50 years later -- A fan recalls watching the Beatles' American debut

Andrea Tebbets was 13 years old when she scored a ticket to The Ed Sullivan Show
CBS News

Ed Sullivan, 50 years ago this Sunday -- it was a really big show.

Fifty thousand people requested tickets to see The Beatles that night, but there were only 728 seats in CBS Studio 50 – which is known today as the Ed Sullivan Theater.

Andrea Tebbets was 13 years old that night in 1964, and she scored the hottest ticket in town.

"I remember just the thrill of hearing them start to sing," she said. 

Fifty thousand people requested tickets to see The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show CBS News
 She had come from Connecticut with her mother to hear The Beatles American debut at The Ed Sullivan Show. Her grandfather, an advertising executive, had gotten them the tickets.

 In the theater, now home to David Letterman, they saw a section of open seats in the balcony.

"And the usher said 'No, you can't sit there. That's for the screamers,'" Tebbets said.

"And my mom to her enduring credit said, 'Oh, that's alright,'" she said.

Andrea Tebbets was part of a broadcast seen by more than 73 million people CBS News
 That night, Tebbets wouldn't just be part of the audience. She'd be part of a broadcast seen by more than 73 million people.

As the Beatles sang "I Wanna Hold Your Hand," the camera slowly swooped in over the band toward Ringo and then ..."There I am!" Tebbets said.

"I was chewing gum," she said. "I had the little ladybug earrings. I'd just had my ears pierced. And that's it."

She looked happy to be at the show.

"I was," she said. "I was beside myself. I really was." 

Andrea Tebbets recalls the evening with CBS News' Anthony Mason CBS News
 "It was, I guess, my 15 seconds of fame. And also my 15 seconds of popularity in junior high school. Because I was about as uncool as you could get," she said. "Mostly known in school for being clumsy and a Girl Scout and the secretary of the science club, and then here I was on national television."

As a fan, she'd collected Beatles' magazines and cards. At an exhibition opening this week at the Library of Performing Arts in New York, some of the souvenirs on display in a typical teenager's bedroom were actually hers.

"Oh, a museum piece, me," she said.

That 13-year-old girl grew up to be a tax attorney with the U.S. Justice Department.

"Part of the whole Beatles' phenomenon was people like me," she said. "It was the fans. It was the screamers." 

Those who thought it all was just noise were wrong.  It was the sound of the future.

CBS News is marking the 50th anniversary of the Beatles' first American television appearance with a live media event on Sunday, Feb. 9 at the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York. The event will be live streamed on CBSNews.com and CBSNewYork.com/50YearsLater.

  • Anthony Mason
    Anthony Mason

    CBS News senior business and economics correspondent; Co-host, "CBS This Morning: Saturday"