Friday, September 12, 2014

Jude Kessler Featured Author at Beatles At The Ridge

The fine folks in Walnut Ridge, Arkansas have once again organized a dazzling line up for the Beatles at the Ridge Festival next weekend (Sept. 19-20) & it's FREE; operating solely on donations & volunteers.

George Harrison preparing to
board plane in Walnut Ridge-1964

Fifty years ago, The Beatles landed at the Walnut Ridge airport & it caused quite a stir in this little town. An outstanding celebration has been planned for attendees & I highly suggest that you plan the weekend there! Liverpool Legends, the tribute band formed by Louise Harrison (George's sister,) will be performing (did I mention this is
F R E E ?)
Several noted authors will be speaking:  Jude Southerland Kessler, Chuck Gunderson, Kit O'Toole, Anthony Robustelli and myself. There are exquisite artists as well:  Enoch Doyle Jeter, Rande Kessler & Ken Orth.
Read more about the schedule of author/artist events here:
Carrie Mae Snapp

Check festival website for all info:

Last year I interviewed fest organizer, Charles Snapp & his sister Carrie Mae (who touched George!)
You can read more about Beatles at the Ridge at my blogpost, published a year ago & it includes the link to Carrie Mae & Charles Snapp's radio interview:

Beatles Park in Walnut Ridge
AMAZING Sculpture by Danny West
Making her second appearance at the festival is Jude Southerland Kessler, author of The John Lennon Series. On Friday evening at 7:00 pm, Jude will lead the audience through the "eye of the hurricane," the mad days of Beatlemania leading up to the August & September 1964 tour.  It will be an exciting program not to be missed! Chuck Gunderson will also be presenting on Friday evening & he'll take the audience to each concert venue up until the day they landed in Walnut Ridge. You definitely don't want to miss it!

Jude will be a guest on my radio show this TUESDAY (9/16/14) at 3:00 p.m. CST - tune in live & call Jude with your questions!  If you can't listen live, you can always hear the archived show at the same link:

Jude Kessler has become a great friend & we enjoy our passion for writing & sharing our work with readers. I do not know anyone who works as tirelessly as Jude. This dynamo packs more into a day than most can do in a month & I'm not joking. I wanted to ask her a few questions so that you can get to know her better. Of course, I highly recommend the books in her John Lennon Series. The books have been a source of enjoyment for me & my family. I think what I love most about her books is she has the power to take you through John's life as if you were riding along in his pocket. It's magical. Enjoy this interview & please check out her incredible work!

Lanea:  Jude, why have you dedicated the past 30 years to telling John Lennon's story?

Jude:   Ah...the hardest question ever! But the most important one...Well, the answer has many facets.
a) It's all about John.
John (under his mother, Julia's, influence) dreamed up the idea of a band, and it was he who formed the Quarrymen that evolved into The Beatles. So to tell John's story is to tell the entire story of The Beatles. It's his band! He was the first member and for many years, the guiding force in the group. When you tell the story from John's perspective, you get the complete history...from Moment One to Moment End.
b) It's all about my favorite Beatle.
I've been a rabid Lennon fan since I was nine years old, and through the years, nothing about that has changed. BUT I work very hard to tell his story give all the facts, even when they aren't pretty. Many people have complained to me that John is, at times, a jerk in the books. Well, the man who served as Head Boy for John's school, Quarry Bank described John as "a salt...and not salt of the earth, but salt in an open wound." That's the evaluation of someone who knew him quite well.I tell John's story like it was and portray John 100 per cent accurately. But that doesn't dismiss the fact that I'm still a fan.
c) It's all about children.
For the last 35 years or so, my husband and I have always had one child or another living with us who (for one reason or another) was either neglected, abused, or in a complicated relationship with his or her parents. John is the child who has lived with us the longest. His childhood and teen years weren't easy, and so many people who Shoulda Been There (the name of Vol. 1 in The John Lennon Series) for John, weren't. I think THAT aspect of his history is important to tell. In his songs, John tells us over and over again that his heart is broken...that he has never had love...that it's NOT loving in which he is most experienced.
That little boy and what happened to him as a result of his childhood deserves our attention. Even if you are not a Beatles' fan, the narrative of "the little child inside the man" will speak to your heart. John's biography is the biography of every child who needs and deserves to be loved.

Lanea:  Who has been the most interesting "character" in the life of John Lennon that you have met/interviewed?

