Freda Kelly has been an office secretary for half-a-century, but she likes to joke that it’s not as exciting as her first secretary gig: running the official Beatles fan club in the 1960s, a rollicking period of her life during which she grew up fast and accumulated memories she kept private for decades.
Like the time she accompanied Paul McCartney out one evening and found herself rumored to be his future bride. Or the time a fan sent in a pillowcase for Ringo Starr: “I remember saying to his mum, ‘can you make sure he sleeps on it?’”
Those recollections are among many she shares in “Good Ol’ Freda,” a new documentary out Friday that pulls back the curtain on Kelly’s relationship with the band, four men she worked with from the height of Beatlemania until they splintered in acrimony at the end. The film’s release coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ debut album release. And “Good Ol’ Freda,” directed by Ryan White, is just one of a slew of Beatles treats awaiting fans in coming weeks, including a variety of new music releases sure to please Beatles diehards.
The documentary got a premiere earlier this year at South by Southwest conference and was received with a standing ovation that White said “seemed to last forever.” Kelly is a native of Liverpool, the Beatles’ hometown. Now in her 60s, White first got to know Kelly as a family friend.
White told TIME in a phone interview that Kelly is “probably the most private person I’ve ever met in my whole life,” which is one reason she’s never “cashed-in” and tried to profit by sharing her story widely.
“I don’t know why they picked me,” she says in the documentary. “Maybe it was just fate. I was taken along for this 10-year, exciting ride.”
White didn’t find out until a few years ago that Kelly had worked so closely with one of the most famous bands of all time, her intimate knowledge of them extending to seeing even their first gigs at the Cavern Club before they hit it big.
“She approached me about making the film,” White said. “She’s reached the point in her life, I think, where she wants to leave a legacy for her family, and she wanted to work with someone she trusted.”
White said Kelly’s daughter pulled him aside after the earlier premiere and told him about 95 percent of what’s in the film “was completely new to her.”
“I felt a huge responsibility to make something she’d be proud of,” White said of Kelly.
About a month after the film release, McCartney will put out his next solo album. October will also see the release of “Beatles Reimagined,” a tribute album featuring several groups covering some of the Beatles’ earliest songs like “She Loves You” and “Please Please Me.” That album will raise money for Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls Los Angeles.