Man Who Declared Paul As “Dead” Was Kidding, Guys
by Alisha Jackson
September 10, 2015
(Photo by George Stroud/Express/Getty Images)
Did you know that Fred LaBour was actually making fun of the “Paul is dead” theory when he perpetuated the Beatles rumor back in 1969? Clearly, many people didn’t pick up on the fact that his review for Abbey Road was actually a satirical parody review, as people still question him about his belief in Paul McCartney being dead to this day.
Today he clarified, again, that he was kidding. LaBour sat down with The Detroit News to talk about his upcoming performance this weekend, where he will be debuting a song he wrote about Sir Paul. Even though he was joking, forty six years later, his “Paul is dead”-themed review is still a huge part of his life. And ours.
“I’m a footnote of a footnote of a footnote in Fab Four history,” LaBour told TDN. In October of 1969, he was driving in his car when he heard WKNR-FM’s Russ Gibb taking calls from listeners about McCartney’s rumored demise. The countless, preposterous clues (as LaBour calls them) that the listeners were calling in with were getting on his nerves, so what did he do? He unintentionally perpetuated the rumor with his over-the-top, satirical parody review of Abbey Road.
Under the review’s headline, LaBour wrote, “McCartney dead; new evidence brought to life”. From there, he listed countless clues, such as the badge on McCartney’s shoulder on the album cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which he said read “OPD” for “officially pronounced dead”.
While it’s hard to tell in this photo of the album cover, the patch actually read “OPP”. LaBour also touched upon the word “walrus”, saying that it was Greek for “corpse”. FYI, it isn’t.
In an attempt to make fun of the “Paul is dead” theory, LaBour ended up contributing to it greatly. So much so, that people still ask him about it to this day. LaBour told TDN that a man recently called his Nashivlle home from Minnesota, asking “have you seen this new evidence? Italian scientists figured out it’s not McCartney’s voice.”
LaBour somewhat-kindly responded with, “I wrote that story to make fun of people like you.”
After a brief pause, the man on the other line replied with the perfect response. “So you don’t believe it?”
Paul McCartney still isn’t dead. Neither is the story
Neal Rubin, The Detroit News
September 10, 2015
It’s been 46 years since Fred LaBour proclaimed that Paul McCartney was dead and became moderately famous by offering some personally fabricated facts to prove it.
Not only does McCartney remain very much alive, he’s coming to Detroit to sing.
So is LaBour — and he’ll get here sooner. He’ll be at the Ark in Ann Arbor at 7:30 p.m. Sunday with Riders in the Sky, harmonizing on songs of the Old West and wondering how the heck a bit of college frivolity could still be taken as gospel.
LaBour in 1969 was a UM student who unintentionally sparked rumors that Paul McCartney was dead.
(Photo: Riders in the Sky)
Even for people who lived through McCartney’s supposed demise, it’s unclear why people were so eager to believe the story. Of course, it’s also unclear why people today believe that government troops are taking over Wal-Marts in Texas, so maybe the answer is that gullibility is timeless.
As for LaBour, 67, “I’m a footnote of a footnote of a footnote in Fab Four history,” he says ... which is more than most of us can claim.
Back in 1969, LaBour was an associate editor at the University of Michigan Daily.
Driving to Jackson one mid-October afternoon, he tuned into WKNR-FM and heard disc jockey Russ Gibb taking calls from listeners about McCartney’s rumored demise.
The clues were both numerous and, to LaBour, preposterous. So in the context of a review of the Beatles’ “Abbey Road,” he wrote a long story spread across two pages beneath the headline, “McCartney dead; new evidence brought to life.”
The badge on McCartney’s shoulder on the cover of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” LaBour wrote, reads “OPD,” for “officially pronounced dead” — the alleged British version of DOA.
The word “walrus,” he noted, used in a Beatles song title and lyric, is Greek for “corpse.”
Never mind that the badge really reads OPP, that “walrus” isn’t Greek for anything, that most of the story is even less credible, and that the first paragraph inelegantly declared McCartney to be “deader than a doornail.”
The multitudes were determined to believe, so that’s what they did. Newspapers began repeating LaBour’s alleged facts, and then so did newscasts and national magazines.
Table of Contents from the 1969 Paul is Dead magazine
Because anything worth forgetting can be found on the Internet, websites still trumpet them. LaBour just shrugs and plucks his double bass.
A joke takes hold
LaBour grew up in Grand Rapids thinking, “I don’t know what’s for me in the world, but I know it’s not here.”
He went on to major in wildlife management at U-M, where among the things he learned is that he didn’t want to work in wildlife management.
Having played in rock and country bands, he decided to pursue music and moved to Nashville. A devoted Detroit Tigers fan, he spotted his next-door neighbor one day wearing a cap with the Olde English D.
“Do you know who No. 6 was?” LaBour asked.
“Al Kaline,” said Cranbrook and U-M alumnus Douglas Green, and music history was spawned. The real kind.
Across 38 years, two Grammys and 14 used RVs, Fred (Too Slim) LaBour, guitarist Douglas (Ranger Doug) Green, fiddler Paul (Woody Paul) Chrisman and accordionist Joey (The Cowpolka King) Miskulin have helped preserve classic western music, made decent livings and enjoyed themselves thoroughly.
Riders in the Sky offers dependably cheery banter, tight harmonies and genuine devotion to its genre. The group’s latest album is a loving tribute called “Riders in the Sky Salute Roy Rogers: King of the Cowboys.”
Rogers, unlike McCartney, is dead.
New song...about McCartney
Not long ago, LaBour says, a man from Minnesota called his house on 30 wooded acres outside Nashville.
“Have you seen this new evidence?” the man asked. “Italian scientists figured out it’s not McCartney’s voice.”
As kindly as he could, LaBour told him, “I wrote that story to make fun of people like you.”
There was a pause.
“So you don’t believe it?”
Um, no. But if it’s any consolation, LaBour will debut a song Sunday night about McCartney, who plays Joe Louis Arena on Oct. 21.
The theme, he says, is to always be careful about what you write — because you never know when someone will take it seriously.