It was 50 years ago today Mr. Show Biz asked the band to play.
On Feb. 9, 1964, just 79 days after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, The Beatles marked their first live U.S. television appearance as guests on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” News reports stated 73 million viewers tuned into CBS at 8 p.m.
Legions of baby boomers can remember the first time they saw John, Paul, George and Ringo: three guitarists and a drummer flanked by giant, arrow-shaped props. Fans surrendered immediately. It was all over but the screaming.
Five decades later, and 44 years after the Fab Four went their separate ways, many of those who got an earful on that Feb. 9 still believe in yesterday.
We checked in with six Douglas County residents to get their impressions of the musical milestone.
MICHAEL C. TIGHE of Glide, 77
Former college textbook salesman, retired English and journalism instructor
Michael Tighe was an aspiring Peace Corps volunteer in New York City for training with about 50 other recruits when the word got out: Ed Sullivan that night was hosting a British pop group setting the country on fire.
Problem was, the trainees were staying in an old hotel with no TVs. Fortunately, the Peace Corps attracts people with can-do attitudes.
“One enterprising volunteer found out that there was going to be some educational special about Africa also on TV,” Tighe recalls. “We were all headed for Africa when the training was finished, so he appealed to Peace Corps administrators to get a big TV and put it in the (hotel) lounge.”
The TV arrived, and the 50 trainees piled into the lounge at the appointed time — to tune into Ed Sullivan. Tighe was mesmerized.
“I just thought their harmonizing was something we hadn’t really much seen in popular music before,” Tighe said. “There were the Four Freshmen, and they were pretty good, but The Beatles brought something special.”
No doubt the TV special on Africa was informative, but it’s not what Tighe most remembers about that February night in 1964.
“It was my first exposure to The Beatles except for reading or hearing about them, and yes, they definitely lived up to the hype,” he said.
LAUREN SCHROEDER, 64
Chiropractor, wellness coach
Some details are hazy, but others leap forward as Lauren Schroeder remembers the historic Sunday night in front of her parents’ TV set in Cincinnati.
There was Ed Sullivan, she said, “arms forward, bent at the waist, unattractive face” turned to viewers as he talked about the excitement generated all over the city by his musical guests. What happened next walloped the 14-year-old Laurie Horwitz.
“My reaction was like none I’d ever had, or ever again,” Schroeder said. “It was a visceral, internal response ... I was so excited by these four guys playing this music.”
The evening stands out for Schroeder in part because she said she’s paid little attention over the years to bands. She can’t name most lead singers or hit singles, “but I knew these guys,” she said.
She also credits certain Beatles with helping to acquaint the general public with practices that have become more mainstream in health care, something of great interest to her as the owner of the Wisdom of Wellness clinic in Roseburg.
“I remember the Beatles being in India with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and that might have been a link at a time when I myself was in a phase of searching for something and took Transcendental Meditation,” she said.
She said she also came to appreciate George Harrison’s connections with Eastern philosophies, John Lennon’s activism in the peace movement and Paul McCartney’s later endorsement of vegetarianism.
“The Beatles had good messages and a desire to make a difference in the world, and in that way I think they had a very positive effect,” Schroeder said.
JOHN GRANHOLM of Roseburg, 66
Piano technician, former English teacher
Working in a retail music store in the early 1960s gave 16-year-old John Granholm more than a cool after-school job. It also provided the California teen with a few links in the industry’s international network. One day, a visiting wholesaler from Scotland came through the store on his route and took the Thousand Oaks High School junior aside.
“He had ties all over Europe, and he said to me, ‘You watch this group coming to America. They’re called The Beatles. You just wait. They’re going to make a big impression.’”
Granholm didn’t have to wait long. Beatles records started arriving in the store several weeks before the band hooked up with Ed Sullivan. And those records sold like crazy, Granholm recalled.
At the time, Granholm was something of “what would now be called a music nerd,” he recalled. His parents emphasized music education, encouraging him to play clarinet in the school band in fourth grade. By 1964, Granholm had switched from clarinet to guitar.
“I was way into folk music. Everybody was,” he said. “But I also listened to Top 40 AM radio, because that’s what you did at the time.”
Watching The Beatles on television after Sullivan’s introduction was a revelation, Granholm said.
“I thought, ‘Wow, these guys don’t look like the Four Seasons and the Beach Boys and other groups I liked,” Granholm said. “They had an energy to them that was infectious.”
Granholm also appreciated an advantage he reaped as a result of America’s infatuation with Beatles music.
“I quickly learned that ... the combination of being a decent guitar player and knowing the right songs and being able to sing, that can do you very well socially with girls,” he said. “I used that ploy all the way through college quite successfully.”
