This is the story of aging rock musician Gary Goldberg, The Beatles and a lie that, in the end, came to haunt him.
Goldberg took the podium last week at the Elmhurst Historical Museum to tell a few dozen spectators about his days in the Cave Dwellers -- a 1960s Chicago garage-rock band that never made it big but, 48 years later, found a new audience among collectors of reissued and hard-to-find vinyl records.
The story was nearly true, save for the most attention-grabbing detail: that on Aug. 20, 1965, the Cave Dwellers opened for The Beatles at Comiskey Park, where legendary guitarist George Harrison played Goldberg's Hagstrom six-string and gave away his own guitar strap as thanks.
What Goldberg, now 68, wasn't prepared for was being publicly confronted at the museum by former bandmates, prompting a Daily Herald investigation that culminated five days later with a striking confession.
"We really didn't play (with The Beatles) at all," Goldberg admitted. "It (the story) just got carried away, and I couldn't stop it."
It's true the Cave Dwellers existed in the summer of 1965 when The Beatles played Comiskey. In fact, the band was tied to the Fab Four around that time in a Midwest Magazine article, which profiled the emerging group in the context of Beatlemania and the youthful lust for rock stardom.
Goldberg, who gave up music in 1975 and moved to Elmhurst 14 years later, said he was reminded of the article last year when Chicago's Numero Group record label contacted him about reissuing Cave Dwellers material on vinyl.
He said he couldn't understand why anyone would buy the band's music so many years later.
"I figured, geez, this is incredible. (But) what kind of stuff can I possibly give them to help sales?" he said.
The answer, or so Goldberg thought, was The Beatles.
"I guess you get a little carried away with the moment," said Goldberg, who showed the museum a photo of himself with Beatles drummer Ringo Starr and a copy of the magazine article to prove he was at Comiskey.
"It just gets in your head and you don't think rationally," he said. "You're excited … but in reality it's not quite the real story."
Days before his presentation in Elmhurst, Goldberg gave a detailed account of the story to a reporter for another publication. The article quickly spread among area musicians, including some who were Cave Dwellers at various points in the band's history and had no memory of Goldberg playing with the royalty of rock.
"There was so much noise in Comiskey Park, you could die, you could go deaf," Goldberg told The Doings LaGrange newspaper. "We played early in the afternoon with a couple other Chicago bands. It was very hard to play; the crowd wanted The Beatles. So we did our thing, then we sat and watched."
He went on to describe meeting The Beatles at the concert and also during a private autograph-signing party a night earlier.
He claimed Harrison gave him a Vox-brand guitar strap, which Goldberg still keeps in a glass case, after the Beatle borrowed his guitar.
Goldberg now acknowledges he attended no private party. He insists the Cave Dwellers were briefly introduced to The Beatles at Comiskey but says Harrison, who died in 2001, handed out souvenirs to several fans.
As for performing, he said, the Cave Dwellers -- believing they would be allowed to play because of their recent publicity -- hauled their gear to the park but were turned away and ended up watching the show as fans.
"We weren't needed," he said.
Rob Sevier, co-owner of Numero Group, said Goldberg made the same claims about being an opening act for The Beatles after they initiated talks about reissuing four Cave Dwellers songs on vinyl.
Sevier said the label didn't mention it in the record's liner notes because he didn't think it was important -- or true.
"I've found in many cases when we get in touch with people, one of the main things they want to talk about is some sort of loose connection with a bigger act," Sevier said. He said he was unaware the story would be a component of the museum presentation.
"While I find it amusing that people seem to be upset about this, it's not like it's outside my frame of reference for people to make outlandish claims about their music career," Sevier said. "Sometimes I think it's just pride, and sometimes I think -- through that connection -- they're trying to make it seem like that's what makes them important."
In this case, it was the raucous, pre-punk sound of the Cave Dwellers that made them matter -- not The Beatles, according to Sevier. The label pressed 1,000 copies of the reissue, and hundreds have sold.
"We think they're really cool songs," Sevier said. "Any Beatles connection is a distraction. It distracts from our goal with the record, which is just to give it another chance."
Goldberg, who still wears shoulder-length dark hair, a goatee and shaded glasses, came clean after three former Cave Dwellers members went on record saying they didn't believe the Beatles story.
The Daily Herald also consulted the Beatles Bible, an online archive featuring set lists and concert lineups. The entry for Aug. 20, 1965, made no mention of the Cave Dwellers.
There are still many disputes to be settled, though.
The museum presentation rapidly devolved into a back-and-forth exchange with former Cave Dwellers drummer Bernie Howard Fryman of Northbrook, who accused Goldberg of stealing a guitar and taking undue songwriting credit for some of the band's material, both of which Goldberg denied.
The bickering even delved into disputes over who made the caveman-style vests the band wore in a publicity photo, where the photo was taken, how long the band members wore their hair at the time, and which venues they played.
In a subsequent interview, Fryman said he didn't consider Goldberg an "evil person" but that he "totally embellished" the band history.
Does Fryman forgive?
"Yes, of course," the 64-year-old semiretired disc jockey said. "There's no room for hate in my life."
According to the Midwest Magazine article, the Cave Dwellers in 1965 consisted of Goldberg, the frontman; drummer Fred "Faith" Fritz; bassist Bruce Gordon; keyboardist Vic Altman (who also went by the name Victor Alfonso); and guitarists Henry Gardano and Dennis "Stoney" Phillips.
Sevier said he tried to track down several members of the original band before the reissue but could find only Goldberg, who had documented songwriting credits.
Gordon, now of Des Plaines, went on to play in the Revelles and New Colony Six, among other bands noted for contributing to Chicago's burgeoning '60s rock scene.
Guitarist Bobby Diamond was a later Cave Dwellers addition who ended up playing with For Days & A Night, among countless other acts.
Goldberg's storytelling "irked us all," said Gordon, 64.
"It's not accurate to people who worked hard to make music and keep their little reputation," he said. "We were people that recorded songs and paid our dues. Besides that, it's a lie -- and we have Christian values."
The "one good thing" to come from the disputes, Goldberg said, was his reconnection with guitarist Peter Budd, who showed up at the museum presentation unannounced.
Budd, who played in the Cave Dwellers briefly before joining the Revelles in the late 1960s, said he has no hard feelings and is willing to perform with Goldberg again.
In fact, they've already jammed together.
"Everybody promotes, and, when you promote yourself, there's always some kind of a lie in there somewhere," Budd, 72, of Berwyn, said. "That's the business."
After his admission, Goldberg said he felt better and had been haunted for days.
"I've had such a nervous stomach about this," he said.
Elmhurst resident, musician and author Dean Milano said it's difficult for people who weren't a part of the 1960s music scene to understand its significance and the desire to stake a claim in that moment in history.
"All of us who were involved in the progression of the music scene back in the late '60s now realize how important that era was and we're all very proud and excited about the fact we were part of it," said Milano, whose book, "The Chicago Music Scene: 1960s and 1970s," was published in 2009.
"Maybe sometimes our imaginations get away from us, and maybe we start imagining more than it was," he said.
"We just all have to be more careful about letting our memories go crazy."