The Beatles' First Time On American TV

beatles, ed sullilvan
American TV host Ed Sullivan, left, talks with three members of the British pop group The Beatles during a rehearsal for their appearance on his TV show, in New York, Feb. 8, 1964. From left, Sullivan, John Lennon, Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney. George Harrison, the fourth member of the group missed the rehearsal due to illness. (AP Photo)

Most people think the Beatles made their American television debut on the "Ed Sullivan Show," in 1964.

But Walter Cronkite, a stickler for accuracy, always wanted people to know it actually happened on the "CBS Evening News" in 1963, reports CBS News anchor Katie Couric.

Beatlemania was well underway in the United Kingdom.

"We were offered a piece from our London Bureau of this phenomenon," Cronkite said. "So we put it on the air one night."

That night was December 10, 1963. The Beatles had already sold 2.5 million records.

"What has occurred to you as why you've succeeded?" asked the reporter.

"I don't know, really, you know, as you say, the haircuts," Paul McCartney responded.

Despite the hysteria of their mostly female fans, it wasn't clear, then, just how long the Beatles' success would last.

"Do you have any fears your public will tire of you and move on?" the reporter asked.

"They probably will but it depends how long it takes one to get tired," John Lennon said.

Ed Sullivan was watching the story and right after the newscast, he called Walter Cronkite.

"We were good friends, and Ed said, 'Walter, Walter, tell me about those kids, tell me about those kids,'" Cronkite said. "'Those kids you just had on the air. What do you call them? The bugs or the beetles or something?'"

That famous performance on the "Ed Sullivan Show" came two months after their "debut" on the "CBS Evening News."

"We just hope we're going have quite a run," McCartney said during that interview.

And they did, with a little help from Walter Cronkite.

"If there's some credit in history for that, I want it," Cronkite said.

Special Section: Walter Cronkite: 1916-2009