Readers fondly remember Fab Four’s ‘Sullivan Show’ debut

Mitch Tiner, as John Lennon, right, and Terry Yeager, as Paul McCartney, rehearse the Beatles’ version of “Twist and Shout.” (Dan Pelle)

At 8, Terry Yeager caught Beatles fever and 50 years later it’s still surging through his blood.

Yeager was one of 73 million Americans who watched the Fab Four’s historic, Feb. 9, 1964, appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” lying on the living room floor of his Dishman-area home.

“It just blew me away,” Yeager said.

That Sunday evening, excitement boiled as Sullivan famously announced, “Tonight, the whole country is waiting to hear England’s Beatles,” before the shaggy-haired foursome took the stage and played “All My Loving ” during the live U.S. television debut. Girls in the audience screamed, some near hyperventilation. The group played five other songs, including “She Loves You,” which caused the audience to explode with noise.

The performance forever changed rock ’n’ roll, ignited Beatlemania and sparked Yeager’s love of music. Experts say it was the first television event to go “viral” and is known as one of the world’s top cultural moments.

Now at age 58, Yeager is in the Northwest cover band Meet Revolver. Yeager channels Paul McCartney and even plays a dozen songs left-handed on his bass, just like Paul.

The group performs in authentic suits, shaggy wigs and Beatles boots. All their equipment matches the Beatles British Invasion period. They play across the Northwest, most recently Dec. 28 at Schweitzer Mountain Resort.

Yet like Paul, who had heart surgery in 2007, Yeager has aged and needs new hips. The pain of standing through a two-hour show is excruciating. So the band is on hiatus until his hips are repaired. The band still regularly practices and will return to the stage entertaining Beatles lovers with “All My Loving ” and other favorites.

Mitch Tiner, Meet Revolver’s John Lennon, missed the historic TV performance because he wasn’t born until nine months later. Yet he grew up listening to the Beatles, and remembers building with Lincoln Logs while “Strawberry Fields Forever” spun on the record player.

He so resembled Lennon in high school that kids called him “John Lennon Jr.,” which he disliked, especially when Lennon was shot in 1980. By that time the Beatles weren’t “cool” to high schoolers in Palo Alto, Calif., who worshipped new bands such as Led Zeppelin, Lynyrd Skynyrd and their hometown favorite the Grateful Dead. So Tiner was a closet Beatles fanatic.

When he moved to Spokane in 1990, his wife made him answer an ad to audition for a British Invasion band. That’s when he met Yeager. By 1999, the band became an exclusive Beatles group and began playing fairs, corporate functions and many venues other than smoky bars. Meet Revolver sticks to early Beatles tunes, which are easier to play as a four-piece band.

“It’s good old-fashioned, danceable rock ’n’ roll,” Tiner said. “It’s real positive, upbeat, happy music.”

There’s no question people love the Beatles and are anticipating the so-called British Invasion’s golden anniversary Sunday.

Rolling Stone honored the event by putting the boyish foursome on the cover of the Jan. 3 issue. The article looks at how the Beatles managed to “conquer America” in the wake of the assassination of President Kennedy even as they faced media disdain and a clueless record label.

CBS News is marking the 50th anniversary with a live, interactive media event. “50 Years: The Beatles” will take place Sunday, from 3-5 p.m. at the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York, 50 years to the day from when the Fab Four first performed in that very theater.

The event will stream live on CBSNews.com and CBSNewYork.com/ 50YearsLater and highlight rare footage from CBS News’ extensive archives of the Beatles’ first three days in New York City and their famous appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” Both websites will feature photo galleries, archival radio interviews with the Beatles and written pieces looking at their songs and cultural influence.

“History was made 50 years ago in the Ed Sullivan Theater – our reporting will help audiences reconnect to that history,” said CBS News President David Rhodes in a news release.

