Cousin Brucie Remembers The Beatles' American Invasion
February 7, 2014 at 3:27 AM (PT)
For All Access by Jerry Barmash
To paraphrase the opening lyric of SGT. PEPPER’S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND, ”It was 50 years ago today…”
On FEBRUARY 7th, 1964, a jet transporting four men in their early 20s, all with the same mop-top hairstyle, landed at KENNEDY AIRPORT before their historic first live appearance on The ED SULLIVAN SHOW two days later. JOHN, PAUL, GEORGE and RINGO -- THE BEATLES had arrived!
Longtime WABC/NEW YORK air personality BRUCE MORROW, “COUSIN BRUCIE,” was among the throngs of media sent to capture the moment.
“I was standing there with my mobile unit broadcasting as Pan Am Flight 101 was arriving.”
He was jockeying for position next to thousands of fans, mostly young women, who lined the upper balcony of the airline’s terminal with a full complement of placards to welcome the Fab Four.
“The sound was amazing for a relatively small crowd,” MORROW recalled.
But BRUCIE, who joined powerhouse WABC in 1961, wasn’t just there to report, he was there to mark time. MORROW told ALL ACCESS, “I remember personally, I got nervous, I got excited, and I was yelling just like the kids. It was infectious.”
“W-A-Beatles-C” wasn’t the only station caught up with THE BEATLES. WMCA and its “Good Guys” also jumped on the bandwagon.
“We liked their distinct sound and their appealing personalities,” WMCA midday jock HARRY HARRISON said, noting that many of THE BEATLES’ hit records were heard first on WMCA.
“Our listeners couldn’t get enough of the Fab Four and their music.”
During THE BEATLES’ first trip to the states, HARRISON joined fellow “Good Guys” to introduce the boys at a pair of CARNEGIE HALL concerts. He remembers the frenzy.
“The audience reaction was always overwhelming,” HARRISON said. “The crowds went wild.”
MORROW, who would welcome THE BEATLES to the stage for their 1965 SHEA STADIUM concert, had no idea that music and pop culture were about to be altered forever.
“[None] of us there knew what was going to be happening to these four lads, and that Beatlemania was going to take us by storm and capture our hearts and pocketbooks especially.”
Despite the overwhelming support that FRIDAY afternoon a half-century ago, MORROW was confident that the group was nothing more than a passing fad.
“THE BEATLES’ first few records came over; [they] didn’t even chart. They bubbled under, as they call it,” MORROW says. “Specifically, because there was no money behind them.” He cited VEE JAY and SWAN, two early labels that MORROW believed were too small to support THE BEATLES rise into the stratosphere.
But by FEBRUARY 1964, the timing was perfect for THE BEATLES becoming famous, if not iconic. Upon their touch-down in QUEENS, KENNEDY AIRPORT had just been renamed for the fallen president six weeks earlier. The nation was deeply divided racially, even though President LYNDON JOHNSON would sign The Civil Rights Act in JULY.
“We needed something to latch on to … Parents and kids were just not seeing eye to eye,” MORROW said. “So when these four lads came off that tarmac, this was the beginning of a changed culture in the U.S.”
MORROW, heard these days hosting shows twice a week on SIRIUSXM, didn’t just have a front-row seat as Beatlemania sprouted on American soil, he helped cultivate it with an evening show on a 50,000-watt AM station. That meant, on a good night, WABC’s signal could be heard in 40 states.
“These kids were glued to the radio, because by this time everybody was fascinated and curious, and they all felt innately that something big was happening to them,” MORROW remembered.
As we commemorate the 50th anniversary of THE BEATLES in AMERICA, MORROW also recalled an insecure JOHN LENNON telling him early on, “I don’t think we’re going to make it here.”
THE BEATLES never left.