The Day Ed Sullivan First Introduced The Beatles Live On American Television
From 1948 until 1971, every Sunday night from 8-9 p.m. E.T. millions of Americans tuned into what many feel to be one of the all-time greatest variety programs, The Ed Sullivan Show. Technically during the show’s first season, it ran from 9-10 p.m. but due to stellar ratings, it was moved up to the more popular time slot. It would remain there until it was canceled in 1971 making it one of the few programs to maintain the same weekly time slot, especially in the primetime evening hours.
The Ed Sullivan show had numerous episodes that achieved record numbers in the ratings and viewers department. One of the most popular was the one that aired on February 9th, 1964. More than 73 million America viewers sat in front of their televisions as Ed gave his now famous into “Ladies and Gentleman…The Beatles!” Aside from the record number of people watching at home, there was at least 3,000 screaming fans in the studio as Paul, Ringo, John, and George started playing “All My Lovin.”
The crowd was going completely bonkers, just fifty seconds into the performance the camera panned to a girl in the audience that was losing her mind to the point of potential hyperventilation. For the next song, the boys continued a medium tempo with John singing “Till There Was You,” that appeared in the Broadway musical Music Man. However what really sent the crowd into a frenzy like Ed had never seen before is when they started playing “She Loves You.” Some may argue that the two minutes and 16 seconds that followed was the single greatest bit of music played live on television.
This all happened right at the beginning of the program, which meant that Ed had other guests scheduled on the show. Can you imagine the poor soul that had to follow up a performance like that? It was actually a magician by the name of Fred Kaps who proceeded to walk out in front of 3,000 people that were still going ballistic with energy from what just happened. Upon coming back from a comercial, Ed had a tough time getting the audience to quiet down so that he could introduce the talented magician. He tried using the universal signal for settle down by stickig out his arm and moving it down but finally had to give a firm “Quiet!” Finally, Ed was able to get a word in and went on to say “Here’s a very amusing magician we saw in Europe and signed last summer….Let’s have a nice hand for him—Fred Kaps!”
Later on the show, the “Fab Four” came back out to sing a few more songs and they were greeted with the same level of intensity as the final song from the previous set. It was complete pandemonium inside the studio as the played “I Saw Her Standing There” and the iconic “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.” The unfortunate luck of Mr. Kaps was then passed on to a group of comedic acrobats that called themselves, Wells & the Four Fays and let’s just say that it was underwhelming at best in comparison to the night’s events.
Interestingly there was a performer that night that actually progressed further in their career due to the energy created by The Beatles. A young man by the name of Davy Jones was there to sing “I’d Do Anything” from his role in the Broadway rendition Oliver!. Jones would go on to have a successful career and less than three years later he would be starring in his own TV program called The Monkees.
The Beatles had only been in the United States for two days prior to appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show. The continued their “American Invasion” for just over two weeks before returning to their home country of England. But before they left, they would make another appearance on the Ed Sullivan on February 16, 1964, and while the ratings weren’t quite as high, they still achieved record numbers.