Stage Ballroom when the oh-so-knowledgeable Mark Lewisohn awes us with his Beatles acumen. I was privileged to hear him talk last November and suffice it to say, I actually offered him $200 for a mere copy of his notes! His talk is that good. No, let’s be honest: it’s better. Mr. Lewisohn is, of course, the author of The Beatles: All These Years, Volume One — Tune In, The Complete Beatles Chronicle, The Beatles Recording Sessions, The Beatles: Day by Day, and so many other respected works. But even his Beatles compendiums pale a mite in the face of his live presentations! And that poses a dilemma: you see, instead of relaxing into the cat hair and pistachio shells on your sofa, you’d actually be sitting on the edge of your seat, locked onto Mr. L’s two talks — one on Saturday and one on Sunday.


So, I must ask: Do you really need that? Is hearing the world’s #1 Beatles Guru worth the effort of tossing a toothbrush and a change of clothes into a valise? Is it worth the risk inherent in getting out with fellow Beatles fans who are learning and nodding and being utterly entertained? I shouldn’t think so! Not really.


So…don’t do it. Don’t you dare! Slip into your sweat pants and open another carton of “Chunky Monkey.” It’s the wiser move.


Safe at home, you’ll tactfully avoid a full hour with iconic drummer, Alan White, who literally on the spur-of-the-moment (the day before, in fact) agreed to join John and Yoko on stage at their 1969 Toronto Rock’n’Roll Festival performance. Who wants to hear about that experience, yeah? Who wants to sit at the feet of someone who worked shoulder-to-shoulder with John as “Instant Karma” was being recorded…or with George Harrison during the making of All Things Must Pass?  Why subject yourself to that sort of once-in-a-lifetime experience? Not when you can revisit “Charles in Charge” or “Malcolm in the Middle” or settle in for a cozy afternoon of “Home Alone.” Don’t do it. Don’t you very dare!


And furthermore, DO NOT even think of taking my seat at the Jeremy Clyde concert! Back off, sir! I’ve claimed that prime location where I can best hear Jeremy croon “A Summer Song” and “Willow Weep for Me.”  But most of all, I want to lean in and hear him reminisce about his days with The Beatles. I want to absorb the magic of 1964 and 1965. I want to be transported back to Swingin’ London — to soak in every fascinating detail about what Americans dubbed, “The British Invasion.” No, no, that sort of thing’s not for you! Keep in mind “that was yesterday, and yesterday’s gone.” (Exactly the song I’d like to hear!) So, why don’t you clean out the garage or trim the lawn instead? Go right ahead…leave the magic all to me.


Don’t dare set foot in the Hyatt Regency O’Hare while Ken Mansfield (one of the friendliest men on planet Earth) is walking about, shaking hands, and happily answering Beatles questions. Don’t settle in as he brings the world of Apple Records, U.S., to life or talks about his time in London with The Beatles…or shares the story of that amazing afternoon that The Beatles (and Ken) took to The Roof (Ken’s best-selling book) to “pass the [last] audition.” Ken was there for so many remarkable Beatles landmarks, and he will make you feel as if you’re there as well. Do you need that sort of enchanted afternoon? Not you! You’re the practical sort! There’s a hedge to be trimmed. Get to it!


In fact, I can’t think of one single reason why you’d enjoy sitting amongst other Beatles fans in the lobby and singing “I Want to Hold Your Hand”…or why you’d have fun going back in time with me (at Sunday morning’s Early Bird presentation) to attend John Lennon’s 1964 Foyles Literary Luncheon, to discover why he muttered “You’ve got a lucky face.” I mean, sure, yeah, it’s a touching and fascinating story…but you? You’ve better things to do.


Attending the Aug. 9-11 Chicago Fest can only mean one thing for you: fab fun! And who needs it? Really!  I mean, you’d be one of the very first to hear Beatles music expert, Bruce Spizer, introduce his hot-off-the-press, new book, The Beatles Get Back to Abbey Road! And you’d get to hear Wings’ Laurence Juber, Steve Holley, and Denny Laine rock the stage at the Saturday night concert! You’d get the opportunity to challenge yourself at Al Sussman and Tom Frangione’s “Beatles Trivia” contest, and you’d get to hear Kit O’Toole and gifted musician, Scott Erickson, explore the Esher Demo versions of your favorite White Album songs. You’d only find yourself shopping in the Marketplace, enjoying Beatles yoga in the Faboratory, cheering at the Battle of The Bands, and sitting in front of the Red Bar fireplace and sipping a glass of wine. None of that is productive, son. Not while there’s so much you could do:


  • You could scan old photos into jpeg files.
  • You could air out the autumn clothes.
  • You could strip that old wallcovering.
  • And of course, you could always indulge in the evening news. (God forbid!)


