60 years Ago: BEATLES PLAY FIRST CONCERTS IN AMERICA
The Beatles began the week of February 10, 1964, with a series of press conferences at the Plaza Hotel. In addition to answering endless questions, the group received gold record awards for I Want To Hold Your Hand and Meet The Beatles! from Capitol Records, the same label that had previously passed on issuing the group’s records in America an incredible four times. They also met with David Picker of United Artists to discuss their upcoming film and attended a cocktail party held in their honor.
The Beatles were scheduled to fly from New York to Washington, D.C. on the morning of February 11, but balked at the idea when confronted with a winter snow storm. George made it clear he was not going to fly in a “fookin’ blizzard.” Plans were quickly altered and the Beatles, their entourage and the press boarded a train at Penn Station to head to the nation’s capitol. About 2,000 fans were there to great them when the train arrived shortly after 3:00 p.m. The Beatles were then taken by limos to the Shoreham Hotel, where the group freshened up and worked out the set list for the evening’s concert.
The group was then taken to the site of their evening concert, the Washington Coliseum, where they conducted a press conference from the stage. After walking over to WWDC’s satellite studio located by the venue for an exclusive interview with Carroll James, the disc jockey who played I Want To Hold Your Hand weeks before its scheduled release date, the group returned to the Coliseum.
When the group climbed onto the stage just after 8:30 p.m., fans began screaming and photographers (both professional and amateur) started taking tons of pictures. The Beatles knocked out a high-energy 12-song set, with the adrenaline rush brought on by the screaming crowd causing Ringo to push the beat a bit faster on many of the songs. After recovering from the concert, the group headed to the British Embassy to attend a charity ball.
Having played their first American concert the night before in front of over 8,000 screaming fans, the Beatles awoke in an excited mood. They got a mini-tour of the nation’s capitol and then headed back to New York by train. About 1,500 fans were there for the group’s arrival at Penn Station. The boys were smuggled out of the station through a freight elevator and subterranean passageway. Upon arrival at the Plaza, it was more of the same. After relaxing for a spell in their Plaza Hotel suites, the group headed to Carnegie Hall, where they gave two successful concerts before their enthusiastic fans. Later that evening Murray the K took the group to the Headliner Club, where Ringo twisted the night away. After a stop at the Improvisation coffee house, the group went back to the Plaza at 4:00 a.m.
On Thursday afternoon the Beatles flew to Miami, where they were met by a crowd estimated at between 4,500 to 7,000 people. The group got a police escort to the Deauville Hotel. After dinner and a meeting with the staff from The Ed Sullivan Show, they went to the Miami branch of the Peppermint Lounge, where they caught R&B singer Hank Ballard’s show. They stayed till 1:00 a.m. before having a round of the drunks at the Wreck Bar before heading back to the Deauville.
On Friday, the Beatles did a photo shoot for Life magazine and were taken out on the motor yacht Southern Trail. At 6:00 p.m., the group held a rehearsal in one of the Deauville’s lower level rooms. That evening they went to the home of a Miami Beach policeman who had been serving as their protector and guide. They were treated to a family-style American dinner with his family. After returning to the Deauville at about 11:00 P.M., the group headed to one of the hotel’s night clubs to see comedian Don Rickels, who poked fun at them from the stage.
The next day the Beatles spent the morning fishing and swimming before returning to the Deauville for a camera rehearsal for The Ed Sullivan Show, which was set to be broadcast live from the hotel on Sunday night. That evening, they went to a night club to see the Coasters.
Sunday, February 16, began with a morning camera rehearsal. That afternoon, the group took part in the show’s dress rehearsal in front of 3,500 lucky ticket holders in the hotel’s Napoleon Ballroom. After relaxing in their rooms for a few hours, the Beatles were escorted through the hotel’s crowded lobby to the Napoleon Room for the live broadcast. The group’s second Ed Sullivan Show was another triumph, with approximately 72 million viewers tuning in.
After the show, the hotel’s owner held a party for the Sullivan Show staff and guests. While the other Beatles were in an upbeat mood, Ringo appeared sullen. When asked by Sullivan Associate Director John Moffitt why he was feeling somber, Ringo replied, “It will never be any better than this. It’s all straight down from here.” Ringo would soon learn he was wrong. It would get even better.
The full story of the Beatles in America is told in great detail in the book The Beatles Are Coming! The Birth of Beatlemania in America.
This week’s questions cover the Beatles first concerts in America and their stay in Miami Beach.
- What song did the Beatles choose to open their first American concert?
- What song did the Beatles close their first American concert with?
- What was the Washington Coliseum normally used for?
- What was the name of the sleeper car that they Beatles were in during their train ride from New York to the nation’s capitol?
- Who booked the Beatles into Carnegie Hall?
- Who was the opening act for the Beatles Carnegie Hall concert?
- Who were George’s two different roommates at the Deauville Hotel?
1. Roll Over Beethoven, a Chuck Berry rocker with George on lead vocal. The Beatles version of the song had yet to be released in America.
2. Long Tall Sally, a Little Richard rocker with Paul on lead vocal. The Beatles had yet to record the song for EMI. The concert’s set list is shown below.
3. Boxing and wrestling matches. The group performed on a square stage. The Beatles changed the direction they were facing every three songs so that all in attendance would get a front view of the band for part of the show.
4. The King George, named after a British monarch, not George Harrison or George Martin.
5. Sid Bernstein, who would later promote the Beatles historic concert at Shea Stadium.
6. The Briarwood Singers, a folk group from Miami.
7. Murray the K followed the Beatles down to Miami Beach and roomed with George for a few days before heading back to New York. Afterwards, George was joined by their Miami Beach police escort, Sgt. Buddy Dresner.
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