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Fans share Fab Four memories

February 10, 2004|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

John, Paul, George and Ringo became household names in an instant and grabbed hold of the pop culture and music worlds 40 years ago with The Beatles' first appearance on American television on "The Ed Sullivan Show."

The impact of the Feb. 9, 1964, performances has not been forgotten.

Some local residents took an opportunity Monday to reminisce about the broadcast and its impact on their lives.

It immediately captured the attention of an 8-year-old Steve Whiteman, best known as the singer for the former Atlantic Records act Kix, and propelled him toward a career in music.

"I remember all the girls going crazy and thought, 'that's what I'm doing,'" Whiteman said with a laugh.

Whiteman said he had to do some negotiating with his parents to even see the show.

"I remember begging my parents to let me stay up," he said. "There was so much hype about The Beatles, I just wanted to see them."

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Whiteman said the impact The Beatles had on people made him want to be on stage.

"It showed you can really make a difference once you have people's attention," Whiteman said.

Whiteman, who teaches vocals in at the Musicians Institute of Baltimore and Ray's Music in Harrisburg, Pa., said he still uses Beatles songs to bridge the gap between him and his students.

"It's such universal music," Whiteman said. "The kids that don't know who they are always end up liking them after I turn them on to a couple of tunes."

Area musician and Hagerstown resident Jimmy Allen also was inspired to pursue music because of The Beatles' first American television appearance.

"That did it for me," recalled Hagerstown resident Jimmy Allen, who was 14 at the time. "I decided to be a serious, career musician from then on. I've been playing nightclubs since."

To commemorate the 40th anniversary of the beginning of Beatlemania in America, Allen, of the local band Bin Takin, spent hours upon hours Monday watching his "Beatles Anthology" video and reliving the memories of his youth. He called them his "parents of music."

Allen said he was in Ashland, Va., on the Sunday evening the band appeared on the Sullivan show and nearly missed the moment that changed his life.

"I was messing around with the radio, and my sister came in and said 'you got to see this,'" said Allen. "She said The Beatles were on 'The Ed Sullivan show.' I said, 'who?' I couldn't believe what I'd seen and heard."

Allen said it seemed like the only thing that mattered the next day at school.

"It changed everyone's outlook on life; it was like a new beginning for that generation of teenagers," he said. "All my buddies had their hair combed down, and they were wearing suit jackets and ties trying to imitate The Beatles' look. It was something."

Hagerstown resident Yolanda DiFabio also watched the show because of her sister. DiFabio said she could not remember all the specifics of the show, but recalled she liked The Beatles almost immediately because she could dance to their "boppy" sound on songs like "I Want to Hold Your Hand."

"My big sister thought it was a big deal, so I got excited," said DiFabio, who was 5 back then. "I thought they were cool because they were from far away and had cool accents."

Talking about that television appearance jogged DiFabio's memory of seeing The Beatles in concert later that year at the Baltimore Civic Center, a show in which they played just four songs. It was one less than The Beatles played for Sullivan at the CBS studio in New York City.

"There was a sea of screaming teenagers and my mom grasping my hand to not lose me in the crowd," DiFabio said. "Just seeing that many people be excited about The Beatles, it put the impression on me that they were very good. I've loved them ever since."

Ed Masood, supervisor of arts, health, physical education and athletics for Washington County Public Schools, was a bit older when he watched The Beatles' invasion of the U.S. television airwaves. Masood huddled with his college buddies in a fraternity house at Lock Haven State Teachers College.

Masood said it was the kind of thing people around campus either loved or hated because they looked so different - shaggy hair, odd shoes and black suits - at a time in the American landscape when nearly every boy sported a crew cut.

"You see the group and the first thing is you look at their hair; you look at their clothes," Masood said. "It was the next day you thought, 'what did I just hear?' It wasn't Tony Bennett."

Masood said older people reacted to The Beatles much like parents of today react to the top bands of today.

"They were making similar comments like, 'We can't understand what they're saying,'" he said. "Of course, the kids can understand."

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