It was 50 years ago Sunday when the Beatles showed the world how they could play. A record-setting 74 million people watched Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr perform five songs on "The Ed Sullivan Show."
CBS will mark the golden jubilee of the British band's appearance with the special "The Night That Changed America: A Grammy Salute to The Beatles." It will include footage from that evening a half century ago, plus new material.
The Fab Four arrived in the U.S. two days before their first "Sullivan" appearance, stepping off a Pan Am flight in New York on Feb. 7, 1964, to the sound of thousands of screaming fans. Their 10-day stay in the States included a concert in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 11 and some downtime (by Beatles standards) in Miami.
But that memory of the first appearance on Sullivan's variety show still burns bright for many fans, including Bee readers who shared their memories through emails and online comments. Here's a sampling of some of the memories from Fresno-area fans who saw the telecast:
Lil Gatzman: "I liked the Ed Sullivan show, but to my dad's chagrin I always made fun of Ed and his quirks and his really great "shews." But alas, when Ed had the Beatles appear, the tides shifted. I was singing and dancing with the Beatles, having a great time, but after one too many shakes of their bangs and 'We Love You, Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs,' my dad popped up out of his recliner, puffed up and stomped out of the living room saying, 'Oh, Good Lord.' I'm sure he eventually would have changed his tune if he had lived long enough to hear a little rap music."
Trio Cadaoas: "I was in the 5th grade when the Beatles aired on the 'Ed Sullivan Show.' I remembered urging my parents to rush home after church to be home by 8 p.m. But my favorite memory was how I became popular at school. There was a group of girls that walked around the school yard singing Beatles songs. I had a stack of Beatles cards and would place them in their path. So when they found them there was the usual screaming. Then they saw who placed them on the ground. Needless to say I was mobbed and I felt like a Beatle."
Rod Coburn: "I spent the summer of '63 in England as a participant in Fresno State's People-to-People program. The family I stayed with in Oxford -- through their teenage daughter -- introduced me to the 'hot' new English musical band, the Beatles. I loved them!!! Upon returning to school, I unsuccessfully attempted to buy Beatle records for our fraternity parties. They were unknown here. Six months later they were known and I eagerly watched the show, smugly knowing I knew of them first."
Ann Moreno Eiden: "My sister and I grew up in Clovis and at the age of 10, my sister was 11, our parents bought us tickets to see the Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl for the August 23, 1964, show. It was a surprise gift for the both of us from our parents. They knew we had a crush on the Beatles ever since we saw them on the 'Ed Sullivan Show.' The day before we were to leave for the concert, my sister got sick and we couldn't go. I was so crushed that I cried all day. My sister did too. We still have the unused tickets in a safe deposit box. I've been a fan since they first landed on U.S. soil. I've since married and my husband and I, along with one of our two kids, saw Paul perform in San Jose a few years back. It was a spectacular, electric show and I can only imagine what it must have been like to see all four Beatles live. Oh well, just in my dreams!!"
"The Night That Changed America: A Grammy Salute to the Beatles, 8 p.m. Sunday, KGPE (Channel 47.1)
TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, email@example.com or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.