NEW YORK -- No one was any closer when the Beatles got off the plane than Harry Benson. There he was, a step behind Ringo, a 34-year-old photographer for London's Daily Express, just worried about keeping his job.
says he thinks his photographs nailed it.
The pictures weren't just good -- they were iconic. In a Paris hotel room, just before the flight to America, Benson shot the famous pillow fight, which was actually a pillow celebration.
"They get a message that says, 'We're number one in America -- I Want to Hold Your Hand,'" Benson says. "About a half an hour later, they come in with another -- they are going on 'The Ed Sullivan Show.'"
Two-and-a-half months after President John F. Kennedy's assassination, America was just starting to smile again. For the next two weeks, Benson provided a look at the birth of Beatlemania from inside the limo.When he looks at the pictures now, Benson jokes he sees "a brilliant photographer."
"It's energy, this is what they looked like, this was excitement," he says.
captured John with the wife few people knew he had, Paul taking it all in, and he
brokered a meeting in Miami with another star about to explode onto the scene:
Muhammad Ali, known then as Cassius Clay.
Benson would go on to take portraits of presidents, document the civil rights struggle and be standing feet from Bobby Kennedy when he was assassinated. But 50 years later, considering his life's work, his photos of the Beatles are still second to none.
"Honestly, I am quite proud of them," he says. "I got myself in a position to take good photographs."
And, he adds, "I kept my job."
And anyone who wants to know what it looks like when the world changes is thankful he did.
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.