Variety television series The Ed Sullivan Show premiered June 20, 1948, and aired for 23 years. The show’s eponymous host was known for his awkward on-screen demeanor. Still, Americans across the country tuned in to CBS on Sunday nights to watch a mishmash of guests and performances—from ballerinas and opera stars to comedians and puppet shows.
After 15 years on the air, the February 9, 1964, broadcast changed elevated Ed Sullivan to new heights and changed the course of music forever. More than 70 million Americans tuned in to see The Beatles’ perform their U.S. TV debut from what is now the Ed Sullivan Theater. Throngs of screaming teenage girls in the audience weren’t wrong: Beatlemania was in full swing and the British invasion had reached America’s shore.
The group appeared twice more during the following weeks on February 16 (broadcast live from The Beatles’ Miami hotel) and again February 23, (songs recorded two weeks earlier on the day of their landmark show). The Beatles appeared for the fourth time on May 24, 1964, in a pre-taped video to promote their upcoming movie A Hard Day’s Night, and then again from the Ed Sullivan Theater on September 12, 1965 (the six songs had been recorded in August).
Celebrate the 70th anniversary of The Ed Sullivan Show with a look at iconic performances by the Beatles!
The single “I Want To Hold Your Hand” was No. 1 on the charts and stayed there for seven weeks in 1964, thanks in part to the performances on the popular television show.[embedded content]
For their third appearance, Sullivan welcomed the Beatles, saying, “All of us on the show are so darn sorry, sincerely sorry, that this is the third and thus, our last current show with the Beatles because these youngsters from Liverpool, England, and their conduct over here, not only as fine professional singers but as a group of fine youngsters, will leave an imprint with everyone over here who’s met them.”[embedded content]
Watch the full performance of “Twist and Shout” during the February 23, 1964, appearance by the Beatles.[embedded content]