The Beatles in Winnipeg 1964

The Beatles never performed in Winnipeg but they did spend 35 minutes – about the length of their concerts at the time – on the tarmac at Winnipeg International Airport. It was Tuesday, August 18, 1964. Their plane needed refueling on its way from London to San Francisco where The Beatles started their 1964 North American tour the next evening. They played 25 cities in 31 days, Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal their only Canadian dates.

Linda talked about hearing The Beatles were coming on the radio, called some friends to try to arrange a ride but, alas, the Fabs were long gone before she got to the airport.

The Beatles Winnipeg stopover gave a young guitarist named Bruce Decker the chance of a lifetime. Fit and fast, Decker took off across the runway, ran up the stairs and almost into the plane before being nabbed by security. This is the story in pictures, taken by Free Press staff photographer Dave Bonner, of Bruce Decker’s dash to fame as the young man tried to board the Beatles’ plane for a look at his idols.

Here`s how the Winnipeg Free Press reported Decker`s Dash:

Although he didn’t realize it at the time, his adventurous attempt was to earn him not only chuckles from the Beatles but also rapturous admiration from several Beatle fans.

“The whole thing was fantastic,” the 17-year-old Silver Heights School Grade 12 student said in an interview afterward.

“A group of us heard about the Beatles arriving while we were in a car preparing to drive to the beach. This was about 1:45 p.m. We decided to head for the airport and by the time we got there, the Beatles had already gone into the plane. In any event, we couldn’t see anything from the observation platform, so we sneaked down to the ramp and mixed with all the people down there. There was a group of girls standing near me and they were saying how they’d like to storm the stairs of the plane. Suddenly I decided I’d try to make it. I thought if I got a foot in the door, I’d be able to see them and that they’d speak to me.”

He said he looked up and saw the door open with no one standing on the steps. He decided to risk it and dashed off like a young gazelle across the 25 yards of apron to the stairs. Just before Bruce darted off photographer Bonner, for some uncanny reason, decided to take a shot of the group of young people standing on the apron. As Bruce started his run, Dave just followed through, clicking off his camera for this quick-action series. As Bruce bounded up the steps, Pan American’s local airport manager came out the door and grabbed the youth. Within seconds, three Royal Canadian Mounted Police men had dashed up the stairs, too, and put the long hand on the youth. He was carried across the apron amid rousing shouts of encouragement from the mob of teen-agers at the airport. Then he was taken to the RCMP office in the terminal and cautioned.

“Just as they were wrestling with me, I caught a glimpse of the Beatles through the door and they were all chuckling,” said Bruce. “I just did it for a bit of fun and didn’t realize there was anything serious attached to it. But, although I’m a Beatle fan, I was amazed at what happened afterward. For a joke, my friends started to collect ‘bail’ money for me and raised 29 cents so quickly they thought they’d better quit. Then, after the police had let me go, a girl recognized me and begged me to let her take my photo. Then another two girls saw me and pushed me into a corner. Tears were streaming down their faces as they asked me: ‘What do they look like? Did they say anything? How does Ringo look?’ ”

Bruce says he moved away from there and went into the coffee shop for a cup of coffee. “Another girl saw me and said, ‘That’s the boy who dashed for the plane.’ Then she put $1 down on the counter and told the waitress to give me anything I wanted to drink. I was completely stunned by all this,” said Bruce. “I mean, I like the Beatles but this is too much. The girls thought there was some kind of magic about me just because I’d got so close to the singers. Oh, well, it was a lot of fun while it lasted, but I just hope I didn’t cause the police too much trouble.”

       Bruce played with Burton Cummings in the Deverons and, for a short stint in 1966 after Chad Allen left, rhythm guitar with the Guess Who. In this Guess Who picture, Bruce is on the right. He also played in the Electric Jug and Blues Band. Bruce died in 1986. Watch The Beatles perform the next day in San Francisco.

3 Comments

Filed under Music, Winnipeg

3 responses to “The Beatles in Winnipeg 1964

  1. Glen Pinchin

    Enjoyed your entry. I was between Gr 11 and 12 at St.James Collegiate when the Beatles made their famous stop. I heard about their stop and, not having a car, jumped on my bike and rode as hard and fast as I could to the airport. I was too late to see the Beatles outside but just seeing a plane that held the Fab Four was amazing in itself. I also missed (or maybe just don’t recall) Decker’s dash but I was in Cubs with Bruce Decker. He was a nice guy. Chad Allen and The Reflections, later the Expressions and finally The Guess Who, were probably the top band in Winnipeg at the time but I recall liking the Deverons every bit as much, probably because of the amazing talent of Burton Cummings. I remember them playing at a dance in St. James once and Cummings was extremely active on stage, as he often was. At one point he actually went to the floor but still kept playing the piano…from the floor…without so much as a missed beat. Anyway, thanks again for the nostalgia trip. Glen

  2. Erin

    The RCMP officer without the hat is my Grandpa!

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