Our readers recently shared their memories on Facebook and in emails of that unforgettable night in 1964:

Bob Anez, Helena

“The constant screaming from girls in the audience was something no musical group had generated before, particularly on TV,” Anez wrote of his memory from age 12 in Havre, Mont. “I concluded these guys must be something special to cause that kind of reaction. I remember thinking their hair was soooo long as it flopped around when they tossed their heads during the songs. Of course, it wasn’t that many years later when my hair was longer than their dos. Their ‘Beatle boots’ stirred a lot of interest, too. Regardless of how ‘different’ they appeared, the fact that they were on the Sullivan show gave them an aura of respectability in many circles that they might not have otherwise had. Still, I remember my dad grudgingly watching and grumbling about all that ‘long hair.’ ”

Curtis Hewston, Millwood

“I was not quite 7 years old in a military family of six (soon to be seven) in Lincoln, Nebraska. I knew it was going to be a big deal. My dad, an Air Force officer, about 32 at the time, was especially excited. He had all their records. So it was a family affair that night. We all watched, and I remember it vividly – the ‘long’ hair, the screaming audience – it was pure excitement and I knew I was witnessing something very special, much like the death of JFK just 10 weeks earlier and the death of Winston Churchill less than a year later. These three events are among the earliest memories of my life. I’ll always listen to the Beatles. I think they’ve transcended pop culture – they’re a historical phenomenon.”

Sue Soinski Schenk, Greenacres

“News that the Beatles would be on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’ spread like wildfire throughout my school,” wrote Schenk, who was 16, living in Cleveland and in love with John Lennon. “I didn’t care if my family laughed and talked to each other while the other performers were on, but once Ed Sullivan introduced the Beatles I insisted on complete silence so I wouldn’t miss a second!

“I remember their long hair became popular right away, and their English accents were so charming and sexy it wasn’t long before everyone in high school was saying ‘fab’ and ‘gear.’ Their photos had been plastered all over the teen magazines and later we would be collecting Beatles bubble gum cards.”

Charles Bowman, Spokane

“I remember my Mom gathering up me, my little sister and little brother and setting us in front of the TV to watch the Beatles on Ed Sullivan that night in 1964,” wrote Bowman, who was 6 and living in Spokane. “(Mom) said, ‘I want you guys to watch this. This is going to be history.’ And here it is 50 years later, and how right she was. Thanks, (RIP) Mom. I have loved the Beatles ever since. And I finally got to see Paul McCartney live this past summer in Seattle and when he sang “All My Loving” it made me cry and think of my late Mom.

Sigrid Brannan, Spokane Valley

“This program was a ritual in our big family and we all got dinner, chores, and dishes done so we could gather and watch,” wrote Brannan, who lived in Sandpoint. “My best recollection is that I was in about third grade and we were sitting on the linoleum floor of Mom’s living room. When the Fab 4 came on, we were transfixed. They were so. dang. cute. Even I knew at that age! And the music was amazing! From that moment on, we were all in love with them. Their personalities. Their music. Their struggles. We went and saw their movies and bought all their albums, listening to them over and over again.”

Dan English, Coeur d’Alene

“I remember watching with my parents in the front room of our longtime home at 16th and St. Maries in Coeur d’Alene. I have to admit when I first started hearing about them I thought they were a “big city” group from Spokane, but hey, I was only 12 at that time. It did inspire me to go on and be a rock and roll drummer in a few very forgotten bands. But I did sit in on a set at a slab dance in the city park of Coeur d’Alene and played a full gig at an NIJC (North Idaho Junior College) dance after a basketball game. In the local music scene those venues were about as big as they got. And I’ve been told before, my nose has a slight resemblance to Ringo’s nose.”

Beatles tribute

What: “50 Years: The Beatles” will take place Sunday, 3-5 p.m. ET at the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York, 50 years to the day after the Fab Four’s “The Ed Sullivan Show” debut.

Watch: The event will live stream on CBSNews.com and CBSNewYork.com/50YearsLater. It will highlight rare footage from CBS archives of the Beatles’ first three days in New York City and their famous TV appearance on Feb. 9, 1964. Both websites will feature photo galleries, archival radio interviews with the Beatles and written pieces looking at their songs and cultural influence.

Locally: For information on Spokane’s Beatle cover band go to www.meetrevolver.com.


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