Or (and I’m certainly not endorsing this!) you could choose to enjoy “The Weekend of You”…a weekend of wearing your Beatles pins and T-shirts and socks and kecks…a weekend of wearing your Beatles smile! You could star in an impromptu, all-night Sing-Along or attend the late, late experts’ panel or hunker over an iced bourbon, hotly debating which album is better, the Capitol “Help!” or the EMI version. You could rock with The Weeklings…and dance to Liverpool! You could purchase the BEST Christmas present ever from Beatles artist, Eric Cash. And you could party late, sleep late, laugh out loud (unabbreviated), and have the time of your life!


The only problem is, the Chicago Fest for Beatles Fans would create memory: a memory you’d have to cherish for years. A memory you’d have to tell people about at the office, on the train, and at family reunions. A memory you’d have to carry with you, long after you’re 64!


It would be unique and special, your time at the Fest. So, unless your life needs something warm and wonderful and memorable and completely fantastic…best to avoid it at all costs. I promise that you’d fall in the love with The Fest for Beatles Fans, and, you’d want to go back. So, just don’t risk it. No, indeed.


Don’t you do it. Don’t you dare.


2015 Chicago Fest Recap

Dear Beatles Family,

WOW CHICAGOLAND, how we love you! What a Fest weekend that was!


John, Paul, George, and Ringo did it again…they brought us back together loving them to pieces and recognizing everything they’ve done for our lives! Celebrating 39 years in Chicago, chilling with our Fest Besties, learning new stuff, jamming all the while…we have all of you to thank for it.


At #ChiFest15, thousands of Beatlemaniacs from 32 states, Canada, Mexico, Italy, England, and Australia came together at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare in Rosemont, Illinois to celebrate all things Beatles, including the 50th Anniversary of the Beatles’ earth-shattering concert at Shea Stadium and the 50th Anniversary of Help! This is our collective recap…




If you get to the bottom of this email and these pics aren’t enough for your vicarious re-living of the Chicago Fest, check out the Fest’s Danny Abriano’s Facebook album HERE head, see Carol Lapidos of the Fest’s album HERE, and head HERE to scope out our fans album, and Michelle Your Belle just uploaded 600 pics from from her iPhone.


Also be sure to head to and subscribe to our YouTube page, where more than a dozen videos from the Chicago Fest have already gone up and many more are on the way!


(picture below from @liz_fletcher on Instagram)


The hotel started to fill with fans as early as Monday, and excitement built up as we set up the hotel. Lobby jams started, the Hyatt staff put on their own HELP! shirts, and fans explored the bustling and festive Hyatt Regency O’Hare, preparing for the fab three days that were to come.


The FEST officially kicked off at 5 PM on Friday, August 14 as fans came in from the heat and brought their Beatley swagger with them to more than a dozen ballrooms throughout the hotel. Along with our band, Liverpool, perfectly recreating Beatles tracks note for note, our guests included Terry Sylvester, Bob Eubanks (who hosted the first ever Beatleywed Game!), Billy Kinsley, Jack Oliver, Louise Harrison, Mark Rivera, Dick Biondi (below with emcee Terri Hemmert), and Mark Hudson.




Friday night continued on with the 60s Dress Up contest and Dance Party –- where Liverpool treated Festers to three rocking sets of Beatles tunes. Head HERE for a video of Liverpool performing “Please Please Me” and head HERE to see them perform “Old Brown Shoe.”





To go along with our incredible musical guests, the weekend also featured some amazing Sound Alike and Battle of the Beatles Bands competitors. Eric Howell blew the crowd away while winning the Sound Alike contest singing ‘Something,’ and BEATLEJUICE (below) snagged the Battle of the Bands crown after performing an amazing version of ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ that included a string quartet. Head HERE to watch their winning performance.



Our tradition of the ‘Beatles Gratitude Wall’ continued, and was where fans wrote and hung signs showing their gratitude to the Beatles…



The We All Shine On wall was new this year, to remember the people we love who we’ve lost. WOW, look at that diamond sky we created!



