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Roy Pullam: Beatles on Ed Sullivan, 50 years ago; some generation gaps aren’t bridged

Today is the 50th anniversary of the Beatles on Ed Sullivan. I was a senior in high school that year. Our country had been in mourning after the loss of our youngest president. We needed to change the dialogue, and the Beatles certainly did. In a matter of days we went from shell shock to awe struck.

I was sitting with Mom and Dad when Ed Sullivan changed music forever:
” Ladies and gentlemen, the Beatles.”

No five words ever created so much turmoil in the music world. ” I Want to Hold Your Hand” was their first number. Girls in the audience went wild.

At the end of the song, I asked my father what he thought. He said, “They are loud, and they all have Moe of The Three Stooges haircut.”


The next day the DJ on WTTL, a radio station in Madisonville, proclaimed they wouldn’t last. I must confess that I had similar thoughts. I thought their songs were bubble gum…. I don’t think the word had been invented yet. Still, it was something different than doo wop. There was a difference in the music of the British invasion and that of the boy killed in a car wreck who was a leader of the pack.


Monday we went to school. Everyone was talking about the program. The night before churches had been empty due to the program. Danny Guinn showed up with a Beatles cut. His hair wasn’t long, but J.D. Rayburn, our school superintendent, sent him home to get a haircut.


By the 5th period, he and George Wooton, our building principal, had located wigs. They went all over the building showing off their look. We all laughed, and then they delivered the message that the “extreme” haircut was forbidden. Extreme! Within five years we were in the age of Aquarius. As a new teacher then I saw hair, long stringy….hair…hair…hair!


It was 1966 when the album “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow” came out that I became a Beatles fan. I had enjoyed the Rolling Stone,The Yardbirds the Animals, the Kinks and Mary Ann Faithful prior to joining the wave of Beatles fans. It was four years until they broke up, and I had all their later albums…still do.


How the world has changed in 50 years. There are two of their group left….Paul and Ringo, music has gravitated toward rap and I am as disappointed with it as my father was with the Fab Four.


Roy Pullam is a retired schoolteacher who lives in Henderson.

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