Freda Kelly was a 17 year-old typist in Liverpool when she was asked to work for a band that would become legends: The Beatles. For eleven years, Kelly was a loyal friend and secretary to the group. For more than fifty years, Kelly stayed mum about her experiences, but a new documentary “Good Ol’ Freda,” spotlights her story and her time with The Beatles.
Ryan White, the director of Good Ol’ Freda, discusses the film with Host Frank Stasio. White says there wasn’t a model for Kelly’s role at the time. “There was no predecessor to Beatle-Mania. They were four ordinary boys to her and Brian Epstein at the time…so no one really saw what was coming.”
In addition to serving as secretary for the band, Freda started the first Beatles fan club. “She began by putting her home address as the official fan club address,” White says. “So as the Beatles started to break in ‘62 and ’63 her own home started getting flooded with fan mail to the point that the postal van were rolling up every morning and pulling out baskets and baskets of fan mail…Then they had to officially move the fan club.”
In the era before the internet, Kelly had to run a hands-on operation. “She used to follow the Beatles to the barber and sweep up their hair and send out individual strands of hair to girls…or when she was at their homes she would steal and cut up pieces of their shirts and send them out to girls,” White tells Host Frank Stasio. “Because Freda was a fan herself first and foremost, she went through extremely great lengths to keep these fans happy and it’s probably a snap shot in time to an era that doesn’t get any more, the handheld attention that Beatles fans got.”
Freda Kelly wanted to give fans what they wanted, but there was also a deep loyalty to The Beatles and their desire for privacy. In one of her entries in the Beatles Fan Magazine and in the film, Kelly expressed her dismay with fans she considered too nosy.
“Dear Beatle People,
Quite a lot of letters sent in discussed John, Cynthia, and Yoko Ono. At least as many members have written about Paul and Jane. Everyone has dozens of questions to ask and many of you have only been too ready to put forward your opinions.
Here at the fan club we believe that The Beatles deserve their separate and individual private lives, which should remain their business and no other people. I’m sure both John and Paul will work out their problems in their own ways. And I think they should be able to do so without the help or hindrance from millions of Beatle people.
Tarrah for now,
Though she was privy to their most intimate world, Kelly opted not to seek fame and fortune from her connection to the rock icons, even after her employment concluded. But the new film, Good Ol’ Freda, offers never-before-heard stories about The Fab Four, while still keeping much to the imagination.
The film will screen this Saturday, November 2nd at the Center for Documentary Studies at 6 p.m. as part of the Duke Entertainment Media and the Arts Network weekend. Good Ol’ Freda is also screening in Asheville, and starting November 9th in Davidson. For more information on screenings, click here.