PITTSBURGH (KDKA)— It may be 50 years since the Beatles rocked America, but their popularity grew in part because of Ed Sullivan.
On that cold February afternoon, the music called “Rock and Roll” was taking the world by storm. But not everyone was sold on it just yet.
Parents in the south, to middle America, were unsure of whether to let this music into their homes. But then one afternoon, Ed Sullivan changed that forever as he introduced a four-man, young mop-headed group, from Liverpool called the Beatles.
With 75 percent of the country watching, this band touched every young person from the streets of New York, to Pittsburgh, all the way to Los Angeles and changed music the way we know it forever.
T.J. Lubinsky, an executive producer at PBS, was in Pittsburgh and talked about what that night meant for our entire nation. He currently has the rights to the Sullivan material and produces a lot of shows with WQED.
Lubinsky says Ed Sullivan was the person who could bring such a controversial group, at the time, into Americans’ homes.
“It’s one thing hearing about a great moment, but if you can kind of go back and be there and feel what was going on and see the excitement of people’s faces and see the energy like the Beatles, these four guys as they hit stage and all of those girls with all those emotions inside being able to express themselves and feel what they couldn’t say and what their parents maybe weren’t quite ready to accept yet, Ed brings this into our home,” said Lubinsky.
And the show did just that, as it sent a message to American families, telling them that this new music was not the “devil’s music” — as it was perceived to be by most parents and older adults.
“He ultimately made the music accessible for everyone,” Lubinksy said. “That’s what he did, because he had something for the grandparents, the parents and the play spinners, and the jugglers and for the kids to finally express themselves and say, ‘that’s me.'”
The music would then lead to what was called the “British Invasion,” as bands such as the Rolling Stones and the Animals came to the states and continued to give America more of what would become its favorite music.
But it was only 15 years ago that the Ed Sullivan show was finally able to be brought back to life in people’s homes, nearly 30 years after the show was taken off the air, specifically to the people of Pittsburgh.
It all started when Lubinsky was watching his favorite group, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. He then heard that they were on the Ed Sullivan Show on two different occasions.
With that, he called the producer who owned the show, saying that they needed to bring the show back. Through the Pittsburgh audience and through public television, they were able to broadcast the best of the series.
But first, he needed to find people to host the show and he found the best in the business.
“Who’s best to host that?” Lubinsky asked. “Someone like Paul Shaffer, because he has such knowledge and commitment to Ed Sullivan. Of course, being associated to David Letterman and the Ed Sullivan Theater, Jay Thomas also. And I said come on guys, let’s all get together and remember and tell some stories and link this footage together. And it was such an important moment for people to never ever forget the talent that was on the Ed Sullivan Show.”
And now, the series is coming back once again so the music can be passed on to a whole new generation. The show will have bands from the Beatles to the Rolling Stones, which all performed on the Ed Sullivan Show.
The point of the show is to teach young people how the Beatles were able to change an entire culture and show how significant the Ed Sullivan Show was in bringing these bands into their homes.
But before Lubinsky’s show airs on PBS, CBS will be taking you back to that night 50 years ago — showing the entire show, just as it aired at that time.
The show will air at 8 p.m. Sunday night.
“It was such an amazing piece of cultural history,” Lubinksy said. “The Ed Sullivan Show, and people these days need to understand that, and through concerts like the one that’s airing tonight — incredible to take new generations and teach them through their own way and their own style and their own approach to music to the good stuff that we all felt, that we all loved that’s in our hearts.”
So why is Lubinsky working so hard to bring this to the people of Pittsburgh? He just has one simple answer to that:
“You hear about the Pittsburgh Dream a lot,” Lubinksy said. “I think I lived the Pittsburgh dream because I came here. Some very great people said, you know, you’re good where you’ve been, but you’re going to go much higher from here and from here we’re going to take you if you come here, and you’re going to dream things that even you would never thought were possible. And I came and I fell in love with it, I fell in love with everything about it. It’s such a wonderful quality of life.”