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The Beatles first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show

Updated on October 6, 2014
The Beatles arrive at Kennedy Airport, February 7, 1964.
The Beatles arrive at Kennedy Airport, February 7, 1964. | Source

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

Wikimedia Commons states that these are Paul McCartney's bass and George Harrison's guitar, but the date and location of the photo are not given.
Wikimedia Commons states that these are Paul McCartney's bass and George Harrison's guitar, but the date and location of the photo are not given.


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.

Ed Sullivan, 1955.  Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Ed Sullivan, 1955. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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.

Meet The Beatles
Meet The Beatles

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?

See results

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.

Did you see the Beatles on Ed Sullivan in February 1964? - or, if not, do you know anyone who saw it?

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    • Connie's House profile image

      Connie's House 2 years ago from The Wild, Wild West, Arizona

      I remember the show, I was a very young fan of The Monkees, so I was upset because I felt they were overlooked once the Beatles arrived!! Thanks for the stroll down memory lane!

    • paperfacets profile image

      Sherry Venegas 5 years ago from La Verne, CA

      I was crazy about the Beatles' music and I saw the show that night.

    • edecas4 profile image

      Ellen de Casmaker 5 years ago from Powell RIver BC

      I remember this! Thank you. I remember the music, my parents comments on silly girls and the Beatles hair.

    • verymary profile image

      Mary 6 years ago from Chicago area

      my boys got that 4 Complete Shows DVD fopr their dad as a gift & we ALL love watching them. how fun! nice job here!

    • profile image

      charity7 6 years ago

      Yes. I was 8 years old at the time. I immediately liked their music and couldn't get over their hairstyle. Their music revolutionized the world and I was glad to witness their career from the very start in America. Great lens by the way. I'm going to favorite it.

    • capriliz lm profile image

      capriliz lm 6 years ago

      This is exciting news.

    • Nightowl John profile image

      Nightowl John 6 years ago

      If I saw them, I don't remember...I was 2! I do remember my parent watching Ed Sullivan (I particularly remember Red Skelton), so I may have seen it. The earliest thing I remember about the Beatles was their Saturday morning cartoon, Yellow Submarine...and I didn't like it at all. Hahaha. I still don't like that particular song (it gets stuck in my head too easily), but I really enjoy almost all of their other stuff. Thanks for a fun lens!

    • profile image

      livingfrontiers 6 years ago

      This is a great historical lens, and shows how much fun TV was at the beginning! Imagine how they changed the American Culture!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I sure did! I was almost 12 years old and we were all gathered around the television set. It was great!

    • ArtByLinda profile image

      Linda Hoxie 6 years ago from Idaho

      I can remember singing, she loves you when I was just a little bitty girl. I think it was my first song! Great lens!