1980: Hoosiers react to the death of John Lennon

Posted at 5:30 AM, Dec 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-03 05:30:35-05

INDIANAPOLIS — The assassination of John Lennon on Dec. 8, 1980, shocked and saddened the world. Hoosiers were quick to react. Many turned to Lennon’s music to cope with the sudden loss.

Indianapolis radio station WIBC was flooded with requests. Station staff began producing an hour-long show scheduled to air the evening after Lennon’s death.

One WIBC employee told former WRTV reporter and anchor Clyde Lee that he believed John Lennon stood out.

“John was the revolutionary,” Mike Hedges said. “He stepped way out in front of the public and said, ‘The war is over,’ drew attention to the fact that there was a war in 1967. He talked about give peace a chance. Nobody was talking about war. It was very unpopular in 1967.”

Fans also rushed to purchase Lennon’s latest album, "Double Fantasy."

“The first three minutes I was open, I had a line outside the door and I probably sold 15 or 20 copies of the album,” a Karma Records employee said.

Record distributor Father and Sons was also slammed with requests.

“Within the first half an hour of our ordering department being open this morning, we had orders for about 20,000 pieces,” David Crockett said. “Of course we couldn’t fill them.”

In fact, Father and Sons had just 150 copies of Lennon’s work when it opened the morning after his death.

“I assume it has an impact on people's lives and they decide that some way to express their problems or their feelings about this is to go and buy the records,” Crockett said.

Beatles fans also recalled the band’s 1964 shows at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. The band performed two sellout shows on Sept. 3, 1964.

More than 12,000 fans attended the first concert in the coliseum. Another 17,000 fans attended the second show held in the grandstand.

Ticket prices ranged from $3 to $5 dollars with scalpers demanding up to $35 each.

The entertainment director of the fairgrounds shared his memories of Lennon with former WRTV reporter Marilyn Mitzel.

“Well certainly we had a lot of time to chat, but as I recall, Lennon was the one who didn’t want to chat very much,” Robert Wheaton said. “He wanted to keep to himself. I thought he was a fine guy.”

Other fans reacted in disbelief.

“I couldn’t believe it at first. A part of my lifestyle and living is gone. It’s just real sad.”

“It affected me much more than I thought it would. It was a very sobering kind of experience. I think it’s a real tragedy. I think that he will be recognized as a major changer of music for our time and many years to come.”