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Hallettsville man enjoys a lifetime of love, love me do

By Melissa Crowe
Feb. 8, 2014 at 9:02 p.m.
Updated Feb. 7, 2014 at 8:08 p.m.

Stephen Hunter has always been a fan of the Beatles. After growing up listening to them, he and his wife have passed down their love of the band to their children and grandchildren.

Advertised at $2.99 a piece, Stephen Hunter's mother couldn't resist adding Beatles' mop-top wigs to her boys' 1963 Easter baskets.

"We played with them all the rest of the day," Hunter, now 60, recalls.

From their wigs to 45s, albums and Thursday night dances - or rather, "hugfest squeeze-a-thons" - at the park, Hunter and his wife, Nancy, have used that music to mark the places they'll remember all their lives.

"It wasn't superficial," said Hunter, a retired Hallettsville Elementary School counselor. "I think it was beyond making money to them. They wanted to make music."

Hunter was the winner of the Advocate's Beatles essay contest. He receives two tickets to the VISD Education Foundation's Beatles tribute concert with 1964: The Tribute.

Half a century has passed since the Beatles - John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and George Harrison - touched down in New York on Feb. 7, 1964, and transformed the nation by way of three performances on "The Ed Sullivan Show."

Hunter, who is now the mayor pro-tem of Hallettsville, recalls sitting in front of the family TV set with his brothers, anxiously waiting for the program to begin Feb. 9, 1964.

That excitement is lost on younger generations, he said.

Nancy remembers the seventh-grade dances to "Hey Jude" and how her husband would sulk to "The Long and Winding Road" during their on-again, off-again teenage relationship.

Before long, rumors circling the band's albums spread rampant.

Hunter and his three brothers spent afternoons decoding album covers, looking for hidden clues to confirm whether McCartney was really dead and whether listening to the albums backward revealed secret messages.

Hunter was obsessed.

Even after the band made comments that they were bigger than God, he wasn't fazed.

"I took it with a grain of salt," he said. "It was more of an indictment of us and how we treat celebrities. We were treating them like supreme beings."

Although he never became a rock star - or developed any musical abilities, for that matter - Hunter lived out his fantasy by becoming a Beatles fanatic.

With the arrival of their first son in 1976, the Hunters decided they would pass the music down.

Their four children sang Beatles' music on their way to preschool and danced to their songs during their weddings.

Now, Hunter's grandchildren are even Beatles fans.

"They made a difference," he said. "If they hadn't come over, I don't think we'd be where are today in music. I really don't."

Every album, every performance was something to look forward to.

"It wasn't going to be the same rehashed chords with different words."

The Beatles changed the shape of America, its music, and Hunter's life. They dressed as they liked, wrote their own music and spoke their own message whether it was about love and war or life and death.

"They weren't a flash in the pan or a one-hit wonder," Hunter said. "They had a message."

He has a difficult time finding the right words to describe them. The Beatles weren't necessarily "above" other musicians of the era, but they were on a level all their own, Hunter said.

"Desert island, and I've only got one choice - that's who I'd take," Hunter said. "And all their individual stuff, too."

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