The Ed Sullivan Show Was Not First With The Beatles

Jack Paar Featured The Beatles One Month Before Sullivan

The Beatles with Ed Sullivan 1964

Ed Sullivan, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and John Lennon

With Beatlemania nostalgia peaking this month, it is interesting to take note of something that seems to be a common misperception, that the Beatles made their prime time American TV debut on the Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964.

In fact the Beatles were noticed by Jack Paar when he was visiting England in the fall of 1963. A film crew captured them performing and the footage was shown on the Jack Paar Program on January 3, 1964, more than one month before the Ed Sullivan Show.

The big difference was for the Ed Sullivan Show the Beatles came to the United States for the first time and performed live on the program. Beatlemania had hit the United States and the impact reverberates to this day.

Many underestimated the staying power of the Beatles. After their first Sullivan appearance, McCandlish Phillips of the New York Times wrote, “At their present peak, the Beatles face an awful prospect of demise. They are a craze. Anyone at the center of a craze finds that everything he touches turns to money. But since a craze is a source of inflation, it may precede a crash.” He could not have been more wrong. Even Jack Paar thought the the Beatles would be a passing fad when he showed them on his program.

Here is Jack Paar reminiscing about the Beatles with a clip from the original 1964 program.

15 thoughts on “The Ed Sullivan Show Was Not First With The Beatles

  1. TFG

    I was 16, my parents were out, and I sat down with my transistor and a small glass of dads metaxa. Listening to KLIV and turned on Jack Paar. Beatles clip ensued, and KLIV
    (San Jose rock) switchboard lit up with calls wanting to hear them on radio. Beatles songs were already played and faded but their appearance on Paar lit the flame. That’s why there were so many people at the airport when they came to NY to do Sullivan. PS Dad never knew, always added a little water to the bottle to replace the missing brandy. And I still like brandy, though now Spanish.

  2. Lynn Edwards

    I remember that night vividly. My family had Ben living in Liverpool and moved to Canada. My Dad got me up to watch the four lads. In those few moments I left childhood behind and became a confident adolescent

    1. Foster Brooks

      Not many know, as Parr is often cited as the first American TV appearance of the Beatles, but it was actually NBC’s Edwin Newman who did a four minute segment on them that aired on ‘The Huntley Brinkley Report‘ on November 18, 1963, with ‘From Me To You’ featured as an introduction to their music. It’s on YouRube, if you search.

  3. Bill Cavalier

    I remember watching this Jack Paar Program (it was not his Late Show or Tonight Show, which he left in 1962) and seeing this about the Beatles. I thought all of the screaming girls were pretty funny. But the music that came from the Beatles. It changed my life. Still a huge fan after64 years!

  4. craig

    I will go a step further: I was 16, it was Friday night and my parents had gone out. I gathered my transistor set to radio KLIV, some of dad’s Metaxa. and relaxed in his easy chair to enjoy Mr. Paar together with AM rock.

    The beatles had made it to the charts (barely) the year before, but had faded.

    As the recording from England played, requests for their music flooded the station, even before the clip ended! That is why so many fans were to greet them when they landed USA.

    Very few other events had such an impact….maybe cassius clay defeating Sonny Liston.

    Miss you, Jack

  5. Kristine Mann

    I remember seeing them on The Tonight Show with Jack Paar, way before the Ed Sullivan Show. I am now 71 years old and I still a fan.

  6. Lynn Sabo

    I remember that someone was in the audience on the Jack Parr show who stood up and said “THE BEATLES ARE COMING!” Just before they came to America.

  7. Sandy Anderson

    I remember this well…. my sister & I were glued to the set. Every time I hear someone say they were on Ed Sullivan first I correct them but no one really believes me!!! We were lucky enough to see them twice in concert: Hollywood Bowl & Dodger Stadium.

  8. mitch

    I feel vindicated at last ,ive told many people over the years that I first saw the Beatles on the Jack Parr show.i remember he said his family was on vacation in England His daughter which I think was 14 yrs old at the time wanted to see what British teenagers did for fun,they ended up filming the Beatles at the Cavern nite club and they were playing “she loves you”.I was blown away,approx 2 weeks later I heard them on the radio and wham they were a big deal that has never stopped.

    1. Dennis Beltmann

      I would be interested more in what you said here. For 40 years I have been telling
      people that the first appearance of the Beatles was way before their appearance
      on the Jack Paar show in 64. They were featured on his show way before that.
      In probably mid 1963, his daughter Randy Paar was on his show and was raving
      on and on about this group she saw in Liverpool. He wasn’t aware of who she was talking about.
      Since she was an amature photographer who also took tons of videos (films) on her trips,
      she had a bunch of clips of the Beatles in the Cavern Club. No audio, but there they were.
      And I remember it all clear as a bell. And I didn’t know who they were yet either.
      When they appeared on the Ed Sullivan show the first time, Ed said the group wanted to
      thank three people, and one of them was Randy Paar.
      I’ve researched this for the last 15 years, and even e-mailed Randy Paar in 2012 (she was a
      powerful NY attorney by then.) She didn’t reply to me, and I later found out she died horribly
      under a train about the same time.
      BUT, you are the first person I’ve ever run across who remembers the same appearance I do.
      And it IS historical, because it IS the FIRST appearance of the group in the US.

  9. Viki

    Exactly! I saw them, too, but no one else in my class did…it was the Late Show, afterall. I’ve told people over the years about seeing it in the JP show … they didn’t even remember him!!!
    None of his other guests ever impressed me, but then again I was 11… one way or another, they changed me, I’m sure. They definitely pushed the envelope on the whole world if music, style, Outlook, travel … just about everything.
    Yeh, my mom said “they’ll never last”…
    Well, mom, 55 years later, current generations know who they were!!!

    1. Richard Pickel

      Remember, though, back then your father might take home $100 per week, even if he had a strenuous, full-time job and a family to support. Your allowance was probably around $0.05 per week. That’s what my sisters and I were given, and told it was more than any other children in the history of the world had ever been given. Some others around our ages in the neighborhood were given $0.01 per week. You think I’m joking. “Where the hell was that, Ethiopia or something?” you might be thinking. The Boston area. Blend together Old Yankee Protestant extreme cheapness and greediness, Italian American Catholic extreme cheapness and greediness and Irish American Catholic extreme cheapness and greediness, and possibly world record-setting levels of cheapness and greediness were flourishing there. I cleared out for California ASAP.

  10. Kay Wilson

    I’ve been telling my husband this and I’m not sure he believed me. I went to school and told all the kids about the Beatles and nobody know who they were. Then when they were on Sullivan, everybody’s like oh yeah, the Beatles, how cool.

  11. E Fischer

    I remember it perfectly. I told my fellow fourth-graders that they were fantastic and I remember saying, “I’ve never felt this way before.” Still haven’t! Saw the Ron Howard movie today and felt it all again. Love you, Jack. Love you, Beatles, individually and collectively.

  12. Steven O. Steele

    I can distinctly recall where I was sitting when
    I first saw the BEATLES for the first time on the
    JACK PARR show!!! A month later when they
    appeared on The Sullivan Show my dad bet me
    $100 that a year from that date I wouldn’t even
    be able to remember their name!!! Well, here
    it is OVER FIFTY YEARS later and they are now
    a household word and I’m still waiting for fifty


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