- Associated Press - Friday, February 7, 2014

It was 50 years ago that this mop-topped band began to play (in America).

The Beatles made their first appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” America’s must-see weekly variety show, on Sunday, Feb. 9, 1964. And officially kicked off Beatlemania on this side of the pond.

More than 70 million viewers were tuned to the program, airing live from the Manhattan studio now housing the “Late Show With David Letterman.”


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Here are recollections from some notable viewers and participants — including one Beatle.

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Even Ringo Starr didn’t know the magnitude of what was about to happen when he played with his bandmates that night.


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“Incredible!” he recalls. “It was ‘Ed Sullivan,’ it was a big show. We didn’t know while we were playing that 70 million people were watching, but it was being in America that was so exciting.

“All the music we loved was in America, it came from America to England.”

While holed up at their Manhattan hotel, they were interviewed by the city’s leading deejays, which, all by itself, was an amazing experience.

“With Murray the K and Cousin Brucie, we were on the radio — we were in the hotel rooms on the phone to Murray the K. You didn’t have anything like that in England. The whole experience was just incredible.”

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Charlie Brill and Mitzi McCall were an up-and-coming husband-and-wife comedy team that specialized in carefully crafted character sketches. They were thrilled when they landed their first appearance on “Sullivan.”

Unfortunately, they were booked on that first Beatles show — slotted just before the Beatles hit the stage for their second set. Needless to say, the studio audience — packed with teenage girls — wasn’t interested in watching grown-ups doing comedy.

Charlie Brill: “Mr. Sullivan called us into his dressing room after dress rehearsal. He said, ‘You’re doing a very sophisticated piece of business and my audience is 14-year-old girls. They won’t understand it. So why don’t you show me everything you have, and we’ll rebuild your whole act.’”

MM: “The biggest laugh we got was when I ad-libbed, ‘I was backstage and I stepped on a beetle.’”

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