Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

February 9, 2014

Celebrating 50 years of Beatlemania

Locals remember where they were on Feb. 9, 1964, as the Beatles took over ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’

ASHLAND — It was 1964, four years before Ashland High School and Morehead State graduate Chuck Woolery would hit the Top 40 on Billboard’s Hot 100 Chart as a member of the psychedelic pop duo The Avante-Garde.

It was also the same year future music superstar Naomi Judd would graduate from Paul G. Blazer High School. She’s been David Letterman’s guest in the iconic CBS Studio 50, now known as the Ed Sullivan Theater, which has been the home of “The Late Show With David Letterman” for the last 22 years.

But a half century ago, on Feb. 9, 1964, the most sought after ticket in New York was to see the leaders of The British Invasion — John Lennon, 23, Paul McCartney, 21, George Harrison, 20, and Ringo (Richard Starkey) Starr, 23 — perform on the “Ed Sullivan Show.”  

CBS received 50,000 ticket requests, but there was only seating for 728. Seventy-three million were watching as Sullivan introduced the four musicians in matching suits, ties and boots from Liverpool, England, known as The Beatles.  

In some ways, from that point on, life as it had been known was never the same.  

Harrison was suffering from a 104 degree fever, but with encouragement from The Beatles manager Brian Epstein, carried on as the band performed “All My Loving,” their first of 20 songs (some repeats) they would perform on their four appearances on the classic variety show.  

They followed it with “Till There Was You” and “She Loves You.” The four Liverpudlians came back toward the end of the show and performed both tracks of their double-sided hit then, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “I Saw Her Standing There,” both from the album “Meet The Beatles” (on Capitol Records).

Their first album released in the U.S. “Introducing…The Beatles” (on Vee-Jay Records) came out in 1963. The album includes several classics, including “Twist and Shout.”  

The albums held the No. 1 and No. 2 positions simultaneously the second week The Beatles were on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” The Beatles were back the next two Sundays to the delight of fainting girls, Sullivan, CBS executives and more large television audiences as Beatlemania kept gaining momentum.

Early days

The foundation of The Beatles began in 1956, when Lennon and McCartney met at a church picnic. McCartney joined Lennon’s group The Quarrymen that year. Harrison joined The Quarrymen in 1957.  

The Quarrymen was one of five names the band used before sticking with the sixth, The Beatles, in 1960. The Beatles also had two hits in 1964 (recorded in 1961 with Pete Best on drums) in an act known as Tony Sheridan and The Beat Brothers.

The Beatles originally had five members including Stu Sutcliffe on bass. He left the band in 1961 and died from a brain hemorrhage the next year. Best was dropped from the band in 1962 in favor of Ringo (Starkey) Starr. Best died last year.

The closest The Beatles made it to northeast Kentucky was when they performed twice in Cincinnati.

On Aug. 27, 1964, The Beatles performed in Cincinnati Gardens, made famous by Cincinnati’s own Oscar Robertson and his Cincinnati Royals (now known as the Sacramento Kings). The Gardens was also the home of “The Big O’s” crosstown college rival the Xavier Musketeers when he was an All-American for the Cincinnati Bearcats. It was the home of the Bearcats until the late 1950’s.

Since 1991, Dusty Rhodes has been the Hamilton County, Ohio, auditor, but in 1964 he was a young disc jockey working just a few miles away from his current office, as the 6 to 9 evening disc jockey at Cincinnati’s (then) No.1 radio station WSAI. “Trusty” Dusty was the promoter of The Beatles concert at Cincinnati Gardens and he must have done something right because it sold out, “like immediately,” Rhodes said. “We had orders for like 70,000 we could have sold. We only had 14,000 seats. It was great.”  

Rhodes said he spent about 30 or 40 minutes with the Beatles.  

“I drove in from the airport with them, at the Gardens before the show, and the press conference and introduced them and all,” Rhodes said. The Beatles talked to Elvis Presley on the telephone backstage before the show.

“It was cool. They were really great guys,” Rhodes said.

Playing at Crosley

In 1966 David Payne was attending Morehead State University, when he and some of his friends from Ashland decided to go to Cincinnati. It wasn’t to watch Tony Perez and Pete Rose play baseball, even though Payne and his friends went to Crosley Field. The stars set to play that Saturday night Aug. 21, 1966, were The Beatles. It ended up being an extended trip to the Queen City for the gang because the concert was cancelled.

“It poured down rain that night,” Payne said. The concert was also cancelled because of the possibility of electrocution and was rescheduled for the next day.

“Back in those days it created a little bit of a stir having anything on Sunday,” Payne said.  

The Beatles were scheduled to take a flight to their next concert in St. Louis.

“I bet there were probably 10 or 15 of us that had gone down together. We were lucky enough to get a suite that we all could stay in together,” Payne said.  

Tickets for $5.50

Center box seats to see the most popular band of all time that night went for $5.50.

The Beatles stopped performing live because they said they couldn’t hear themselves perform. There was always a lot of excitement and screaming.

