The “official” PID story: Paul was killed in a car crash November 9, 1966 and was replaced by look-alike William Campbell. This rumor first began in October 1969, when clues allegedly planted by the Beatles themselves began to be uncovered. In October 1969, a Detroit disc jockey (WKNR FM), Russ Gibb, received a call from a listener (“Tom”) insisting McCartney was dead and suggesting he play the Beatles’ song ”Revolution Nine” backwards. Gibb did, and heard “turn me on dead man, turn me on dead man.”

Russ Gibb Interview:

I spoke with a reader from another state tonight who called me. His name is (Urban L:egend) Tom Z. Tom had some interesting things to say that relate to many of the stories I have written for this blog. We chatted about John Norman Collins, Eastern Michigan University circa 1968 and this documentary about the Paul is Dead Hoax from 1969... However this hoax started it was marketing/promotional genius.... The many "clues" hidden inside lyrics and album artwork sold millions of records...

Thanks to Tom I remembered this time and am writing about it. Tom was interviewed for this documentary and he emailed me a great audio clip from it for you to hear... Paul is Dead Hoax free listen and download:

"Paul is dead" is an urban legend suggesting that Paul McCartney of the English rock band The Beatles died in 1966 and was secretly replaced by a look-alike. In September 1969, American college students published articles claiming that clues to McCartney's death could be found among the lyrics and artwork of The Beatles' recordings.

Clue hunting proved infectious and within a few weeks had become an international phenomenon. Rumors declined after a contemporary interview with McCartney was published in Life magazine in November 1969. Popular culture continues to make occasional reference to the legend.

A rumor that Paul McCartney had been killed in a car crash circulated London after a January 1967 traffic accident involving his car. The rumor was acknowledged and rebutted in the February issue of The Beatles Book fanzine but it is not known whether the rumor of 1969 is related to it. In the autumn of 1969,

The Beatles were in the process of disbanding; McCartney's public engagements were few and he was spending time at his Scottish retreat with his new wife Linda in order to contemplate his forthcoming solo career.

On 17 September 1969, an article titled "Is Beatle Paul McCartney Dead?" was published in the student newspaper of Drake University in Iowa. The article described a rumour that had been circulating on campus that Paul was dead. At that point the rumour included numerous clues from recent Beatles albums, including the "turn me on, dead man" message heard when "Revolution 9" from the White Album is played backwards.

In wire reports published as early as 11 October, Beatles press officer Derek Taylor responded to the rumor saying "Recently we've been getting a flood of inquiries asking about reports that Paul is dead. We've been getting questions like that for years, of course, but in the past few weeks we've been getting them at the office and home night and day. I'm even getting telephone calls from disc jockeys and others in the United States."

From Tom Z:

Bob Musial, Oakland Press entertainment directer wrote an article about the McCartney's dead rumor in the 90's. Turns out he went to EMU at that time, himself.

And , ....he recounted the entire story of the clues....ending with the message that "Tom must be dead by now, too". He got replies from somebody who knew me there.....
That's when I found out that I was "urban legend...Tom" ...

Actually hearing my voice ....so many decades later....well…

The story was really not about me...but more about what everybody was doing back then....how much fun we all had with the music....,

And, that we all had time in life to stop and play records backwards.


Michael McDaniel said...

This is GREAT RK! I actually heard the Gibb broadcast so it brought back a lot of memories! Tnx!

Retro Kimmer said...

hey the guy that called freaked me out too! 1am.... but he sent me this stuff and it is a but freaky no?

Jim T. said...

I had read the CREEM feature in part and a followup article in TIME was mentioned, in relation to WKNR. Has anyone access to it? I think the whole thing is absurd, but I'm interested in establishing the radio chronology of it.

John Gnotek said...

Great reprise. Interesting interviews. Great recollection of the all the clues.

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