“That was George Harrison’s sister on the phone” So said the travel agent we were sitting in front of. Right! And I’m Paul McCartney’s brother, I thought. A few moments later we were on our way to Benton, Illinois, a small town in the southeastern part of the state. We wanted to see and stay in a little bit of history, The Hard Day’s Nite Bed and Breakfast.
As the travel agent told the story of George Harrison’s visit to Illinois in 1963, I pulled the same details from my brain’s deep memory.
Yes, it seems that in 1963, George Harrison took a little time to visit his older sister, Louise, in the little town where she had settled far from England, with her husband.
Harrison had a degree of fame in Europe, but in the United States it would be one year before the British Invasion begins in earnest and changed George’s fate –and a little house in Benton– forever.
We arrived in Benton the day after a storm. A large maple tree had crashed across the street just in front of the Bed and Breakfast. Another travel agent in Benton had given us directions to the B&B, and said that the managers of the Hard Day’s Night would be there to greet us.
He was. Cornelius was standing in the middle of the street and smiled as we pulled up. He was an older man, in his seventies at least.
He explained that in Illinois managers and owners of B&Bs do not have to live on the property.
A few moments later we were sitting across the street from the B&B we came to see, and were sipping a beer with Cornelius and his wife.
We exchanged glances: Was Cornelius’ wife really Louise Harrison? She had a little different accent than the relaxed drawl found in southern illinois parts.
Several beers later we were touring the Hard Day’s Nite Bed and Breakfast.
The living-room is the Beatles Mini Museum that was so advertised in the brochures we picked up in town. It had personal items of George and the other Fab Four, plus some posters and advertising and collected 45’s of early hits. The furnishing in the little museum was from the 1960s, and probably looked like it did when George might have sat with his leg propped up over the arm of the stuffed chair back then.
A little gift area shop has some vintage nostalgia t-shirts for sale, a book about George Harrison before he was known world wide as, well, just George. There is an entire video about George’s visit to Benton, and, of course gift certificates for a stay at A Hard Day’s Nite Bed and Breakfast.
The real deal here is that you can sleep with John, Paul, George or Ringo! Well, in their namesake rooms anyway. And the rates are reasonable, only $80 US per night.
Cornelius told us during the tour that sometimes a party will rent the entire B&B for a few nights, play Beatle music, and take a Magical Mystery Tour of sorts.
My last question to Cornelius got no answer. I wanted to know if Pete Best, the most unlucky drummer in history, who was replaced by Ringo Starr, had a closet at least.
While walking us back across the street to his house, Cornelius mentioned that, in addition to this little attraction here, we could see the old jail museum in Benton where the last hanging in Illinois took place.
We still weren’t sure. Was that Louise Harrison? No. Her accent didn’t seem British, but after all these years in Illinois?
We couldn’t stay at this little piece of Beatle History on the Prairie because of a last minute business appointment back upstate, but we will get back on that Long and Winding Road someday and enjoy some Golden Slumber in a charming little town that hosted an unknown George Harrison, just another lad from Liverpool at the time.
When You Go FAQs
Distance: from: Chicago about 4 hours; St. Louis about 1.5 hours; Indianapolis about 2 hours.
Hard Day’s Nite Web Site