Ed Sullivan Meets The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today

Patricia Didelot

Ed Sullivan met The Beatles 50 years ago today, October 31, 1963, at Heathrow Airport in London and the rest, like they say is history.

The Ed Sullivan Show was a popular variety show broadcast on CBS between 1948 and 1971 and was hosted by Sullivan, a New York entertainment columnist.

The Beatles were the most popular band of their time, but they still had not come to American shores. Sullivan took care of that.

On October 31, 1963 Sullivan and his wife were at Heathrow airport which was extremely busy with the Prime Minister scheduled to fly out and Miss World contestants arriving for the pageant.

Ed Sullivan noticed that even though it was a rainy day more than 1,500 fans (mostly girls) were out in the elements waiting for the band, who was returning from a tour to Sweden.

When the show host asked what the big fuzz was all about, he was told it was for The Beatles.

"Who the hell are The Beatles?" Sullivan asked.

He was informed the British boy band was creating waves in Europe with their unmistakable sound and Sullivan decided to inquire into booking John, Paul, George, and Ringo on his show.

Many believe that was that, but actually, Sullivan's talent coordinator John Babb knew about the band prior to that day, as he regularly spent time in Europe scouting for potential bookings for the show.

Peter Prichard, a London theatrical agent who worked for Sullivan, met Babb and took him to see The Beatles on more than one occasion. He also knew Brian Epstein, the band's manager.

In 1963, when Babb saw the band perform for the first time, The Beatles had not achieved the fame that would propel them to become one of the greatest bands of all time.

No other British act had achieved success in the US, so Babb was hesitant to book them.

The Beatles' big television break came on October 13, 1963 when they appeared on Val Parnell's Sunday Night at the London Palladium. It was viewed by over 15 million people.

Hundreds of fans inside and outside of the venue created havoc and the British publication The Daily Mirror described the scene as "Beatlemania!" The term stuck.

In November of 1963 Epstein headed to New York and took the opportunity to find out why The Beatles "hadn't happened in America" yet.

After a meeting between Epstein and Sullivan, The Beatles were booked for The Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964.

The iconic British band famously arrived in New York on February 7, 1964 to the delight of the more than 3,000 teenagers waiting for them at the airport.

The Beatles performance became one of the most unforgettable moments in television history, comparable in scale to the Kennedy assassination and the landing on the moon. Everyone remembers where they were when The Beatles first appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964.

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