The Beatles’ first Ed Sullivan Show

On February 9th 1964, The Beatles smashed all previous television records as they appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show for the first time. Their performance was watched by an estimated 73 million Americans.

The previous day, after their stroll through Central Park The Beatles rehearsed for the show. George was suffering from a sore throat and couldn't join them. Today they rehearsed some more with George still absent. Beatles' longtime friend Neil Aspinall took his place and stood where George would stand holding a guitar.

The show was broadcast into over 23 million American homes between 8-9 pm. Ed Sullivan announced he had received a telegram from Elvis Presley and his manager Colonel Tom Parker, wishing The Beatles luck.

"We were aware that Ed Sullivan was the big one because we got a telegram from Elvis and the Colonel. And I've heard that while the show was on there were no reported crimes, or very few. When The Beatles were on Ed Sullivan, even the criminals had a rest for ten minutes." - George Harrison

Later that night The Beatles went to the Peppermint Lounge where they danced and celebrated their performance until the small hours of the morning. 

Their first Ed Sullivan Show is arguably one of the defining moments in The Beatles' decorated history. It was a rousing success in every possible way; they had broke America and were now a household name. This performance truly ushered in the era of Beatlemania; a phenomenon from which we are still feeling the reverberations.

"Seventy-three million people were reported to have watched the first show. It is still supposed to be one of the largest viewing audiences ever in the States.
It was very important. We came out of nowhere with funny hair, looking like marionettes or something. That was very influential. I think that was really one of the big things that broke us - the hairdo more than the music, originally. A lot of people's fathers had wanted to turn us off. They told their kids, 'Don't be fooled, they're wearing wigs.'
A lot of fathers did turn it off, but a lot of mothers and children made them keep it on. All these kids are now grown-up, and telling us they remember it. It's like, 'Where were you when Kennedy was shot?' I get people like Dan Aykroyd saying, 'Oh man, I remember that Sunday night; we didn't know what had hit us - just sitting there watching Ed Sullivan's show.' Up until then there were jugglers and comedians like Jerry Lewis, and then, suddenly, The Beatles!" - Paul McCartney
"The main thing I was aware of when we did the first Ed Sullivan Show was that we rehearsed all afternoon. TV had such bad sound equipment - it still has today, usually, but then it was really bad - that we would tape our rehearsals and then go up and mess with the dials in the control booth. We got it all set with the engineer there, and then we went off for a break.
The story has it that while we were out, the cleaner came in to clean the room and the console, thought, 'What are all these chalk marks?' and wiped them all off. So our plans just went out the window. We had a real hasty time trying to get the sound right." - Ringo Starr

Set list

First half

  1. All My Loving
  2. Till There Was You
  3. She Loves You

 Second half

  1. I Saw Her Standing There
  2. I Want to Hold Your Hand
The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show, February 9th 1964.

The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show, February 9th 1964.

The Beatles with Ed Sullivan, February 9th 1964. 

The Beatles with Ed Sullivan, February 9th 1964. 

The Beatles at the Peppermint Lounge, February 9th 1964. 

The Beatles at the Peppermint Lounge, February 9th 1964. 

Brian Epstein, John Lennon and Paul McCartney rehearsing for the Ed Sullivan Show, February 9th 1964. 

Brian Epstein, John Lennon and Paul McCartney rehearsing for the Ed Sullivan Show, February 9th 1964. 

John Lennon and Neil Aspinall rehearsing for the Ed Sullivan Show, February 9th 1964. 

John Lennon and Neil Aspinall rehearsing for the Ed Sullivan Show, February 9th 1964. 

The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show, February 9th 1964. 

The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show, February 9th 1964. 

The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show, February 9th 1964. 

The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show, February 9th 1964. 

The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show, February 9th 1964. 

The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show, February 9th 1964. 

The Beatles with Ed Sullivan, February 9th 1964. 

The Beatles with Ed Sullivan, February 9th 1964. 

The Beatles with Ed Sullivan, February 9th 1964. 

The Beatles with Ed Sullivan, February 9th 1964. 

The Beatles with Ed Sullivan, February 9th 1964. 

The Beatles with Ed Sullivan, February 9th 1964. 

The Beatles with Ed Sullivan, February 9th 1964. 

The Beatles with Ed Sullivan, February 9th 1964. 

The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show, February 9th 1964. 

The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show, February 9th 1964. 

The Beatles bowing on the Ed Sullivan Show; an act instilled in them early by manager Brian Epstein.

The Beatles bowing on the Ed Sullivan Show; an act instilled in them early by manager Brian Epstein.

The Beatles rehearsing for the Ed Sullivan Show with Neil Aspinall, February 9th 1964.

The Beatles rehearsing for the Ed Sullivan Show with Neil Aspinall, February 9th 1964.

The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show, February 9th 1964.

The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show, February 9th 1964.

Paul McCartney on the Ed Sullivan Show, February 9th 1964.

Paul McCartney on the Ed Sullivan Show, February 9th 1964.

The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show, February 9th 1964.

The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show, February 9th 1964.