The Beatles’ first Ed Sullivan Show

The live show

The Beatles’ record-breaking live debut, broadcast from 8-9pm, was witnessed by just 728 people in Studio 50, but seen by an estimated 73,700,000 viewers in 23,240,000 homes in the United States. It comfortably smashed the record for television viewing figures up until that point.

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

At the start of the hour-long programme, Sullivan announced that a telegram had been received from Elvis Presley and his manager, Colonel Tom Parker, wishing the group luck. It read:

Congratulations on your appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show and your visit to America. We hope your engagement will be a successful one and your visit pleasant. Give our best to Mr Sullivan. Sincerely, Elvis & The Colonel.

The Beatles had been given the telegram half an hour before their stage appearance. After reading it, George Harrison deadpanned: “Elvis who?”

The Beatles performed five songs on their Ed Sullivan Show live debut. They sang ‘All My Loving’, ‘Till There Was You’, and ‘She Loves You’, in the first half of the programme, followed by an advertisement for Anadin. Ed Sullivan’s other guests – Georgia Brown & Oliver Kidds, Frank Gorshin, Tessie O’Shea – followed, after which The Beatles performed ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ and I Want To Hold Your Hand.

While Paul McCartney sang the ballad ‘Till There Was You’, the cameras panned to each of the Beatles in turn, with their names captioned on the screen. When they got to John Lennon, an additional caption appeared, saying: “Sorry Girls, He’s Married.”

After the show radio DJ Murray The K took John, Paul and Ringo to the Playboy Club. With a police escort they walked several blocks to 59th Street where they were ushered into the club’s Penthouse lounge for dinner.

They later went on to the Peppermint Lounge, where they danced the twist until 4am.

Last updated: 2 November 2020
Rehearsal for The Ed Sullivan Show
Interviews: Associated Press and CBS News
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