A BEATLES tour of the American Deep South was marked by violence, the Ku Klux Klan and record burning following John Lennon's comments that the Beatles were "more popular than Jesus", according to leading historian Professor Brian Ward.

The Professor will be discussing the frightening events of 1966 in a public lecture at the University of Manchester on April 25.

The lecture will start at 5.30pm, in the Arts Lecture Theatre of the University.

Professor Ward said: "There are some surprising links between the Beatles and the story of southern race relations and the civil rights movement.

"My lecture starts with the controversy over comments that John Lennon made to a London newspaper in 1966 when he suggested that the Beatles were probably more popular than Jesus'.

"By the time the group actually arrived in America five months later, controversy was raging, especially in the South.

"Deejays Tommy Charles and Doug Layton of WAQY in Birmingham - the scene of major civil rights disturbances in the 1960s - were first to pick up on Lennon's comments and initiate a ban-the-Beatles campaign'.

"Starke in Florida had the dubious distinction of becoming the first place in the US to actually burn Beatles records, which was significant as the band had helped to desegregate the nearby city of Jacksonville just two years earlier.

"And there was also conspicuous involvement of the Ku Klux Klan in the campaign against the Fab Four. In South Carolina, for example, the Klan Grand Dragon Bob Scoggins nailed a Beatles record to a large cross and set it on fire.

"Other Klansmen justified their campaign on the grounds that not only were the Beatles blasphemous, but that they were not really white' either."