Why were The Beatles on Ed Sullivan?

In late September 1963 George Harrison becomes the first Beatle to visit America.
Map artwork by Jane Samson
He flies to New York and then to St Louis. There are no crowds and the first person to recognise him is his sister now living in Benton, Illinois.

A month later Ed Sullivan happens to be at Heathrow Airport. The Beatles are returning from Sweden and there are chaotic scenes, with around 1500 fans lining a rooftop in a rainstorm. America's leading TV host hears hears aboutThe Beatles for the first time.

An Englishman in New York

A week later, Brian Epstein travels to New York. He arranges a meeting with Sullivan at the Delmonico Hotel  on the 11th of November

Sullivan still knows little about the British group and even less about their music. But he agrees to pencil The Beatles for two broadcasts - the first in New York on February 9. They are offered around £3,500, around a third of the rate of top US acts. 

Epstein agrees  in return for top billing .He and Sullivan close the deal on a handshake.

On the 4th December The Beatles headline the Royal Variety Show. 

Sullivan calls Cronkite to enquire about "those bugs, or whatever they call themselves". What to America is still a foreign novelty act now has royal connection. Those "long haired boys" had been invited to appear 'for their queen'. That catapults them onto the 'A' list of prospective guests.

That Ed Sullivan Show

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