January 28, 2014
Beatles press conference at JFK, Feb. 7, 1964 (Courtesy The Associated Press)

Beatles press conference at JFK, Feb. 7, 1964 (Courtesy The Associated Press)

50 Years Ago in News History: The Beatles in America

On Feb. 7, 1964, Beatlemania arrived in America.

The Beatles — John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr — were newsmakers from the moment they stepped on U.S. soil. As fans chanted "We want Beatles!" and photographers snapped pictures, the band members were ushered inside Kennedy International Airport in New York for their first U.S. press conference.

But the press coverage of their arrival was not the first time Americans were exposed to the Beatles. Time and Newsweek were among the first U.S. publications to take notice of the Beatlemania craze sweeping England. Both magazines ran articles in mid-November 1963, after the group played a command performance before British royalty in London.

Reporters in the London bureaus of the U.S. broadcast networks also witnessed the hysteria and prepared reports on the phenomenon. NBC's "Huntley-Brinkley Report" aired a four-minute segment on the Beatles the evening of Nov. 18, 1963.

On the morning of Nov. 22, 1963, "CBS Morning News With Mike Wallace" ran a story on the group. The network planned to repeat the segment later that evening on Walter Cronkite's newcast, but breaking news that shots had been fired at President John F. Kennedy's motorcade in Dallas interrupted those plans. For nearly four days, all regular programming was canceled as the networks covered the death and funeral of the president. The segment on the Beatles finally aired Dec. 10 on the "CBS Evening News."

Less than two months later, Cronkite featured the group's triumphant arrival in the United States on his evening newscast. Two days later, the group performed live on the network's "Ed Sullivan Show," reaching a recording-breaking audience of 73 million.

Visitors can see excerpts from TV coverage of the Beatles' first U.S. visit in the Newseum's Bloomberg Internet, TV and Radio Gallery. Newspaper front pages on the event are featured in the News Corporation News History Gallery.

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