Fifty years ago, The Beatles landed in the United States as a part of their first world tour. When Ringo was asked, “How do you find America?” he answered, “Turn left at Greenland.” This year, there will be many 50th anniversary dates in Beatles’ history, starting with their first appearance on February 9, 1964 on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” a television variety show that ran on CBS from 1948 to 1971.
But February 9, 1964 was not the first time Americans saw the band on television. On November 18, 1963 Edwin Newman, a correspondent for NBC news, sent a story to the network about a phenomenon called “Beatlemania” that was sweeping Britain and much of Europe. The video is lost, but here is the audio of that news report:
Not to be outdone, the CBS network followed with their story about The Beatles on December 10, 1963. Here is that report:
The question is, how did Ed Sullivan know about The Beatles in order to invite them to perform on his show? There are two answers. On the official Ed Sullivan Web site, the story is that Mr. Sullivan landed in London’s Heathrow Airport and found a crowd of teenagers waiting for something to happen. When he asked what they were so excited about, he was told the kids were waiting for this new, popular band to return from their tour of Sweden. Mr. Sullivan started the process of booking them for his show as soon as he got to his hotel. However, former CBS news anchor Walter Chronkite has a different story:
What is not in dispute is that San Francisco was on the itinerary for that first United States tour. Here are photographer Jesse Bravo’s still photos of The Beatles landing at SFO in August of 1964 for their first show at the Cow Palace: