The Beatles On American TV B.S. (Before Sullivan)

Thursday, 06 February 2014 06:51 AM Written by 

Scott Mervis's piece on the Beatles got the correct order of the Beatles' coverage in the months prior to their first visit and Ed Sullivan Show appearances.  What you didn't see, however, were the videos themselves.  This is all of them, from the first, on November 18, till the Jack Paar segment on January 3, 1964.   Oh, when you're done with this check out the fantastic PG  Interactive Beatles Quiz.

The Huntley-Brinkley Report: November 18, 1963

The film and videotape didn't survive but the audio soundtrack, from November 18, 1963, did. The reporter, Edwin Newman, was known for his wit and wordplay. NBC's Huntley and Brinkley were hugely popular in the 60's before Walter Cronkite caught on.

The CBS Morning News With Mike Wallace: November 22, 1963

CBS caught on, on when The CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite offered a segment on the group. The reporter: Alexander Kendrick, of CBS's London Bureau. 20 years earlier Kendrick was one of Edward R. Murrow's intrepid group of CBS war correspondents known as "The Murrow Boys."  It had been slotted to run on on the CBS Evening News With Walter Cronkite, but events later that day took precedence.

Rerun: The CBS Evening News With Walter Cronkite: December 10, 1963:

Let Cronkite tell the tale as only he could. Sullivan's claim he heard about them during a London visit being the only thing that led him to book the group wasn't quite the whole story. Ed had to do his research and who did he turn to but...Uncle Walter.

It's worth noting Cronkite, a lifelong jazz lover, later said he initially disliked the band and the hair. But he would mellow considerably. Beloved by an entire generation of Baby Boomers, two of his closest personal friends in late life were Jimmy Buffett and Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart.

The Jack Paar Program: January 3, 1964:

I saw this the night it ran. And I loved Paar, host of the Tonight Show before Johnny Carson. One of the most literate, volatile and witty TV hosts of all time, Paar made headlines in February, 1960 for walking off Tonight after being barred by NBC from telling an innocuous joke about a restroom that could have been told in a church without offending.   After a cooling-off period, he returned. When he departed and Carson took over, Paar hosted an hour-long Friday night show that was required viewing in my house.  It lasted from 1962-65.

Paar's lifelong insistence he had the Beatles on before Sullivan was obviously wrong. Why he said that requires context. Paar and Sullivan detested one another. They once feuded publicly over the small fees Paar paid Tonight Show guests compared to the far larger sums Sullivan paid. When Ed heard of Paar running the Beatles segment, he was enraged at Paar's attempt at one-upmanship.

Nonetheless, he made sure Paar's teenage daughter Randy had tickets to the Beatles' stage debut, perhaps as a way of reminding Jack who actually got them on the air.  This version is from a later Paar career retrospective.  He made one abortive try at a comeback in the 70's but remained retired, having made enough money he didn't have to bother.



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