INTERVIEW: For 'Good ol' Freda,' the Beatles were like her brothers
Steve Marinucci, Beatles Examiner
October 21, 2011
Freda Kelly had the job every Beatle fan in the world dreamed of. She ran the group's official fan club for 10 years. And she first came in contact with the Beatles like any other fan -- she saw them perform.
"I really got to know the Beatles through the Cavern Club, mostly going at lunchtime because I only worked around the corner within three, five minutes away," she told us in a phone interview. "I used to go there in my dinner hour. And I gradually got to know them and I found out they lived near me, so I got to know them through that."
Who else did she see at the Cavern in those days besides the Beatles? "Oh, I saw the Rolling Stones, I saw Eric Clapton when he was in the Yardbirds. I saw Little Stevie Wonder. I saw Bill Haley and the Comets. You name it. They played at the Cavern," she said.
Her contacts with the Beatles led to meeting the Beatles' manager Brian Epstein.
"I got to know Brian Epstein through going in the shop and also the Beatles connection. And thenwhen he was starting his fan club, he asked me would I come work for the company. He had one secretary at the time and then he needed another secretary," she said.
"I had a lot of respect for him. He was a hard boss, but he was a good boss," she says in describing about how it was to work for him.
While working as a secretary, an opening came up in the fan club. "Well, how I got into the fan club was that another girl, another Beatle fan had already started the fan club for them. Because I had secretarial skills, I helped her. Her name was Bobbie Brown. Then Bobbie wanted to give it up because she got engaged. She wanted to spend more time with her fiancee, so she eventually handed it over to me and I was doing that in the night while working for Brian in the day. This was before they had the first number one record.
"And then, of course, when 'Please Please Me' went to number one in the charts, everything just exploded. And other people then became involved iwth the fan club. Eventually, I took it over again and then worked full time more or less doing the fan club, I would say when the firm went to London," she said.
"I went to work for him in the day. I eventually took the fan club over and started doing that in the night. Then it grew and grew and grew (laughs). Then when I started planning to stay a year and I ended up staying 10 years."
Things got pretty hectic with the fan club.
"When the fan club got really large, I had a full-time staff. Also, anybody that came into the office helped, even if it was just opening envelopes or sticking addresses on envelopes. We got so stressed out. We couldn't speak the language or couldn't read (with) the Eastern bloc and everything. We just thought, 'Well, they'll be pleased with the photographs. We used to send just a photograph and a compliment slip. So I think there must be about 10,000 Beatles handout photographs somewhere in Romania or Czechslovakia."
Kelly stayed on with the fan club until 1972, then quit. "There were a number of reasons. The Beatles were no longer together as a group and they hadn't been for two years and it was quite difficult. And also, the timing was right. I was married and I had one son and I wanted another baby. Then I found out I was expecting my daughter."
Asked what differences she noticed in the band from the early days to 1972, she said, "They were still the same. Maybe it was because they didn't change to me. They did, you know, to the outside world, but deep down to me they didn't change."
With a job like this, you'd have thought by now she would have written a book. She hasn't, but has finally decided to tell her story in a film.
"I didn't want to do anything, really, in the beginning," she said. "And then, certain people have said, 'You should do this' and 'You should do that.' And you keep putting it off and keep going. 'Oh yeah, we'll do it one of these days.' When I was invited to do New Jersey (Fest for Beatles Fans in 2010), I was nervous, I really was. A lot of people helped me along the way. I was just overwhelmed by the reception I got. And then different people there said, 'You know, you should do something.' Then, I thought, 'You know, I wouldn't mind doing a little DVD. This is how is this film has come out of it."
A public campaign is now going on through Nov. 11 at Kickstarter.com. Anyone donating at least $25 to the effort, she says, is assured of getting a copy of the DVD. As of Wednesday, roughly 30 percent of the funds needed had been raised. Donors will be eligible for perks, including meet-and-greet sessions in August when she appears at the Chicago Fest for Beatles Fans.
"Hopefully, we'll succeed because I do think the Beatles fans will like it. It gives them a little bit of insight as what it was like for an ordinary Beatle fan to work for them and in the early days what they were like. Just the fun working with them. You mean at the time, you don't realize what you're involved in, but it was just excitement because I knew them before they were famous, for want of a better word, then stayed with them until 1972. It was seeing a little bit of the inside world of theirs."
She said memories of the Beatles are special. "The only way I can describe it, and I wasn't as close to this to them, is you know when a girl has four brothers, and you can't favor one? Well, I'd like to go down that road. I liked them all for various reasons. The main thing was the music and then their personality. Just everything about them."
The cover of the "Good Ol Freda" film.