At 8 p.m. on Feb. 9, 1963, an unheard-of 60% of American TVs were tuned to CBS. I was one of them. It was one of those moments in my life that I can recall just like I’m watching a video of it.
My family and I were visiting my aunt, uncle and cousins in Middle Village (a section of Queens, NY.) The next day was a school day, and that usually meant that we had to get home early. But not that night. It was not just another “school night.”
Beatlemania was sweeping the country. That’s practically all you could hear on the radio. Radio stations WABC and WMCA in New York were the self-appointed “official Beatles radio stations.” WABC renamed itself “W-A-Beatle-C,” and WMCA’s Good Guys recorded what seemed like hundreds of Beatles promos.
The Beatles had sparked a run on the airwaves that set all broadcast viewing records. The first Beatles-Sullivan show was watched by a staggering 40.5% of the nation. Everyone wanted to have a look at the source of all that hoopla. How could four pop musicians—four boys from England—create so much excitement?
The phenomenon unfolded in living rooms across the country. According to the A.C. Nielsen Co., the viewing audience was estimated at about 74 million people, reflecting a total of 23.24 million homes. Compare that with the recent season ending episode of The Walking Dead’s 12.1 million viewers, the 7.5 million viewers that tuned into Duck Dynasty last week, and the 4.7 million people who managed to stay awake through last week’s State of the Union address on FOX News.
sources: edsullivan.com, Time.com, Nielsen