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50 Years Since Beatlemania

February 9, 2014, 10:05 PM by Stephanie Gregory

50 Years Since Beatlemania

Sunday marks 50 years since the Beatles first appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show. As millions of Americans tuned in for the start of the British invasion, it was also a turning point for Rock and Roll and the start of a cultural revolution.

50 years ago, the Beatles touched down in America and a generation fell in love. Rod Schmidt was in the mist of that generation.

"They were game switchers. The earth moved a degree and I think all the music has come along since then is a part of that," Schmidt said.

Schmidt believes the Beatles and the British Invasion helped lift the country after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

"79 days after President Kennedy got shot the Beatles played on The Ed Sullivan Show and that's where they shook the world," said Schmidt, "All we listened to was church music; it was a very sad time. Thanksgiving was sad, Christmas was sad, January was sad and all of a sudden these four guys came over and I don't know what planet they were from and they were playing their guitars. It was the music that lifted us up."

Even before their appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, Schmidt was exposed to The Beatles on a short wave radio. Before that time, Schmidt says everything was black and white, but the Beatles brought color.

"Up to that time you had a black suit and a brown suit, you had white shirts or brown or black ties and you had brown shoes or you had black shoes and you had a short haircut and you got in line and here came these guys. They started shaking their heads and playing their music," Schmidt said.

It changed Schmidt's life. Schmidt has grown up traveling and walking the same steps the Beatles walked from Liverpool to London then into the United States.

He has photos of himself in front of 'Strawberry Fields'. "Right across this little lane is a cemetery and Father McKenzie and Eleanor Rigby are in that cemetery," Schmidt said.

Schmidt was down the street from The Dakota in New York City where John Lennon was shot and killed in 1980. When he heard the news he rushed to the site before anyone else got there.

"I just walked up to the doorman and asked him, 'What do you want for your hat and whistle?' I bought it and got out of there because thousands of people started to come there," Schmidt said.

The hat and whistle are still in his home today along with several other pieces of memorabilia. Rare records, posters, a string of Christmas lights from their studio - even two full sets of autographs. 

"They were the genuine article that happened at the right time and it couldn't happen again in a hundred years," Schmidt said.

Schmidt says he believe the music still has a long life ahead of it.

"I think Beatles music will be around --- probably forever," Schmidt said.

The Beatles continue to be popular today. The song 'Yesterday' remains one of the most covered songs in the history of recorded music.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
A misspelling was corrected in this story.

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