On Friday July 29, 1966, the U.S. teen magazine ‘Datebook’ published the five month old interview with John Lennon by Maureen Cleave. On the front cover of the magazine under the title "The Ten Adults You Dig/Hate The Most" a small part of John Lennon’s quote was highlighted, “I don’t know which will go first – rock ‘n’ roll or Christianity.” The entire quote, "Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn't argue with that; I'm right and I will be proved right. We're more popular than Jesus now; I don't know which will go first - rock 'n' roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It's them twisting it that ruins it for me," drew little attention in Britain when it was originally published on March 4th in the London Evening Standard but in the U. S. the response was immediate and unfavorable. On Sunday July 31, a disc jockey in Birmingham, Alabama, in the Southern US Bible Belt, began a drive to ban the Beatles from the airways, publicly announcing their radio station would no longer play Beatles records, who they said ‘grew wealthy as the music idols of the younger generation’. Station Manager Tommy Charles and disc jockey Doug Layton of WAQY in Birmingham said they were banning the Beatles because, “We just felt it was so absurd and sacrilegious that something ought to be done to show them they cannot get away with this sort of thing.” Not only did the station ban Beatles’ records from the airwaves but they went further and urged a boycott of all Beatles products and schedule bonfire burnings of Beatles material. They asked their listeners to send in their Beatles records, pictures, souvenirs and Beatle-wigs for a huge “Beatle bonfire” set for August 19th the night the Beatles were scheduled to appear in Memphis, Tennessee. Within days dozens of disc jockeys in the South followed WAQY and banned the Beatles from the airwaves. Stations followed with ‘Beatle Boycott’, ‘Beatles Ban Wagon’ and ‘Beatles Burning’ campaigns. Radio stations reported hundreds of supportive calls from listeners protesting John’s remarks.
Popularity Of The Beatles. The Daily Times News, Burlington, NC, Friday, August 5, 1966. E. Z. Jones of WBBB and Jack Starnes of WBAG in Alabama were among the first to join the boycott. “No more Beatles”, the station managers said, and they had a high percentage of listeners, including many young people who agree with them.
Lennon’s slur on Christianity causes big ban on Beatles’ music. Syracuse Herald-Journal Thursday, August 4, 1966 (AP). Several radio stations scheduled bonfires for the burning of Beatle records and pictures. Donald Ballou, 35, general manager of WSLB, Ogdensburg N.Y., declared that the Beatles are “off my station.” WTUF in Mobile, Ala., denounced Lennon’s statement as “not only deplorable but an outright sacrilegious affront to Almighty God.” “Until John Lennon retracts his anti-Christ statement, KTEE will play no more Beatles records,” said Johnny Midnight at KTEE, Idaho Falls Idaho. Some stations appeared bent on giving the Beatles no quarter. “We don’t care if they come out with 10,000 apologies – we will not play the Beatles again,” said Russ Johnston, program director of DTEO in San Angelo TX.
‘More Popular Than Jesus’, Beatle Says. The Valley Independent, Thursday, August 4, 1966 (UPI) by Peter J. Shaw. In Lawton, Oklahoma, KSWO disc jockey B. J. Williams called for a “Beatle bonfire” within two weeks, and broke the Beatles latest record while on the air saying only 3 of 75 listeners who called opposed his stand, and Ron Kirby, program director of KSWO banned Beatles records from the station. Kirby said he received irate phone calls from Beatle backers with threats of “anything from kicking down the door of the station to killing me personally. I thought that the choice should be made between the popularity of the Christian religion and the popularity of the Beatles.”
Beatles records for city pulverizer. The Daily Gleaner, Birmingham, AL. Monday, August 8, 1966 (Reuters). Hundreds of Beatles records are to be pulverized in a giant municipal tree-grinding machine here because of what Beatle John Lennon said about Christ, a disc jockey revealed today. “After going through the ‘Beatle-grinder’ borrowed from Birmingham City Council, all that will be left of the records will be fine dust.” A box full of the dust will be presented to the British pop stars when they arrive in Memphis, Tennessee, not far from here, for a concert Aug. 19, said local disc jockey Rex Roach. “We intend to do the grinding in one of Birmingham’s public parks and expect hundreds of teenagers to be there,” he added. Angered by John Lennon’s reported remark that the Beatles are more popular than Jesus Christ, radio station officials set up 14 collection points in Birmingham and said they did brisk business as teenagers brought in records to be destroyed. Douglas Layton, assistant manager of a local radio station said there had been several “Beatleburns” incineration of Beatle books and discs. “Until John Lennon retracts his anti-Christ statement, KTEE will play no more Beatles records,” said Johnny Midnight at KTEE, Idaho Falls, Idaho.
Beatle Boss Explains Christianity Remarks. Oakland Tribune, Friday, August 5, 1966. WAKY in Louisville, Kentucky, provided 10 seconds of silent air time to its listeners every hour, asking them to pray, explaining that the 10 second silence replaced a Beatles record.
Stations WCMI in Ashland, Ky., WKOA in Hopkinsville, Ky, WONE in Dayton, Ohio, and BWNO in Bryan, Ohio, all hopped on the "Beatle ban wagon TODAY. WONE said the Mersey sound would be absent from its musical programming until Lennon retracts his remarks or apologizes.
Epstein, who cut short a European vacation, did not deny that Lennon made the statement but thought he had been "misinterpreted." He replied, "of course not," when asked if he believed The Beatles are more popular than Jesus.
Manager Rushes Here To Battle Beatles Ban. Friday, August 8, 1966. Music director Don Anderson of WTRU, Muskegon, Michigan, said if Lennon had been accurately quoted, the station would “ask that all Beatle records to be turned into the station for one of the biggest bonfires ever seen.”
Station KZEE in Weatherford, Texas, said it was banning the Beatles, “eternally.”
Carolina Radio Stations Banning Beatle Records. The Post-Standard, Syracuse, NY, Thursday, August 4, 1966. A number of North Carolina and South Carolina radio stations said Wednesday they were dropping Beatle records from their programs because of a remark attributed to a member of the mop-haired group. Dave Bell of WHCQ, Spartanburg, SC, said his station has played some Beatles music, “but not anymore.” Brian Matthews of WORG, Orangeburg, SC, said his station began a campaign Wednesday against Beatles music. He said the station had 144 calls and only one opposed the ban. A disc jockey, Faye Jackson of WCBC, Shallotte, NC, said, “I’ve decided to take the Beatles off.”
WYNA in Raleigh, North Carolina scheduled a Beatles bonfire today (Aug. 4) and asked persons to bring Beatle records, sweatshirts, pictures, magazines and anything else pertaining to the group.
Teen-agers busted Beatle records outside radio station WIST in Charlotte, North Carolina, and the station refused to play Beatle records.
In Ohio, WHIZ in Zanesville and WONE in Bryan hopped on the “Beatles Ban Wagon” saying “they’ll be no more Beatles records played until Lennon retracts his remarks or apologizes.”