HOUSTON—Yeah, yeah, yeah, it was 50 years ago that The Beatles went on Ed Sullivan to play. But when you say Beatlemania in Houston, a lot of fans around here remember a show closer to home.
“That really is a big deal!” said Nancy Foisner, a retired school teacher living in Kingwood. “I saw The Beatles!”
Her junior high school yearbook shows a photograph of a smiling 13-year-old girl with bangs. Unfortunately, it doesn’t show what her bedroom looked like a half-century ago.
“I was a huge Beatles fan,” she remembered. “My room reflected that. Every square inch of wall space was totally covered in Beatles paraphernalia.”
So it was no surprise when she asked her parents to buy her a ticket to see The Beatles live at Sam Houston Coliseum. Her father rejected her request and told her the $5 tickets were too expensive. Then, on her birthday – her cake was decorated with tiny, mop-topped likenesses of the Fab Four – she unwrapped her dream gift.
“Nothing has ever topped this,” she said, holding the ticket stub she saved for a half-century. “Nothing.”
As fans across the nation memorialize the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ arrival in America, as a star-studded television special marks the night Ed Sullivan first hosted the most influential rock-and-roll group in history, aging baby boomers who live around Houston are sharing their own cherished memories of a date that will live in the city’s history: August 19, 1965, the day The Beatles played Houston.
“It was just so electric,” Foisner said. “As soon as they came on, we all started screaming. I don’t know if we all knew why we were screaming. We just started screaming.”
Bootleg recordings and old photographs captured the chaos of that hot August day and evening when The Beatles performed twice in the old coliseum. But when we asked people who attended the concert to recall their experiences, they didn’t have to consult pictures to jog their memories.
“We were all crying and many were wailing,” wrote Charis Beal. “I kept thinking to myself that I had paid $5 for the opportunity to hear The Beatles and their music was being drowned out by a bunch of screaming girls. Still, I joined the chorus of screams.”
Police had trouble controlling the crowd, partly because so many teenage girls fainted. One of the youngsters who passed out was a cousin of Karen Broussard, whose uncle, a Houston police officer, had offered them seats near the stage.
“I began to drag her through the curtains (we were that close to stage) to get her out of my way so I could run back to see John Lennon,” she wrote.
A number of people who attended the show glowingly remembered moments when they traded waves or crossed paths with one of the band members. A few lucky youngsters with connections in the police department even managed to get backstage.
“I was just 17,” recalled Bob Allen, who would grow up to become KHOU’s sports director. “You know what I mean?”
Allen specifically remembered seeing Ringo Starr’s hair flopping as he played drums during “A Hard Day’s Night.” He also cherished an everlasting memory of The Beatles running off stage and into an armored car ready to carry them safely to their hotel.
“In the little square window in the Brinks truck, John Lennon is wearing his little cap with the sheriff’s badge on it, sticks his head in the window and sees us standing there,” Allen remembered. “And he’s waving at us in the window! And we’re waving back and going, ‘Oh my!’”
Broussard, whose uncle worked on the security detail, saw the band members as they ran to their waiting armored car. She said she turned around just in time to see Paul McCartney.
“There he was coming down the back stairs and I was cheek to cheek (that close) to the most beautiful image at that moment in my life,” Broussard later recalled. “I don’t remember what he said to me, but there he was—Paul McCartney—and all I saw was the flashes of cameras. Such a beautiful moment for a 13-year-old girl, but I thought to myself, ‘If only it had been John that close to me!’”
Nobody seemed to mind that, in both of their two performances here, The Beatles played only 35 minutes.
“We saw The Beatles, but we did not hear The Beatles,” Richardson said. “Couldn’t hear one note.”