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When the Beatles debuted in the Baylor Lariat, the response was not “Yeah!, Yeah!, Yeah!”

February 6, 2014 · 1 Comment · Baylor history

TThis Sunday, Feb. 9, 2014, we will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the introduction of Beatlemania to America. On Feb. 9, 1964, the Beatles were introduced to American television audiences through a much-anticpated performance on the Ed Sullivan Show. The musical sounds of John, Paul, George and Ringo were a bit hard to hear over the screaming teenage girls who dominated the live audience, providing a preview of how future Beatle performances would be greeted all over the world.

While many teenagers welcomed the Beatles, with their British accents and daring longer hairstyles, other Americans were turned off by both their music and their appearance. And many people thought the Beatles and the hysteria they caused were just a crazy passing fad, soon to be forgotten.

That seems to be how the Beatles were treated when they were mentioned in the Baylor Lariat newspaper for the very first time — in a column by Lariat editor Tommy West in the Feb. 11, 1964, issue.

In his regular column titled “Westward, Whoa!,” West reacted to the Beatles as a number of skeptical young men of the day did — seeing the lads from Liverpool as “boys with sheep-dog haircuts” who weren’t letting their inability to sing keep them from getting rich.

On the eve of the 50th anniversary of this momentous event, we offer Tommy West’s column, reprinted in full from the Baylor Lariat.

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Westward, Whoa

I’m in the wrong business.

Why should I slave working part-time after school in a gas station to pay my ailing grandmother’s medical bills when I could let my hair grow, don a guitar and twist my way to fame and fortune?

That’s what I said when I saw pretty young lasses go into emotional fits Sunday night as four young men who call themselves the Beatles twanged and gyrated on a nation-wide television program.

My only reservation was my vocal ability, but then I listened a little closer and that problem was solved.

Oh, there was a time when I wanted to fight all this. I wanted to go back to the good old days, when strong young men split rails and read by the fireside, and when young women were respectable and reserved and had to be wooed by an honest man.

But that is all over. If you can’t lick ‘em, join ‘em. And if young women insist on flinging themselves at boys with sheep-dog haircuts, and if producers insist on paying tremendous sums of money to a fellow who just bought his guitar yesterday…well, I plan to get in on it.

I’ll get three other guys, and we’ll call ourselves the Horseflies. We’ll not only let our hair grow, we won’t shave…and after a few months we’ll be able to cover up any serious drawbacks we might otherwise have.

We’ll pass up the guitar as old-fashioned, and accompany our vocal renditions with a flute, a zither, a B-flat tuba and a Salvation Army bell. I figure if we don’t make any money singing we still might pick up a few donations on the side.

We’ll sing in our own natural voices, but we’ll put every member of the audience in an echo chamber. That way we’ll get in on a little entertainment, and during breaks if things get dull we’ll have the loudest hootenanny in history.

Instead of buying gold Cadillacs, in the true tradition of our names, we will actually learn to fly. When we pass over major cities, we can drop ice cream cones, which will become our trademark, to the screaming teenagers. During the summer months, we may have some complaints from street washers, but this probably could be settled.

In rural areas, we’ll actually sweep down from the sky and bite farm animals, thereby offering photographers and local newspapers good opportunities for pictures and stories.

And after three days of singing and touring the country, we’ll give up our careers to advance to a more legitimate field.

Like building sandcastles, maybe.

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(Reprinted with permission from the Baylor Lariat. Text and graphic courtesy of Baylor Electronic Communications.)

One Comment

  • Mike Herrington

    I was in the midst of my student teaching at Richfield High School 50 years ago. I wasn’t too impressed with the Beatles either to begin with. Their idea of long hair soon became rather tame, and they did wear matching suits. It was not such a bad time actually to be only months since the assassination John Kennedy.

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