Meet the Beatles' secretary

Freda Kelly, who at age 17 began working as a secretary for a rising Liverpudlian rock band called The Beatles, is pictured with Ringo Starr and George Harrison in an undated photo.
Courtesy Freda Kelly

(CBS News) At age 17 Freda Kelly went to work for a rising band of Liverpool rockers, and stayed 10 years in the job of a lifetime. Mark Strassmann reports:

In 1962 the Beatles were a Liverpool bar band. Freda Kelly was a legal secretary who watched them play during her lunch hour.

She was just seventeen.

"Once I saw them, that was it," she told Strassmann.

What was it about them that was so different?

"It was the whole attitude, the way they were on stage," she said. "I got to know them really well because they lived near me."

Brian Epstein, the Beatles' manager, knew she was a secretary and offered her a job. She said yes.

But she didn't break the news back home. "My father didn't approve of the Beatles, so I kept it to myself," Kelly said. "And I handed in my notice at work, they didn't believe me because they didn't know them, they'd never heard of them. And I explained and they said, 'Oh, you'll be back in a year.' And that's how it started.


A poster for the documentary "Good Ol' Freda," directed by Ryan White, about Freda Kelly, secretary for the Beatles. Tripod Media
 "So the year turned into ten years."

Over time, they became the Fab Four, the world's most famous band. She became a trusted friend to all of them.

Filmmaker Ryan White grew up with Kelly. He'd see her when he visited relatives in Liverpool. But he didn't know until a few years ago that she was the Beatles' secretary.

Her story became their documentary.

"I was really drawn to the idea of this girl who was picked for the job of a lifetime and thrown into this whirlwind," White said, "and never tried to cash in and never sought out the fame -- in fact, she sought out anonymity the last 40 years."

Two years ago, she finally sat down to tell her backstage stores about Beatlemania. The new documentary is called, "Good Ol' Freda."

"I was seventeen, so naturally I did have crushes on them," she said. "If Paul looked nice or sang a song for me, or something like that, I was in love with Paul that day. If George offered me a lift home from work that day, I'd think I was in love with George that day -- yeah, definitely fancy George. But then if John came in and started talking about various things, I like his nose, his Roman nose . . . "

So did she go out with any of them?

"No," she laughed. "Pass."

In 1963, "Please Please Me," became their first number one hit. She became their official fan club president.

"Silly me, I gave out my home address as the fan club address," Kelly said. "The postman knocked on the door and he said to me, 'Who gave this address out? You've got 200 letters here!' Sorry!

"Little did he know! The next few months the Beatles became more famous, and instead of just 200 letters they were coming in bundles, and those bundles came in sacks. So the van rolled up.

"So stupid, isn't it?" Kelly laughed.

"You were a teenager," Strassmann offered.

"I just didn't think!"

She has unusual memories about each of them, such as when she was fired by John Lennon, for five minutes.


Freda Kelly with Paul McCartney. Courtesy Freda Kelly
 "And then he was like, 'Oh, Freda, I was just messing. I can't do me mail!' So I said, 'Get down on your hands and knees and beg me to come back.' And he went, 'I will tell you what -- I will meet you halfway. I will get down on one knee.' And I said, 'Go on then, that will do!'

"So at least I've had John on one knee!"

For a time Beatles fans thought Paul McCartney had got on one knee for her, too.

"Somebody saw us, and then it was, you know, I was marrying Paul. And then, you know, they got a quote: 'Paul McCartney is not marrying Freda Kelly.' "

By the early 1970s, the Beatles' long and winding road had ended. But Kelly still had a fan club to run. She gave away boxes of memorabilia to fans -- loads of photographs, concert slips, records, autographs.

"You gave away a fortune," said Strassmann.

"You don't know it's a fortune. To me, it had all ended," Kelly replied.


Freda Kelly, former secretary for the Beatles. Austin Hargraves/Tripod Media
 She started a new life and a family, and says her grandson, Niall, is the reason why she's finally telling her story.

She still lives in Liverpool, and works at a law firm: "Still a secretary, for my sins, yes!"

Does she miss the old days? "No," Kelly told Strassmann. "I like to think I've moved on."

Forty years later, she's also still a Beatles fan.

Visiting Strawberry Fields, New York's tribute to John Lennon in Central Park, she told Strassmann of her experience, "It has been fun to remember, and I know I got on with them well and everything. But I was very lucky -- and I actually got paid for it as well!"

For more info:

  • "Good Ol' Freda" - Now playing in Los Angeles; Opens in N.Y.C., San Francisco, San Rafael and Palm Desert, Calif., on Sept. 13; other cities to follow; Also available on iTunes and VOD (Magnolia Pictures)
  • (Tripod Media)