Delta State University President William N. LaForge has made it no secret that he qualifies as a fan of the legendary band The Beatles.
“They’ve been a big influence in my life,” said LaForge. “In fact, ‘In My Life’ was a song played at my inauguration. The tribute band, 1964: The Tribute, was also at my inauguration. The Beatles had a big influence on those of us who grew up in the ‘60s. They have the best music on the planet, and there will never be another group like them.”
LaForge, who’s been known to play his guitar with Delta Music Institute students and faculty, credits The Beatles as his major musical influence.
“I remember being 14 in the summer of 1964 when they first came to the United States,” he said. “Everything on the radio was The Beatles. Since then, I’ve listened to them, and I love playing their music. They were a window into music for me. I’ve learned a lot of music, and a lot about music, through their songs.”
And his love for The Beatles was on full display this weekend — literally — as GRAMMY Museum® Mississippi opened its doors on Delta State’s campus March 5.
Just the second GRAMMY Museum in the world, the new facility honors Mississippi for being the birthplace of American music. Fittingly, The Beatles were a major part of the opening with an entire exhibit, “Ladies and Gentlemen…The Beatles!,” which celebrates the Fab Four landing in America and changing pop culture forever.
Stop by the museum, and one of the first things to catch your eye is a case full of LaForge’s unique items. LaForge, being the major Beatles fan that his is, has a large memorabilia collection.
“I offered a few things for the display to be supportive of GRAMMY Museum Mississippi’s opening and The Beatles exhibit,” he said. “One thing lead to another, and Emily Jones, our university archivist, helped assemble it. She found a showcase for everything and put it all together in great style.”
According to LaForge, the signature piece of the display is the ticket stub he saved after attending the band’s final paid live concert on Aug. 29, 1966 at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, California. The only other saved ticket LaForge has seen from this show is at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio.
Other items in the showcase include Beatles bobbleheads, records, vinyl 45s, DVDs, a complete library of sheet music, pictures, chord books and many other collectibles.
“Really, I’m just an amateur collector, nowhere near the level of the guys who put together ‘Ladies and Gentlemen…The Beatles! I’m happy to share the collection I have as long as the museum wants,” said LaForge.
Just days after the grand opening, LaForge said both the campus and community remain in awe of GRAMMY Museum Mississippi.
“It’s incredible that we have a Grammy Museum here on this campus, and that we’re connected with it through our educational collaborations and partnerships,” he said. “The grand opening was a superb event and we look forward to endless opportunities.”
One such opportunity is the upcoming Beatles conference, “Beatles Symposium 2016: From the Cavern to Candlestick,” a two-day event being presented jointly by Delta State and the museum on April 1-2.
Other activities will explore The Beatles’ musical and cultural impact, including discussions with noted Beatles historians, live music, recipe classes and film screenings, including a special screening of “Good Ol’ Freda,” which documents Freda Kelly, former head of The Beatles Fan Club.
“Beatlemania” is certainly in the air at Delta State University and GRAMMY Museum Mississippi.
Visit http://www.grammymuseumms.org/programs/upcoming-programs/beatles-symposium-event-schedule to follow schedule updates as the conference date approaches.