Feb. 9, 1964: The Beatles Made Their Ed Sullivan Show Debut in Their First Trip to the United States

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On Sunday, Feb. 9, 1964, over 73 million Americans gathered around television sets to see what all the excitement was about. For several weeks American radio stations had been saturating the airwaves with Beatles music. The power of radio had led to sales of millions of Beatles singles and albums. For weeks, the country had been warned “The Beatles Are Coming!” The American press picked up on the story, with several magazines and newspapers running feature stories on the group. Two days earlier, CBS and ABC showed film of The Beatles’ arrival in America at New York’s Kennedy Airport on their evening news shows. But the big event was The Beatles’ first live appearance on American television, which took place on the country’s most popular variety program, “The Ed Sullivan Show.”

Ed Sullivan, the “king of Sunday night television,” booked The Beatles for three appearances after seeing the response of fans during a visit to London. Before their debut on the show, The Beatles’ record “I Want to Hold Your Hand” was leaked to radio stations across the country. By Jan. 10, 1964, the album had sold more than 1 million units and “I Want to Hold Your Hand” was the No. 1 song on the Billboard charts.

Taken during the rehearsal for The Beatles’ live U.S. television debut on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” these photographs capture the Fab Four on the eve of a landmark moment in American pop culture history.

Following the appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” the phenomenon of Beatlemania swept the country. John, Paul, George and Ringo secured their place in American hearts and spurred an invasion of British rock ‘n’ roll that altered the face of popular music in the U.S.

In this Feb. 9, 1964, file photo, Ed Sullivan, center, stands with The Beatles, from left, Ringo Starr, George Harrison, John Lennon, and Paul McCartney, during a rehearsal for the British group’s first American appearance, on the “Ed Sullivan Show,” in New York. The Beatles made their first appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” America’s must-see weekly variety show, on Sunday, Feb. 9, 1964, and officially kicked off Beatlemania.

The Beatles are shown on the set of the “Ed Sullivan Show” in New York in February 1964. In back is John Lennon; the others, from left to right, are: George Harrison, Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney.

The Beatles’ Paul McCartney on the set of the “Ed Sullivan Show” in New York.

The Beatles, from left, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr on drums, George Harrison and John Lennon, perform on the CBS “Ed Sullivan Show” in New York.

The Beatles perform on the CBS “Ed Sullivan Show” in New York.

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