The FABoratory, our newest addition, where fans had the chance to turn into Beatles Magicians, Mad Fab Scientists, and teachers, was such a blast. Thank you to all the FAB fans who created truly exciting new elements of the Fest with your out-of-the-box ideas! ‘I Met A Beatle For Real’ was the real life version of Sara Schmidt’s blog, and boy were there some juicy stories of Beatle-meeting. Willa and Libby brought an awesome hand-painted face-hole exhibit called ‘I Saw The Photograph,’ and Lanea Stagg made the most delicious truffles in the world for us with her ‘Savoy Truffle’ culinary experience! We did an improv reenactment of The Beatles meeting Elvis with Ivor Davis, sideburns and all. Beatles bubbles were blown with Jeanie McNicol, and ‘Beatles Beat The Clock’ with Bob Abdou got super whipped-creamy, pie-in-the-face style at the end.


Photo below is on Her Majesty’s Throni, c/o of @paypay_beela12 on Instagram.



The live music of the weekend wasn’t limited to the nighttime concerts…


School of Rock Chicago took to the stage on Saturday afternoon (head HERE to see them perform ‘Dig A Pony’), and Girls Next Door A Cappella from the University of Illinois performed on Saturday night –- singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to a surprised and delighted Louise Harrison and performing a chills-inducing version of ‘Because.’




Later on Saturday night, Ron Aprea, who played sax on John Lennon’s Walls and Bridges LP, joined Liverpool as they tore through a sizzling version of ‘Whatever Gets You thru the Night.’ See the video HERE.



On Sunday, The Weeklings played a rollicking set that featured songs the Beatles wrote but never officially released, their Beatles-inspired originals, and other Beatles cuts.



That wasn’t all…


The Apple Jam Stage made its Chicago Fest debut, where an amazing assortment of solo artists, bands, and DJs rocked all weekend long!


After Michelle My Pelle and DJ Sun Queen & DJ Madonna got the party started on Friday night, Scott Erickson performed deep cuts on both Saturday and Sunday, GiGi Wong-Monaco hosted a ukulele strum, Nick Peay played Beatles tunes on acoustic on Saturday and uke on Sunday, and Phil Angotti & Friends brought the house down with their McCartney-centric show on Saturday and their Lennon-centric show on Sunday. Also delighting fans on the Apple Jam Stage were School of Rock (after their main stage appearance), Sgt. Sauerkraut’s Polka Band, and the Yellow Submorons.


On both Saturday and Sunday, after the scheduled performances had concluded, the Apple Jam Stage opened up for the fans, who jammed into the wee hours of the morning.



Meanwhile, jams were going strong all throughout the hotel all weekend long — sunrise to sundown and beyond…



As always, the Beatles art contest was a place where fans were treated to some truly great art by professionals, amateurs, and kids, all who took home prizes. Of the many entries in the professional division, Sandra Ragan took home the top prize for her broken glass and ink Abbey Road art. The giant crocheted Beatles flag by Jessica DeJardin took top honors in the amateur division, and Cameron Hicks’ mixed media with melted crayons piece won the top prize for the kids division. We thank Deco for continuing to do such a great job with the Art Museum.



The Chicago Fest was home to two Beatles marketplaces, the weekend home of 20 of the best Beatles authors in the world, and Terri Hemmert of WXRT, our amazing emcee.


When Festers weren’t busy dancing, jamming in every nook of the hotel, and parading (at our fourth annual Beatles Animal Parade which included the new Martha puppet), they took in one of Bob Abdou’s highly entertaining Beatles puppet shows, got memorabilia signed, watched a movie in the Beatles video room, sang Beatles karaoke, toured the photo, Beatles art, and memorabilia rooms (Rob Shanahan, Neal Glaser, Jeff Augsburger), and more.





Many also took refuge in our Beatles Ashram, which featured yoga classes for adults and kids, intro sessions to Cosmic Consciousness with the teachers of Transcendental Meditation, Beatles Zumba with GiGi, Deco’s Poetry Jam, and the Ashram’s highlight of the weekend… a talk with Louise Harrison about spirituality — from George’s perspective and her own. “Whatever you do, do it with purity of purpose” Louise told us was one of George’s foundational beliefs and teachings.



Other highlights from the weekend were We Can Write It Out with Mark Hudson, Live Beatles Trivia hosted by Wally Podrazik and Joan Moran, Name That Tune hosted by Al Sussman and Tom Frangione, Lorie Nolte winning a trip to Las Vegas to see The Beatles LOVE Cirque du Soleil, nightly Fest recap songs with Danny Donuts (this time with a little HELP! from the FABoratory), a reenactment of Help!, and the always spectacular Pig Light Show that accompanied the concerts on Saturday and Sunday.