Jude:   The most interesting character (without a doubt) is Bill Harry. Bill is really the unsung hero of The Beatles Story. Without Bill, so many key elements of the story would never have come together.
a) Bill introduced John to his soul mate, Stu Sutcliffe. Had John not met Stu in the wake of Julia's death, John might have drunk himself to death. He was on a path to self-destruction when Stu intervened and pulled John out of a dark and lonely place. Stu inspired John to focus on his college studies. Stu joined The Quarrymen (later Beatles) to make John happy and sacrificed his own wishes for John's. He listened to John and cared about him during a deep, deep depression. Without Bill's connecting these two, history would have been altered.
Stu, by the way, introduced John to the concept of a band as an artistic expression...he saw John's rock'n'roll as John's artistic medium, and he instilled in John the idea that the look of the band, the presentation of the band, and the work of the band was singular...expressive of one's soul. That made The Beatles so very different from ANY other band of that era. They saw themselves as artists.
Without Bill's bringing Stu and John together, The Beatles would have been just a great group of rockers.
b) Bill encouraged John's writing and published it in his MersyBeat publication. He valued John as a writer and promoted that side of him. Later, that blossoms into John's two books: In His Own Write and A Spaniard in the Works. Bill knew the deeper and more intellectual John and brought that out.
c) Bill listened to John and was his friend during the days of Beatlemania. In 1961-1963 (the era portrayed in Shivering Inside, Vol. 2 in The John Lennon Series), John was overwhelmed by the almost unbearable stress of the press, the crowds, and the daily work routine The Beatles endured as they rose to fame. Never able to rest or to have privacy, John sought consolation by meeting Bill and his wife Virginia late at night at The Blue Angel in Liverpool (when The Beatles were close enough to Liverpool to warrant that). Bill, Virginia, and John talked into the wee hours, and often John poured out his heart about the pressures he was facing. Without Bill as a "safety valve" during that time frame, I don't know how John would have survived.
d) Finally, contrary to popular myth and legend, Bill directed Brian Epstein to The Beatles. Of course, John was well aware of who Brian was because The Beatles went into NEMS looking for records (well, playing records and listening to them for FREE) constantly. But the legend is that Brian had no idea who The Beatles were until Raymond Jones walked into NEMS and requested "My Bonnie."
It's not that simple. Bill has pointed out (quite correctly) that he printed Brian's column and John's poems on the exact same page of MerseyBeat! So it would have been impossible for Brian not to have read John's work. He has also said for years that he had had several conversations with Brian about The Beatles. In late October of 1961, Brian even shared a sherry with Bill, asking Bill what he thought about Brian's going to the Cavern and offering management to the boys. No one has ever given Bill Harry the credit he deserves for sending Brian to see The Beatles on stage. Not even Brian himself.
On top of that, Bill Harry is a rare breed in this world. He is a kind, caring gentleman who knows his Beatles. He is a complete scholar and a respected author in The Beatles World. I give him the nod as my most interesting character...and a great man.

Lanea:  What is the most rewarding element of writing & publishing your books?

Jude:   The single most rewarding part of writing The John Lennon Series for the last 30 years has been getting letters and emails from my readers saying that the books touched their lives in some way. Just knowing that somehow my work helped someone is the real reward. And I think John would like to know that his life continues to help others and to make a difference.
Prime example? A couple of years ago, I got a hand-written letter from a reader in Japan. He was writing me not long after the devastating earthquake that they had experienced. He said, "Every night, over 30 of us gather to listen as I read Shoulda Been There aloud. It takes us away from the tragedy of our world and transports us back to a happier day and time. You are getting us through this night at a time... by candlelight."
So many people have written to say that the books were read to sick parents in hospitals...and many teenagers have emailed me to say, "In your book, I finally met someone just like me."
That makes the years and years of research all worth it. And with inspiration like that, I go on!

My website is
You can read sample chapters for each of the three books there. I would be honored to have you join me on this long journey with John through his life story, told as an historical narrative.

My Music Nugget of the Day:

My daughter introduced me to this song over a year ago & it dawned on me today that I hear a lot of Beatles influence in it... 
I hear John's life in the lyrics, George in ukulele, Ringo in the humor (in the video - see if you catch it ;) and Paul in the hook...

"Riptide" by Vance Joy

Peace & Rock & Roll,
Lanea Stagg
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