In 1994, when I was hosting a talk show, along with my colleague Marcella Weiner, on WEVD-AM radio in New York City, we had the privilege of interviewing Sid Bernstein on the eve of the 30th anniversary of the Beatles' arrival in America (this week is the 50th anniversary). Sid was the first U.S. producer/promoter to notice the rising popularity of the Beatles in Europe, and have the foresight (he called it a hunch) to import them to the U.S.
Few thought that his booking of a foreign rock group was a wise idea. When Sid told his wealthy friend, Abe Margulies, about the Beatles and asked him to finance the deposit for the Carnegie Hall concert, Abe said: "If I were in my last stages of syphilis I wouldn't be crazy enough to allow you to present a group like that and let people know that I gave you the money."
But Sid plowed ahead -- and his courageous act initiated the "British invasion." Sid not only gave us the Beatles, he also brought other phenominal groups to our shores: The Rolling Stones, Herman's Hermits, The Moody Blues, the Dave Clark Five and The Kinks.
In our radio conversation, Sid told the intriguing story of his chance discovery of the Beatles and how he negotiated with their manager, Brian Epstein, to book the Beatles into Carnegie Hall for a mere $4,000 -- twice the amount they had ever received for a performance in England. Yet the deal was no cakewalk. Few in the U.S. had heard of the Beatles in 1963, when Sid arranged the concert for the following year. Six months prior to the launch date, half the seats were unsold. But a few months later the explosive frenzy that the Beatles drew in Europe crossed the ocean and the concert was a sellout. Because Sid had arranged for the Beatles to arrive in the U.S. in February 1964, Ed Sullivan was able to book them on his show for three consecutive appearances starting on February 9th, three days before the Carnegie Hall extravaganza.
In our radio broadcast, Sid also told fascinating anecdotes about other super-stars that he worked with such as Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland.
News-talk radio station WEVD (1050-AM) is gone. It was purchased by ESPN in 2001 and went all sports.
Although Sid died on August 21, 2013 at the ripe age of 95, hopefully the revival of this broadcast is a fitting tribute to the Beatles and a memorial for Sid Bernstein, a remarkable man whose astonishing contributions to American music live on.
Bernard Starr, PhD is a psychologist, Journalist and College Professor.
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