7 Facts About the Beatles Debut on “The Ed Sullivan Show”

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Love them or not, The Beatles are one of the most iconic bands in pop culture history. Their debut on The Ed Sullivan Show changed the landscape of music forever – here are 7 things you might not know about The Beatles first trip to America in 1964.

#7. The “very nice” telegram from Elvis Presley wasn’t actually from Elvis Presley.

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The telegram reportedly wished the Fab Four “tremendous success,” but it was actually sent by Elvis’ manager, Colonel Tom Parker, because he thought it would make The King look good. Elvis was notoriously jealous of The Beatles, and the feeling was likely mutual – Harrison responded to the telegram backstage with a mocking “Elvis who?”

#6. They got paid for their appearance.

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While most acts appeared on the show in exchange for mere exposure, The Beatles would only agree to hop the pond if The Ed Sullivan Show agreed to not only cover their travel expenses, but to pay an additional $10k fee (around $80k in today’s dollars).

After getting an agreement for 3 appearances and not just one, a deal was struck and history was set in motion.

#5. That said, it was a bargain.

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Close to 74 million people – an astonishing 40% of the country’s population – tuned in for the band’s first U.S. performance.

#4. Seeing it live was like winning the lottery.

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Only 728 lucky people were chosen to attend, out of 50,000 fans who requested tickets.

#3. The show’s musical director didn’t think much of the band.

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His comment to The New York Times? “The only thing that’s different is the hair, as far as I can see. I give them a year.”

#2. They weren’t the only act that night.

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Don’t feel badly if you don’t remember Brill & McCall – few do. They followed The Beatles performance and recall that they couldn’t hear each other during their sketch because of the screaming still going on.

Still, McCall doesn’t regret it, saying “we were there when the world changed.”

#1. One of The Monkees was there that night, too.

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Davy Jones was on the show to promote Oliver! on Broadway, in which he played the Artful Dodger (and was nominated for a Tony).

Keep on rockin’!