JUDY TIGHE of Glide, 73
Vintage Singers member, retired music teacher and choral director
Judy Tighe, then Judy Mallory, didn’t shriek, bob in her seat or tug her hair when Ed Sullivan introduced his opening act 50 years ago. After all, she was a teacher in Davis, Calif., and the mother of a 2-year-old daughter. But she did make sure to catch the broadcast, and she shared the national enthusiasm greeting the band.
“I was really aware of how special they were, teaching junior high kids at the time,” Tighe said.
The Beatles’ deft use of harmony and melody made their music accessible to older listeners, while their driving rhythms appealed to the younger set, Tighe said. As the years passed, Tighe incorporated into her classes a series of films for children made by New York Philharmonic conductor Leonard Bernstein that showcased Beatles music.
“That was a good way of bridging the styles of music and culture from R&B to rock ’n’ roll,” Tighe said.
Though she fondly recalls the contagious “almost absolute mania” of The Beatles’ early years, it’s their near-universal appeal that keeps their music relevant today, according to Tighe.
“We in the Vintage Singers have sung Beatles songs. It wasn’t just fly-by-night. The music is still very much alive,” she said.
MIRANDA WHITE of Roseburg, 17
Roseburg High School senior
Too young to remember Beatlemania — or the Kiss Army, or the rise of Madonna, or even the death of Kurt Cobain — Miranda White is proof that it’s possible to love both The Beatles and the Arctic Monkeys. She describes herself has having diverse musical tastes, but also as a Beatles fanatic.
White’s introduction to the Liverpool lads came when she was a tot, in the form of Saturday morning rituals of dancing to “Twist and Shout” with her father. But White’s allegiance wasn’t cemented until 2007, when she and her dad went to see “Across the Universe,” a film whose plot spins off Beatles songs.
White said until her epiphany, she was more into Hannah Montana and the Cheetah Girls. But “Across the Universe” propelled the teen into a fascination with The Beatles as well as the 1960s culture they inhabited.
“For me, it’s a piece of history frozen in time. (I’m sure) you have a different perspective if you lived through it,” White said.
“I definitely wish I could have experienced that time period. Not just The Beatles, but because there were so many human rights events, and the activism with the peace movement, and I think they influenced that quite a bit.”
The music drew her in, White says, but she said she also believes the group took admirable public stands, as in speaking out against the Vietnam War.
“I think if you are in a position where you have a lot of power and influence over people, you should use it to make people aware of problems going on in the world,” she said. “It might start a chain reaction and help the world get rid of a lot of negative things.”
White admitted she used to scoff at film clips of Beatles concerts and shows, such as Ed Sullivan’s, in which girls screamed and fainted. She became a little more humble after attending a Ringo Starr concert in August 2010 at Eugene’s Cuthbert Amphitheater.
“I didn’t think this would happen, but when Ringo came out, I started crying,” she said. “So now I sympathize with those girls.”
SHASTA RAY of Roseburg, 64
Musician, songwriter, concert promoter
One of the first effects The Beatles had on Shasta Ray was to get him kicked out of school.
Then a freshman in a small high school in Sturbridge, Mass., Ray was one of four friends greatly impressed by the clothing as well as the music of the young men from Liverpool. They admired The Beatles’ Cuban-heeled ankle boots and the cut of their suits. Like many in America, they also were struck by the musicians’ collar-length hair.
“It looks short now, but it was a radical thing then,” Ray said.
Ray and his pals began adopting Beatles’ hairstyles and clothing, which made the girls take note, he said. Also taking note were school officials.
“I got three days of suspension — one for wearing Beatle boots, one for wearing thigh-fitting blue jeans and another for hair over the collar, which was not permitted,” Ray recalled. “We were duly dismissed, and we had to go back to white sneakers and white socks.”
Less troublesome and more lasting were The Beatles’ musical influences on Ray. He recalled “a big wow” coming from him and his brother on the night of the Ed Sullivan broadcast.
“They just took music to such a different level in the sense that here you suddenly have cross rhythms and rock, a little bit of gospel and harmonies, and presenting it in such a different format,” Ray said. “It helps me, years later, to be open and willing to take music to a different place and make it genuine.”
A self-described supporter of live music, Ray said he plays primarily reed instruments, but also rhythm guitar and percussion. He also spearheads Shasta Ray Productions, a fast-rotating “spoke in the wheel,” as he puts it, in Douglas County’s entertainment scene.
“My passion is to promote live music, and possibly help to enhance and support business,” he said. “It’s music that brings the community together.”
The Beatles couldn’t have said it better.
• You can reach Assistant City Editor Tricia Jones at 541-957-4216 or firstname.lastname@example.org.