“It was the old screaming deal, just like you can imagine. They really, really turned it on with all the racket. It was quite a show,” Payne said, who believes he remembers The Beatles stage being set up around second base.

The Beatles only performed five more concerts after the show Payne saw. Their historic last concert was eight nights later at Candlestick Park in San Francisco.

The Beatles performed a free concert on a London rooftop for their 1970 movie “Let It Be.” That was copied later in U2’s music video for their song “Where the Streets Have No Name.” Bono jokingly said it wasn’t the first time they ripped off the Beatles.

The Beatles were by far the largest selling musical act of the 1960’s and that hasn’t changed much because they were the largest selling act of the first decade of this century. Their album “1” from 2000 has sold 31 million copies, along with classics from their catalog of songs being on the Billboard album chart regularly. In their heyday, numerous Beatles items like lunch boxes, wigs and dolls were hot selling items and their merchandise stills sell well. Jeff Campbell from Ashland likes wearing his Beatles necktie. “I remember seeing the Beatles on television. I was seven the first night they performed on the Ed Sullivan Show,” Campbell said.

Coach Ivan McGlone won multiple state championships coaching football at Russell High School, and used to be summoned to lead the “Electric Slide” dance at Russell’s annual faculty Christmas party.

“I liked dancing to any music. It didn’t make any difference,” McGlone said. He was a fan of The Beatles early on as a student at Marshall University. “I could remember all the girls were so excited about the performance the night before.” .

Mark Justice just began spinning rock music again for the first time since the 1980s. The longtime morning funnyman’s station WLGC dropped their country format last month in favor of “cool hits” oldies. Justice began spinning Top 40 hits in the ’70s at WAMX under the name Mark Damon. “They said, ‘You can’t use your real name. That’s our station policy,’” Justice said.  

Justice says he isn’t sure if he saw The Beatles first visit on the Ed Sullivan Show. “I was like almost five years old, so I don’t really remember it. I just suddenly remember The Beatles being everywhere and what an impact that was. I would see people wearing Beatles wigs. I would hear the songs everywhere. My grandmother ran the youth center in Catlettsburg. The guy who changed out the music on the jukebox would give her the old records and she started passing the records on to us, and the very first record that I ever had to play on a record player was The Beatles “Daytripper,” Justice said.

Even though the Beatles had all top five records in the same week once, were selling out concerts in record time and were the darlings of the media, not everyone was impressed.

Ruth Wilburn is the manager of Callihan’s American Pub and Grill in Kyova Mall. Asked if she likes The Beatles, Wilburn said, “Yea, they’re not my favorite (laughter). I’m an Elvis fan.” Wilburn said she didn’t see The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show.

Replay tonight

News anchor Don Hammond’s station, WOWK, will air “The Night That Changed America: A Grammy Salute to The Beatles” today. The special will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Fab 4’s first appearance on the “Ed Sullivan Show,” at the same time, date and place where the historic event occurred.  

Hammond remembers seeing The Beatles their first night on the “Ed Sullivan Show” as a youngster growing up in Youngstown, Ohio.

“We had a black-and-white TV and my dad didn’t like The Beatles because they got long hair (laughter). We had the buzz cut back then,” Hammond said.  Another vivid memory stands out. “I remember in the third grade, swinging on the swings with my friend, singing ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand,’” Hammond said.

Kathy Setterman booked a lot of talented performers as executive director of The Paramount Arts Center.

“I never did get really crazy about them (The Beatles),” Setterman said. She also saw their first night on the “Ed Sullivan Show” when she was growing up in New Orleans.  

“We were at my grandfather’s house. They were all talking about these weird looking kids that were going to come on (laughter).”

The Beatles mop-top haircuts did appear threatening and disorderly to many parents as many girls sat spellbound watching their favorite Beatle and numerous boys wanted to join a rock band.  

By the end of the 1960s, The Beatles 1964 look, with hair barely touching their ears, seemed rather tame.

Even though The Beatles led the British Invasion, it could have been called the Liverpool Invasion. Other acts from the British seaside town finding success in America included Gerry and The Pacemakers, The Merseybeats, The Swinging Blue Jeans, The Searchers and Billy J. Kramer and The Dakotas.

 The Beatles final appearance on the “Ed Sullivan Show” was on Sept. 12, 1965. Huntington High School Hall of Famer and former WHTN, 800 AM in Huntington, disc jockey Soupy Sales was Sullivan’s first guest that night. The energetic Sales came back later in the show and went up and down the steps of the theater to perform his novelty song “The Mouse.” The Beatles followed Sales with a set ending the show performing “Ticket to Ride,” “Yesterday,” and concluded the show with “Help.”

McCartney publicly announced the group’s dissolution on April 10, 1970. Lennon’s “The Plastic Ono Band-Live Peace in Toronto” had already debuted on the Billboard album chart at No. 10 in January, 1970. The album featured guitar legend Eric Clapton. John Lennon was murdered in New York City on December 8, 1980. George Harrison died from cancer on Nov. 11, 2001.  


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