Was the real Sgt. Pepper an Ontario Provincial Police Officer?

The Beatles appear on the inside cover of a Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band record. Photo from Indiewire
The Beatles appear on the inside cover of a Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band record. Photo from Indiewire

It’s been 50 years since The Beatles released their iconic album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and the anniversary celebrations are bringing some surprising details back into the spotlight—like the fact that Sgt. Pepper may have been named after an Ontario police officer.

The year was 1966, and Ontario Provincial Police Sgt. Randall Pepper had been given a special assignment: to head up the security detail for The Beatles while they were in town to play at the Maple Leaf Gardens.

According to his granddaughter, Cheryl Finn, Sgt. Pepper was no fan of rock ’n’ roll. He thought the long-haired band of Englishmen weren’t proper young men, reports the CBC.

But despite their differences, Finn says a “mutual respect” developed between the sergeant and the band over the 24 hours they were in town. By the time The Beatles boarded their flight, a bond of sorts had been formed.

“My grandfather supposedly kept them out of some trouble and they wanted to recognize his good work and his kindness,” Finn told CTV News.

The Beatles went into the studio to record the album just three months after their time in Toronto, and the album was released on June 1, 1967.

According to Finn, her grandfather was non-plussed when the album bearing his name was released. He passed away three years later.

If you’re a Beatles super fan with an eagle eye, you may have noticed that on the album’s unmistakable cover, Paul sports an Ontario Provincial Police fabric patch on his left arm.

Was it Sgt. Pepper’s patch? Music journalist Alan Cross told CTV that the patch was given to the band by another officer before they boarded their plane after the 1966 Toronto concert.

That Sgt. Pepper hung out with Beatles is a fact, but whether the album was named after him is a matter of contention. In an interview in the Beatles Anthology documentary about the album name’s origins, Paul recalls being on a flight and helping his aisle-mate with the salt and pepper packages that came with the inflight meal.

“Salt and pepper,” Paul recalls saying, before adding, “Sgt. Pepper.”

Was the album name inspired by a cringe-worthy pun, or a straight-laced Ontario police officer? The truth will likely never be known with certainly, but in the meantime, we’d prefer to believe the latter.