George Harrison, John Lennon and drummer Ringo Starr are all smiles as they chat with show host Ed Sullivan after making their television debut in America 60 years ago.
On February 9, 1964, the Fab Four drew a record-breaking viewership of over 73 million people on The Ed Sullivan Show—more than 60 percent of all TVs on in America at the time, according to Nielsen. Every seat in the New York City studio was spoken for too, with an audience of over 700 including then-former Vice President Richard Nixon’s teenage daughters, Tricia and Julie.
“The city never has witnessed the excitement stirred by these youngsters from Liverpool who call themselves The Beatles,” Sullivan said as he announced the newly famed quartet. Amidst cheers and singing, the show displayed close-ups of each band member—which for Lennon was annotated with a note that read: “Sorry girls, he’s married.”
“We’re rather crummy musicians,” lead guitarist Harrison told Newsweek at the time. Piling on the self-deprecation, vocalist and bass guitarist McCartney added: “We can’t sing, we can’t do anything…but we’re having a great laugh.” Despite their perceived shortcomings, the British icons went on to captivate America.
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