Ladies And Gentlemen . . . The Beatles! And A Theory!


When The Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show on Sunday night, February 9, 1964, it was a very big deal, at least to the kids in this country. Our family was living in Fernandina Beach, Florida, and for once, I put my foot down and told my mom we had to have a new TV. Our old one had conked out a couple of months before, and I wanted to see and hear The Beatles on TV.

At that point, I was on the fence about whether I liked them or not, but I wasn’t going to miss out on the chance to see them and make up my mind. Amazingly, my mom caved in and bought us a new GE 19″ portable, and, of course, it was a black-and-white set, with the nifty stand as shown in this ad. Television wasn’t usually in color in those days; the first primetime TV season broadcast totally in color wasn’t until 1966.

This was arguably the most important television session The Fabs ever did; it was their first chance to perform in the United States and Ed Sullivan was the (then) most popular show on TV.

Now here is something I think is pretty obvious, but I’ve never seen it written about or discussed elsewhere: I firmly believe John’s mike went out on him during the last song (I Wanna Hold Your Hand). The key to this: Watch George! I can hear the audio change about 11:22 in this clip and after that point, all I hear in the vocal mix is Paul. I also think you can see at about 11:55 George is starting to realize something is amiss. If you don’t want to watch the whole clip, just move the slider at the bottom of the view to the time markers I indicate!

Listen carefully to the vocals beginning at 11:58; that should be a two-part harmony but all you can hear is Paul’s part.

I contend that George realizes at about 12:00 that John’s singing into a dead mike and starts laughing at about 12:05.

No matter; they sounded great and by the end of that show, The Beatles had done what they had set out to do: Become the first British rock-and-roll band to be taken seriously by U.S. kids. As for me, I was convinced The Beatles were something new, different and exciting, and thus began my quest to switch from playing an alto saxophone to an electric guitar.

That theater, on Broadway between West 53rd and West 54th in Manhattan, has a wonderful history. Opened in 1927 as Hammerstein’s Theater, it was converted in 1950 to use for television and was renamed CBS-TV Studio 50. Now it’s called the Ed Sullivan Theater and it’s home to David Letterman’s Late Show.

Fernandina Beach Long Ago

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Here are some old photos of Fernandina Beach, Florida, where my brother and I were born, and where we lived during the summers as kids. Our family’s farm is on the mainland, in Callahan, which is about 25 miles away. My grandmother lived there and there were always a few uncles, aunts and cousins around. These photos are from about 1958.

First we have a random street scene from the late 1950s. Most of these homes are now gleaming jewels, but in those days many Florida beach towns were more hardscrabble, rather down-at-the-heels compared to what they are now.

Here are some fishing boats at the Fernandina docks. These are probably shrimp boats, because about the only time my mom would take us to the docks was when she was buying shrimp.

Speaking of my mom, here she is walking to the car from the old Post Office, which isn’t shown in this photo. I’d love to have one of those old cars in the background!

Another dock scene. I don’t know what that building is at the end of the dock, but the electric sign says it’s open for business. Probably a seafood shack.

Last photo: Here’s the old Fernandina train depot, which I believe is now a visitor’s center. This photo isn’t as old as the others; probably from 1977 or so. By the time this was taken, the city fathers were snazzing up the place; especially the downtown area. They renamed the main drag Centre Street and the shops began trading to the increasingly large number of tourists.

Fernandina was a cool place to grow up, as it had an old pre-Civil War fort, Fort Clinch, on the north end of the island. It was closed to the public in those years, but my great-uncle was the curator and administrator for it and he’d let us in to play and explore as long as we were careful. Outside the walls of the fort was the best place to crab using chicken necks on a string. At night it was spooky sitting there waiting for the crabs to bite; the abandoned fort’s walls looming behind us creeped us out.

Bye-Bye Beach House!

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In this photo taken Saturday, September 12, 1964, my mom and I check out our destroyed duplex beach house in Fernandina (Amelia Island, Florida) after Hurricane Dora.

When Patty and I visited the scene a few years ago, we were able to find part of a concrete block from the house.

Unfortunately, flood/storm insurance was not available on ocean-front property in those days, and my dad even had to pay $600 to have the rubble bulldozed away. Of course, that house was WAY too close to the water!

The Beatles played the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville the next evening, having flown to Key West to avoid the storm. My Uncle Johnny’s girlfriend was ill, and he offered me the ticket he had purchased for her. I was bummed and decided to stay at the family farm on the mainland and play Scrabble with my cousins. BAD DECISION!!!