50 Years Ago: ‘Beatles Bonfire’ Radio Station Struck by Lightning
Just as some may have predicted, a bolt from the heavens struck after John Lennon said the Beatles were bigger than Jesus — but instead of hitting Lennon, it ended up silencing one of the band's loudest detractors.
The Beatles, and Lennon in particular, found themselves embroiled in a ginned-up controversy during the summer of 1966, after a U.S. teen magazine republished an interview in which he infamously quipped that the band had become "more popular than Jesus." Among the blowback were a number of protests staged at a handful of radio stations, including KLUE in Longview, Texas.
The station was one of several to host a "Beatles bonfire," and on Aug. 13, 1966, it invited listeners to come by and burn "their records and other symbols of the group's popularity" at a gathering. According to the Beatles Bible, the Grand Dragon of the South Carolina Ku Klux Klan was on hand for the event, where he reportedly made a wooden cross to which he nailed and burned one of the group's LPs.
The incident brought in plenty of PR for the station, but they weren't able to capitalize on their newfound notoriety for long. The following day, KLUE's transmission tower was struck by lightning, hit by a bolt powerful enough to not only wreck their equipment, but actually knock out the news director.
The station is said to have stayed dark "for some time" after being struck. KLUE eventually returned to the airwaves, remaining part of the Longview-area dial until 1984. As of this writing, the call letters are owned by a Top 40 station out of Missouri.
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