A half-century ago on Feb. 9, The Beatles first appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, wowing a nation and changing rock 'n' roll history. Travelers can embark on their own Beatles tour, says Larry Kane, author of
When They Were Boys: The True Story of the Beatles Rise to the Top
(Running Press, $24.95). The newscaster traveled with the band during their early years. He shares favorite Fab Four sites with
for USA TODAY.
Ed Sullivan Theater
You can visit the site where it all started by attending a taping of Late Show With David Letterman, which broadcasts from what is now called the Ed Sullivan Theater. A half-century ago, it was called simply Studio 50.
Although the Beatles won't be on stage, you can almost hear their harmonies in a visit to the Hollywood Bowl and its museum. The band's 1964 and '65 performances were later released on a live album that went platinum in 1977. Kane remembers the shows fondly: "My favorite concerts were played at the Hollywood Bowl. You could actually hear the music."
Kane traveled with the band through the Pacific Northwest in August 1964, staying at this waterfront hotel. The band famously fished from their hotel room overlooking Puget Sound. "The security was a nightmare," he remembers. Now guests can rent the suite, which is decorated with Beatles memorabilia and photos.
Walnut Ridge, Ark.
After their Dallas show in 1964, the band flew to a secluded ranch in Missouri for a break. They switched planes in tiny Walnut Ridge. Word leaked and a crowd of several hundred waited at the tiny airport for a glimpse of the stars. "They have a commemoration every year," Kane says. The city also erected a statue to honor the band.
The Beatles honed their style and tight harmonies playing in the disreputable clubs of Hamburg's red-light district, the Reeperbahn. Kane suggests taking a walking tour of the now more-fashionable area. While most buildings from the era are gone, travelers can find plaques marking historic Beatles sites. "It's fascinating," he says. "It was really decrepit when they were there."
Palo Alto, Calif.
When The Beatles wrapped up their 1965 tour at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, they headed out of town to escape the crowds. "They had gone through such craziness in San Francisco and thought it would be a good place to stay," Kane says. Instead, they ended up partying throughout the night. The hotel's Beatles Suite includes artwork, newspaper clippings and a turntable with albums from you know who.
Abbey Road Studios
The Beatles recorded nearly all their albums at this famed Westminster recording studio. Fans come to see the building, and to cross the street in homage to the Abbey Road album cover, which showed the band (and a barefoot Paul McCartney) in mid-stroll. The crosswalk now is protected as a historic British landmark.
Brown Palace Hotel
Kane got to experience Beatlemania firsthand in 1964, when he and three other newsmen sat in a limousine as decoys while the bandsneaked into the hotel. Fans blocked the vehicle and jumped on top: "I'll never forget the car roof sinking in over my head." The band's Denver show was the only one on the tour not to sell out — most likely because of the expensive $6 tickets. The hotel has a recently renovated Beatles Suite.
John Lennon's Home
A Fab Four fan could spend an entire vacation in Liverpool, The Beatles' home town, where bars, nightclubs and a museum are devoted to the band. Kane recommends visiting John Lennon's boyhood home. "If you really want to get a sense of Liverpool and The Beatles, you've got to go. The living room is exactly as it was in 1963. Nothing has changed," he says.
Deauville Beach Resort
Kane first met the Beatles when they arrived in Miami to make their second appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, which was broadcast from their hotel. "I was at the airport. I interviewed them, but no adults cared," he says. At the hotel, though, fans almost kept the band from making it to the stage. A Beatles tribute band will perform at the hotel on Feb. 15, 50 years to the day after the original concert.