Iowa has a couple of surprise connections to the history of Rock and Roll.

The plane crash that killed Buddy Holly and others was near Clear Lake, Iowa on February 3, 1959, AKA The Day the Music Died.

And a decade later, Iowa would be a part of the biggest Rock and Roll rumor in the world.

Hoaxes and rumors about famous people are nothing new. If you were around in the 1990's I'm sure you heard about Marilyn Manson and his alleged rib-removals.

One celebrity rumor that took over the world in the 1960s had its, sort of, beginnings at a college in Iowa.

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Paul is Dead - The Beatles Rumor from Iowa

Beatles 4 Ever
1966: Fans in New York waiting for the arrival of British pop group The Beatles. (Photo by Keystone Features/Getty Images)


MORE: FLASHBACK: Early Rock and Roll Icons Die in Iowa Plane Crash

For modern audiences who weren't there, the European rock band, The Beatles, were the Taylor Swift of the 1960's. Everything they did, said, or wore was the subject of endless talk, worldwide.

In the second half of the decade, as their fame grew to extraordinary levels, the band started to deal with rumors of the death of singer, songwriter, and guitarist Paul McCartney.

For awhile, the band tamped down the gossip about Paul's alleged kicking of the bucket. But, in September 1969 the student newspaper of Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa ran an article called "Is Beatle Paul McCartney Dead?"  

drake university des moneis
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Who would have thought that a small college in the middle of the United States would set off a worldwide Beatle panic?

The story didn't invent the idea that Paul was dead. The rumor had been circulating for a few years. By 1966 more and more people were spreading rumors about Paul McCartney's demise. Did he die in a car accident? Is he sick? Did he understand what "Revolution No. 9" was all about?

The 1969 story in the student newspaper just collected the rumors that were circulating around campus. To use a modern idea, that story then went 'viral.'

They talked about all the alleged clues in the Beatles' music and artwork. Because, as we all know, the best way to announce the death of someone is with obtuse lyrics hidden in album tracks.

The Beatles
British pop group the Beatles, (from left to right), John, George, Ringo and Paul, circa 1967. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)




The Paul is Dead Beatles Rumor Spreads Around the World

Radio DJs across the country talked about the story and took calls from curious fans that fall. 'Was Paul Dead?' 'Did you hear anything new?'

As September became October, the alleged death of a Beatle became the top topic of discussion on radio stations the world over.

It was late 1969 and the band was falling apart, and the fans could sense it. They had stopped touring, hid in the studio, and were trying to deal with being suddenly super rich and the most famous people in the world.

The band released their album Abby Road later in September of 1969, and then Paul and his young family took off for Scotland.

So, while the rumor grew and the world 'mourned' him, Paul was trying to have a nice vacation, which fueled the rumor's spread.

Management denied the story, but it had taken on a life of its own. And since Paul was basically off the grid in rural Scotland, it did seem like he had disappeared.

As the mystery toured the globe, journalists set out to find the truth. By late October the BBC did an interview with Paul. He said he understood the rumor since he'd taken some time off after being in the public eye regularly for years. But that wasn't enough for rumor-soaked public.

Debunking the Paul is Dead Beatles Rumor

Around the same time, a news crew filmed Paul on his farm. Then a reporter and photographer from Life magazine went to the farm for an interview.

Paul, annoyed by the intrusion into his private world, yelled at them to leave and threw a bucket of water at them. And of course, all that was caught on film.

@oobujoobu Paul McCartney tells his daughter Mary the story of the family photo that appeared on the November 7, 1969 cover of LIFE Magazine. #paulmccartney #lindamccartney #marymccartney #heathermccartney #lifemagazine #photographs #wingspan #oobujoobu ♬ Momma Miss America - Remastered 2011 - Paul McCartney

Paul's PR instincts kicked in. He chased down the reporters and offered an interview in exchange for destroying the angry Paul pictures.

They took the deal and the article and accompanying pictures, published in early November 1969, finally poured water on the rumor that was burning across the fandom.

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It wasn't all bad though. Because of the rumor the Beatles sold a ton more records. And other people made some money off the event with their own songs and writings.

Paul survived the ordeal and the subsequent break-up of the band over the next year. He went on to a long and successful solo career that included several appearances on Saturday Night Live.

Wilipedia contributed to this artical

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