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Retracing The Beatles' first visit to the U.S.: New York, February 7-10, 1964

The Beatles, February 1964
The Beatles, February 1964Photo: Getty Images (File)

At 1:20 pm on Friday, February 7, 1964, The Beatles landed in America for the very first time, and music history would never be the same. It would be a busy weekend for The Beatles leading up to their historic debut on "The Ed Sullivan Show" on Sunday night as they took New York City by storm.

Fans can still follow in The Beatles' footsteps today as many of the NYC landmarks still exist.

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 7

After The Beatles landed at JFK airport to thousands of screaming fans, they held a short press conference at the airport. They charmed the press with quick-witted answers like:

Question: Will you sing for us?
John Lennon: No, we need money first.

Question: Do you ever get a haircut at all?
George Harrison: I had one yesterday.

Question: Why does your music excite people so much?
John Lennon: If we knew, we'd form another group and be managers.

On the 50th anniversary, February 7, 2014, a plaque marking the Beatles historic visit will be placed at the airport by the New York Port Authority.

The Beatles were then whisked away to The Plaza Hotel (Fifth Avenue at Central Park South) in Manhattan. When the Beatles first arrived at the hotel on February 7, 1964, at least 50 policemen were needed around the hotel to try and keep the hordes of fans in line.

The Beatles were taken to the Presidential Suites on the 12th floor (rooms 1209 through 1216). With the chaotic scene and mass pandemonium created by the fans in front of the hotel, The Plaza management was shocked to learn that the reservations made for these "English businessmen" were actually the Beatles.

Inside the Plaza Hotel, The Beatles watched news reports about themselves on television and conducted phone interviews with local radio DJs including Murray the K. This was documented in the exceptional film by The Maysles Brothers, The Beatles First US Visit.

The famous Plaza Hotel still stands today. In 2008, the Plaza converted half of the building into condos, but there are still 282 hotel rooms. The hotel was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1986. The same architect who designed the Plaza hotel, Henry Hardenbergh, also designed the Dakota, where John Lennon lived.

[Note: After the mayhem of The Beatles first U.S. visit, the Plaza Hotel management did not want the Beatles to return. In subsequent visits to New York, The Beatles would stay at The Warwick Hotel.]

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 8

The next day, Feb 8, George Harrison had strep throat and stayed in bed. His sister, Louise, came to the hotel to take care of him.

While George was sick in bed, John, Paul and Ringo entertained reporters for a photo shoot in Central Park followed by many fans. They took a horse and buggy ride, posed on rocks by a lake, and had lunch at the boathouse.

The threetles also went for a rehearsal at the Ed Sullivan show studio (1697 Broadway), now home to CBS' "The Late Show with David Letterman." Since George was sick, road manager Neil Aspinall stood in for him, as can be seen in many photographs.

That night, John, Paul and Ringo went to the 21 Club restaurant (21 W. 52nd Street) for a dinner party hosted by Capitol Records. After dinner, they were given a car tour of Manhattan to see NYC landmarks including the U.N. building, the Empire State Building, Broadway and Times Square, according to author Bruce Spizer.

SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 9

The day of the Beatles television performance there were thousands of teenage fans waiting up and down Broadway trying to get a glimpse of the Beatles entering and leaving the studio. Even though there were 50,000 requests for tickets to the show, there were only 728 seats available inside. Watching the Beatles’ performance that night in the studio audience were John’s wife, Cynthia Lennon and George’s sister, Louise Harrison.

A record 73 million people watched that night. The Beatles' sang five songs in two separate segments including "All My Loving", "Till There Was You", "She Loves You", "I Saw Her Standing There" and "I Want To Hold Your Hand". The Beatles made such an impact with their historic live appearance that it launched Beatlemania in the U.S. which still endures to this day.

Note: CBS will broadcast "The Night That Changed America: A GRAMMY Salute to The Beatles" on the exact night 50 years to the day of the Ed Sullivan show broadcast (Sunday, February 9). Making it extra special, Paul and Ringo reunite to sing a few Beatles songs during the show.

Earlier that day on February 9, The Beatles taped another performance for “The Ed Sullivan Show” which was shown on Sunday, February 23 after the Beatles had returned to England. On Sunday, Feb. 16, The Beatles appeared on the show again live from Miami, Florida. All of The Beatles appearances on the show are included on the DVD set, The 4 Complete Ed Sullivan Shows starring The Beatles.

The studio holds such reverence for Beatles fans and many would like to tour the facility, but unfortunately there is no tour available to the public. The only way you can see the studio is to get a ticket to be in the audience of the Letterman Show.

After the show, The Beatles celebrated by first going to The Playboy Club (59th street and Fifth Avenue) conveniently located across the street from The Plaza Hotel. Paul McCartney commented: "I think the Bunnies are even more lovable than we are."

Next, The Beatles went to the Peppermint Lounge. Just like a scene from A Hard Day's Night, Ringo Starr danced the night away as John and Paul grooved from their seats.

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 10

On February 10, 1964, Capitol Records president Alan Livingston presented the Beatles with gold records for “Meet the Beatles” and “I Want to Hold your hand" at the Plaza Hotel.

Several press conferences were held inside the Terrace and Baroque rooms of the hotel that day for the media. One member of the press who interviewed The Beatles that day was celebrity psychologist, Dr. Joyce Brothers.

After a full afternoon of interviews, the Beatles hosted a cocktail party for members of the press at the Plaza.

In just a brief four-day visit, The Beatles had conquered America. They were due to stay in America for another 10 days to perform their first U.S. concerts and appear for a second time on "The Ed Sullivan Show" live from Miami.

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