The amount of Beatles knowledge shared over the weekend by authors/historians Wally Podrazik, Vivek Tiwary, Bruce Spizer, Jude Southerland Kessler, Chuck Gunderson, Andrew Grant Jackson, Paul Skellett, Simon Weitzman, David Schwensen, Dee Elias, Jim Berkenstadt, Jorie Gracen, Jill Davis, Tom Frangione, Al Sussman, Susan Ryan, Robert Rodriguez, Richard Buskin, Anthony Robustelli, Kit O’Toole, and Lanea Stagg was nothing short of incredible!



As always, the Musicians’ Forum on Sunday was a treat, as was that night’s concert that saw Liverpool play all of the Beatles songs from the Help! film and other Beatles cuts before the stage opened to sax men Mark Rivera and Ron Aprea, Terry Sylvester, Billy Kinsley, and the incomparable Mark Hudson.




Drew, John, Glen, and Chris of Liverpool were fantastic all weekend, kicking things off with the Dance Party on Friday night, playing the entire 1965 Shea Stadium set (50 years to the day!) and more on Saturday, and finishing things up in thrilling fashion on Sunday night after performing all the songs from the ‘Help!’ film and more as Mark Lapidos thrilled everyone while taking to the stage to sing ‘Charlie Brown’ with Mark Rivera, Mark Hudson (The Three Markies) and Liverpool. It was a special moment. Then, everyone came on stage to join in the traditional finale of ‘Hey Jude.’


Head HERE to watch Liverpool wrap up the 1965 Shea Stadium set with ‘I’m Down’…


Head HERE to watch Mark Lapidos join in on the fun with ‘Charlie Brown’…




After the Chicago Fest officially came to a close, the jamming continued into the wee hours of Monday morning, with Festers playing outside in the front of the hotel until the sun came up and people started going about their Monday morning business. This is a new official tradition — join us next year!



The fans brought the energy all weekend, with the traditions of Fests gone by seamlessly intertwining with the new events and activities that spiced up the weekend.


We are still gathering all of the pictures and videos from The Fest to share, and we want to see all of yours, too! As we did over the weekend, use the hashtag #ChiFest15 to share pictures with us on Instagram and Twitter (@Beatles_Fest), and post pictures on our Facebook wall at


In addition to the albums that are already up, lots more pictures of all the guests, events, activities, and fans will be shared in emails, on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and via email (send them to in the coming days and weeks!


We’d also like to thank the Hyatt Regency O’Hare, who did a terrific job hosting the Fest, especially Deb. Most of all, we want to offer another thank you to all the guests and fans who came to celebrate all things Beatles for our 39th summer in Chicago.



We are already gearing up for the New York Metro Fest, taking place April 15 to 17 at the Hilton Westchester in Rye Brook, New York. Details will be released at in late-October, so keep an eye out! Hotel rooms are now available, so be sure to call (914) 939-6300 to book yours!


Chicago FEST Starts Tomorrow – Friday, Aug 9th

Here it is, early Thursday morning, and the set up is well under way. Today guests begin to arrive and everything goes into high gear. We have three days (tomorrow through Sunday) of Beatles excitement, energy, fun, premieres, live music, concerts, and all the other things that have made The Chicago FEST so popular for the past 37 years. So come one and come all, if you love The Beatles, this is the place to be. Advance tickets still available online through today. Individual day tickets will be available at the door. Go to our web page for all details. We hope you can join us.


First Advance Ticket Deadline is this Friday, July 26th

Only 16 days till Chicago FEST time!. Fans care coming for over 30 states and Canada for our big 37th Annual Beatles Celebration, the weekend of August 9-11, at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare. Check out all the details on our convention page. We have a super lineup of Special Guests – British Invasion artists Chad and Jeremy, Billy J. Kramer, Joey Molland (of Badfinger), Greg Kihn, Mark Hudson, Author Larry Kane and the return of Freda Kelly, who returns to have the public debut of her film . This is a film Beatles fans won’t want to miss. It is going to be shown on Saturday, August 10th at around 5PM. Hope to see you there.


All Guests and Details for Chicago FEST Aug 9-11 are Announced!

We are very thrilled to announce our line up of Special Guests for our 37th Annual Chicago FEST FOR BEATLES FANS 2013, the weekend of AUGUST 9-11, 2013 at the HYATT REGENCY O’HARE. British Rock Duo CHAD AND JEREMY are joining us for the first time. We welcome back BILLY J. KRAMER and JOEY MOLLAND (Badfinger)  who both have new CDs out. On the Saturday, (8/10) we will have the Public Debut of Good Ol’ Freda – the amazing story of FREDA KELLY, who was The Beatles National Fan Club Secretary and so much more from 1962-1972.  Click Here to read all the other guests, authors, and activities taking place at our upcoming FEST. TICKETS are now on sale.