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Westchester Beatles Fans Mark 50th Anniversary Of Ed Sullivan Appearance

The Beatles 1964 performance on the Ed Sullivan Show will be celebrated with a two-hour special on CBS Sunday, Feb. 9. Photo Credit:
Anthony Ringo of Hastings is a lifelong Beatles fan. Photo Credit: Danny LoPriore

WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. -- Westchester families sat in front of their televisions to meet the Beatles 50 years ago when Ed Sullivan presented the Fab Four from Liverpool, England, Feb. 9, 1964 in a performance that changed the history of music.

Although the Beatles broke up just six years after that appearance and each went on to successful solo careers, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr remain the Beatles to their first fans.

To commemorate the 50th anniversary, CBS-TV will present "The Night That Changed America: A Grammy Salute To The Beatles" Sunday, Feb. 9 from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the exact time of the original event.

In honor of the Ed Sullivan Show appearance, The School of Rock-Bedford began their Beatles program Thursday, Feb. 6, using a classic Beatles catalog to educate their students.

"The Beatles are the most influential band of all time," School of Rock Music Director Mike Kemmlein said. "Their song structure, vocal melody and harmony are still the frame work for pop music today."

The Beatles' Sullivan Show appearance is one of the most watched television events ever with 74 million people tuning in to watch the shaggy-haired young men perform five songs during the variety hour. It is considered by many as one of the most important moments in music and television.

Rose Mercurio-Johnson was a 10-year-old growing up in Yonkers kid when she sat on her living room floor with her girlfriends to watch the show.

"We were amazed at how cute Paul was," she said. "They flashed all their ages also: Paul 21, George and Ringo 23 and George 19. I followed their lives like a stalker until after junior high school."

Toni Gugliotta of Yonkers was an ardent admirer.

"I just remember writing and mailing a letter to Paul McCartney, telling him I was in love with him," Gugliotta said. "At a young age, my first favorites were 'I Wanna Hold Your Hand,' and 'She Loves You.' The latter which (I believed) he wrote for me."

Yonkers native Valerie O'Keefe said she sat on the floor in front of the family's Zenith television.

Rich Liebson of White Plains said the Sullivan show was a defining moment in his family as it was in many as the music generation gap widened.

"I watched with my parents and brothers," Liebson said. "Dad hated them, of course. The next day, every kid in the second grade who had hair long enough, had it combed down in front. My mom bought their first album a few weeks later, and I began a successful campaign to convince my dad to buy me my first transistor radio."

Anthony Ringo, a Hastings drummer who bears a remarkable resemblance to Ringo Starr and adopted his name, is a lifetime fan despite being born in 1977.

"The Beatles influenced me with their music and the friendship they had for each other," Ringo said. "They were close, like brothers, and as Lennon said, 'went through their therapy together.' I'll be watching the special for sure."

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