Paul McCartney Died In A Car Accident 1966, When Paul McCartney was recently fêted by President Obama at the White House and given a lifetime-achievement award by the Kennedy Center, no one mentioned that he may, in fact, have died years ago—and been replaced by a double. It’s all part of an elaborate conspiracy theory that some music buffs have kept alive since Paul’s alleged accidental death in 1966.
In October of 1969, three weeks after the Beatles’ celebrated Abbey Road album was released, WKNR-FM’s Russ Gibb took a call from a man who identified himself only as “Tom.” The Detroit deejay listened as the caller carefully laid out clues hidden in Beatles’ songs and album art, which he said indicated Paul McCartney had died on November 9, 1966, in an automobile accident. Listeners began deluging New York City radio stations with “evidence” and soon the rumor spread around the world. Was this a Beatles’ publicity stunt, a fan feeding-frenzy fueled by clues left as an inside joke by John Lennon—or was Paul really dead?
Piecing together clues from songs, films and album covers, conspiracy buffs have come up with this scenario: During the early-morning hours of November 9, 1966, Paul argued with his bandmates in the studio while recording songs for their Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album. He left in a huff just before 5 a.m. While driving to a friend’s house, Paul picked up a female hitchhiker who couldn’t control her excitement when she realized who was behind the wheel. She lunged to hug Paul, causing him to lose control of his Aston Martin. It smashed into a stone fence and burst into flames, killing them both. Paul was decapitated and burnt to a crisp, making a positive ID difficult. Despite no evidence to support either the story of the fatal crash or of a cover-up, the rumors persisted.
The theory of why a cover-up of Paul’s alleged death was necessary goes something like this: Because of all the money the Beatles contributed to England’s tax coffers, their continued success was vital to the financial health of the nation. So the British government, in cahoots with the surviving members of the Beatles, their producer George Martin, manager Brian Epstein (pictured above), recording engineer Geoff Emerick and road manager Mal Evans, conspired to cover-up Paul’s death. It was speculated that in return they were given a huge sum of money and guaranteed success in whatever future endeavors they engaged. They all denied any conspiracy.
In order for McCartney’s death to be kept under wraps, the Beatles would need a look-alike to sub for him. It’s said they found the perfect candidate in an actor named William Shears Campbell, the winner of a McCartney look-alike contest who resembled the singer so much that he was supposedly on the Beatles’ payroll as a stand-in to throw off fans and the press. The name may ring a bell from the “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” lyric on the album of the same name: “So let me introduce to you / The one and only Billy Shears / And Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” Pictured: Paul and his double—or Paul doubled?
The press was interested in the rumors of Paul’s untimely demise. A November 7, 1969, Life magazine cover story approached the issue in a light-hearted manner, rather than as an investigative piece. The article quoted Paul, who paraphrased Mark Twain: “Rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” He then wryly added, “However, if I was dead, I’m sure I’d be the last to know.”