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70 Million Beatles Fans Can't Be Wrong: The Fab 4 On Ed Sullivan, 1964

Culture | September 8, 2017

The Beatles pose after a performance on 'The Ed Sullivan Show' at Studio 50, New York, New York, February 9, 1964. Pictured are Ed Sullivan (second left) and Beatles Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr (top, background), George Harrison, and guitarist John Lennon

Americans who tuned in to watch The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964 witnessed -- and made -- broadcast history. It was a Sunday afternoon like any other, escept that the biggest musical act on the planet was performing live on American television for the first time. 

CBS Studio 50 was the venue for the dress rehearsal for that evening’s Ed Sullivan Show. The four lads from Liverpool ran through five numbers they would perform that night then treated the lucky 728 people who managed to get a ticket to an extra three songs, a set that would be aired after The Beatles returned to Britain.

Over 70 Million Watched

Over 70 million people - more than the entire UK population - tuned in to see what the fuss was all about. John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr opened the show with “All My Loving”, “Till There Was You” and “She Loves You”. They returned in the second half of the show with both sides of their #1 single, “I Want To Hold Your Hand” and “This Boy”.

George Almost Couldn't Make The Show

Neil Aspinall subs in for the ill George Harrison during the Beatles' rehearsal the day before their Ed Sullivan debut. Source: Pinterest

George Harrison had spent most of that weekend in bed with a sore throat after arriving in NYC, but after taking penicillin he was able to make the last half an hour of rehearsal prior to the Ed Sullivan Show debut. The next day after the TV appearance, they were presented with gold records for the single “I Want To Hold Your Hand” and the LP, Meet The Beatles by the head of Capitol records Alan Livingston, in front of a SRO of press frenzy.

Ed Sullivan Wanted To Be A Starmaker

The big thanks went to Ed Sullivan, who had a hunch that The Beatles would succeed where others had failed. He had made it his business to find out what Beatlemania was all about and since Elvis Presley had success with his debut on his show in 1956, he felt that the lads from Liverpool would have the same kind of magic. He was right, they took America by storm -- in little more than two weeks and taking in only three cities, Beatlemania was in full force. 

Next Stop, Miami Beach

The Beatles at the Deauville Hotel. Source: headlineleak.com

The second Ed Sullivan Show appearance was broadcast live from the Deauville Hotel in Miami Beach on February 16th. They performed four out of the five numbers they had sung the previous week. The Beatles took a well-earned break and enjoyed Miami Beach and frolicked in the sun and sand. They got to meet up with heavyweight title contender, Cassius Clay, who had been in the audience at the Ed Sullivan Show. Even the future Muhammad Ali said that the Beatles were “the greatest”. And who would argue with that statement…

The Beatlemania Boom

Less than two months after setting foot on American soil, they held the top five spots on the Billboard chart. And although the Fab Four appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show nine times throughout the years, they only set foot on his stage at the Ed Sullivan Theatre that one time on February 9, 1964.

Yeah Yeah Yeah! 

Tags: 1964 | Beatlemania | Career-Defining Moments | Ed Sullivan | The 1960s | The Beatles

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Cyn Felthousen-Post

Writer

Cyn loves history, music, Irish dancing, college football and nature. Social media is also her thing, keeping up with trends and celebrities with positive news. She can be found outside walking or hiking with her son when she's not working. Carpe diem is her fave quote, get out there and seize the day!