Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Beatles on American Television Before 'The Ed Sullivan Show'

Everyone knows the first time The Beatles appeared on American television was on The Ed Sullivan Show, right? Well ... their Sullivan appearance on Feb. 9, 1964 - which set a record for American television viewership at the time - was the first time the Beatles were present, on stage, performing on an American TV show.

But The Beatles had been seen several times previously on American television. One of those appearances was on The Jack Parr Show, in which, on tape, the Beatles were shown performing one song. Two other appearances were news reports, one by CBS and one by NBC.

What all three of these pre-Ed Sullivan Show appearances have in common is their dismissive tone toward The Beatles. Wait, let me rephrase that: the adults presenting these segments weren't dismissive toward The Beatles personally, but toward rock 'n roll. The adults just didn't get it, and certainly gave no hint of understanding that The Beatles were about to go supernova.

About a month before The Beatles' Ed Sullivan Show live performance, a taped performance by them was show by Jack Parr (the original host of The Tonight Show). Apologies for the low video quality, but here is that segment:

Before Jack Parr, there was this 5-minute segment on CBS News that aired on Nov. 21, 1963:

And three days before the CBS News report, NBC News aired a report - by the great but obviously perplexed Edwin Newman - on the Huntley/Brinkley Report. Unfortunately, the video part of that report is lost, but the audio still remains. Here it is, over a slideshow of Beatles photos:

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