In early August 1966, while in Chicago for what would be their final tour as a band, the Beatles paid a surprise visit to Settlers Park in Rockton, IL to enter the 1966 US Kubb Open. Though registration was already closed, Kubb United founder and event director Jim Fitzgerald quickly made room for the boys in the bracket. Pictured above warming up shortly after their arrival, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and George Harrison look on while blaster John Lennon (not pictured) takes some 4 meter practice throws.
Word of the Fab Four’s presence in town quickly spread and it wasn’t long before the fans overwhelmed the park and Winnebago County Sheriffs Deputies had to be called in to keep order at the tourney. Once the crowds were under control the boys were able to focus on their game and performed admirably. The team’s run ultimately came to an end when they lost to a multi-generational family team, who’s 10-year-old star David Ellringer dashed his heroes’ hopes by throwing an astonishing seven neighbors over the course of two games and knocking the Brits out in the round of sixteen.
While it was certainly a thrill for the people of Rockton and Beloit to rub shoulders with the international superstars, the feeling turned out to be mutual. In a post tournament interview, George told Kubbnation Magazine that the band had played kubb extensively during their time living in Hamburg, Germany but due to a demanding tour and recording schedule hadn’t had the time to play much since then. “We’ve always wanted to play in a big American tournament,” said Harrison in his signature Liverpudlian Scouse, “and to be able to play here at the US Kubb Open is really a dream come true.”
The following week, Tiger Beat magazine ran a piece on the heartthrobs’ visit to the tournament and the resulting exposure of legions of young Beatles fans to the sport sparked a huge – though short-lived – interest in kubb across the country. It is rumored that the track “Sun King,” released a few years later on their Abby Road LP was inspired by the yellow kings that were used at that 1966 US Kubb Open and the positive energy they experienced at the tourney.