Blast of Beatles past at CBS Studio 50

This retro marquee will be up all weekend celebrating The Beatles 50th in NYC

It was 50 years ago today that the Beatles invaded America. When Pan Am Flight 101 arrived on Feb. 7, 1964 at the newly-christened John F. Kennedy International airport, three thousand cheering fans–mainly young women–were waiting to greet them.
So were reporters. There was a press conference at the airport and John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Star immediately won over a cynical press corps.
Reporter: How did you find America?
Ringo: Turned left at Greenland.
These lads were comedy gold.
City will air Sunday night’s CBS salute to the Fab Four. The Beatles: The Night That Changes America–a Grammy Salute, airs Sunday, Feb. 9 at 8 p.m., 50 years to the hour that famous Ed Sullivan Show broadcast began.
The venue of that Sullivan Show, CBS’s old Stage 50 in mid-town Manhattan, has been home, of course, to the Late Show with David Letterman these past 21 years. The Letterman folks have put up a nice tribute, draping their own marquee with a facsimile of how the sign looked the night of The Beatles’ historic performance.
You can buy the four hour-long Sullivan broadcasts on DVD and that first show is fun to watch for several reasons. One is how poised and professional The Beatles were given the glare of that spotlight. They’re note-perfect through five songs and two sets, even George Harrison, then 21 and sick as a dog the previous few days.

“Now be quiet, you screamers!”

The other acts on the bill that night are a trip. Poor Fred Kaps, the magician who did card tricks with a salt shaker following the Fab Four’s first set. Sullivan wisely had it pre-taped.
Same with the acrobats who actually closed the show–after The Beatles! The plus side for these acts is that more people saw them than any other TV performers in history. Impressionist and future Batman star Frank Gorshin dined out for years on his Beatles/Sullivan set, which was pretty damn good.
Then there’s that kookiest footnote of all: future Monkees singer Davy Jones sharing the stage with The Beatles that night as part of the Broadway cast of Oliver!

Paul, Ringo and Dave

As part of the Sunday night special, David Letterman talks to both Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr on the Sullivan stage. Watch a minute of that here.
The Four Complete Historic Ed Sullivan Shows Featuring The Beatles are available for sale here in a DVD set.

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