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The Beatles first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show
February 9, 1964
Ed Sullivan is credited with introducing mainstream Americans to many ground-breaking new artists. One of the most famous examples of this was the historic first appearance of The Beatles on his show in 1964.
I was gestating in my mom's tummy at the time, but their introduction to America in February paved the way for the America that I would find when I came out in October.
This page is a collection of information about one of the greatest moments in rock history.
The Beatles' fame in England
Before coming to the USA, the Beatles were already wildly popular in their homeland. They had massive records sales, hordes of young fans, and had performed before the Queen.
But it was common at that time for famous artists in England to be ignored on our side of the ocean. Americans were interested in American acts. And rock & roll? We had invented it! Why would we want to hear British people trying to rock?
But all that was about to change.
Before they were on Ed Sullivan - A CBS News report about Beatlemania in England
This news story was the first time that the Beatles were featured in any way on American television. The reporter seriously disses the Beatles, their music, and their fans. But the guys are very gracious and humble in their interview.
It's so cute to hear them in their youth, saying that the public probably will tire of them at some point, but they hope they have a nice long run before that happens.
Did you know?
When John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote I Want to Hold Your Hand, they had set a specific intention of writing a song that American audiences would like.
Sullivan gets curious about the Beatles
At the same time that Brian Epstein, the Beatles' manager, was looking to promote the band in the US, Ed Sullivan had gotten a whiff of their popularity, in part after an incident that took place when he happened to be at Heathrow Airport in London and the arrival of the Beatles (coming home from a tour in Sweden) set the whole airport in disarray.
When Sullivan got back home to New York, he sought out more information about the Beatles and was soon talking with Epstein. They began the wheeling and dealing that would finally result in the arrival of the Beatles on our shores.
In an intriguing article entitled The Story Behind The Beatles on Ed Sullivan, Bruce Spizer tells the tale of the negotiations, deals, and double-crosses that preceded the Beatles' American debut.
The first album by The Beatles. This is the original vinyl LP. The album includes 4 songs that were sung on Ed Sullivan than night (All My Loving, Till There Was You, I Saw Her Standing There, and I Want to Hold Your Hand).
The Big Day!
The Ed Sullivan Show started at 8:00 pm, and Sullivan came out and introduced the Beatles to American television. He wisely decided to have the Beatles perform in both the first and second halves of the show, so that their fans would stay tuned through the entire program.
In their first set, the Beatles sang All My Loving, Till There was You, and She Loves You.
Other acts came on for their scheduled appearances, singers, comics, magicians, and others. One notable act was a performance with the cast of the Broadway show Oliver!, featuring Davy Jones, who would later become a member of The Monkees.
To close the show, the Beatles performed I Saw Her Standing There and I Want to Hold Your Hand.
Vote for your favorite song from that night!
Of the five songs that the Beatles sang on their Ed Sullivan debut, which one do you like best?
Other good articles about the Beatles debut on Ed Sullivan
- Reference Library: The Beatles on Ed Sullivan
A listing of all the performers who were featured on the show that night.
- The Fab Four, Ed Sullivan, and crime.
Was it true that there was no crime during the hour that the Beatles were on the Ed Sullivan show? Nope, not true. Snopes tracks down the origins of the long-lived, but false, rumor.
The complete shows on DVD
This DVD set was originally released in 2003 but has been remastered and restored. It has the COMPLETE Ed Sullivan programs that the Beatles appeared on, the debut appearance on February 9, 1964 and also their subsequent appearances.
Since it includes the entire shows, including the other performers and also the commercials, it's a great way for those of us who weren't around at the time to understand the earthquake that the Beatles brought to the entertainment scene, how different they were from everything else that was going on at the time. It's a full slice of pop culture history.