— Fifty years ago tonight — Sunday, Feb. 9, 1963 — the Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show for the first time. Sixty percent of all U.S. televisions turned on were tuned in to that show, shattering all records. The world was never quite the same.
I was only 9, but I remember it as if it were yesterday. My 14-year-old sister, Connie; my 8-year-old brother, Pat, and I were at our Grandmother Cullen’s house at 5 W. Center St.
Like everybody else, we couldn’t believe the Beatles’ outrageous long hair. We couldn’t believe how loud and crazy the screaming fans were, either. Most of all, we couldn’t believe how fresh, thrilling and charismatic John, Paul, George and Ringo were … right there in the living room, live.
The Fab Four already had taken Europe by storm, but they decided not to appear in America before scoring a Number One hit over here. By the time they appeared on the Sullivan show, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” had been dominating the U.S. radio charts for about six weeks.
We had watched The Ed Sullivan Show for years. It offered lots of variety — jugglers, singers, comedians, acrobats, puppets, you name it.
Then came The Beatles. Welcomed with ear-splitting applause, they opened with “All My Loving” and followed with “Till There Was You,” “She Loves You,” “I Saw Her Standing There” and finally, “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”
Their appearance was a complete triumph, and more than 40 percent of the U.S. population witnessed it. I’ve always considered myself lucky to have been on this earth, and watching CBS, that night.
We had a Beatles wig, bought Beatles records, listened to the Beatles on WLS radio, and read about the Beatles in Beatles magazines. Through the years, my love of their music grew. I have all their songs on CDs, and I listen to them regularly.
About 10 years ago, Pat and I drove to Cleveland to see Paul McCartney in concert. When the tour was extended, I took my wife and our two girls to see the same show in Indianapolis.
I once made a pilgrimage to the now-derelict Washington Coliseum building in downtown Washington, D.C., to visit the site of the first U.S. Beatles concert. It came right after the Sullivan show in New York.
Best of all was a visit to Liverpool, the home of all four Beatles. I went there a couple of years ago with our older daughter, Ruth. We made a special trip from London to see their boyhood homes, the schools and churches they attended and a re-creation of the Cavern, the grungy little basement club on Mathew Street where they honed their stage skills and built a musical reputation that later encircled the world.
Fifty years later, they’re still Number One in the hearts of millions, possibly billions. Listen to their music. Watch “A Hard Day’s Night.” Go to YouTube and type in “Beatles.”
Even if you don’t remember Feb. 9, 1964, you’ll be a Beatles fan, too.
Danville native Kevin Cullen is a former Commercial-News reporter. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.