When Beatlemania Came to D.C.

This is what it was like when the Fab Four came to our nation’s capital.

A ticket stub from the Beatles February 1964 concert in Washington, D.C.A ticket stub from the Beatles February 1964 concert in Washington, D.C.


I have to confess, I am not a collector.  I don’t save stamps or coins or autographs. I don’t keep old programs from plays or ticket stubs.  Well, not usually.

Seems that put away in an old wallet, long since forgotten, was the ticket stub to the Beatles very first concert in the U.S., 50 years ago today. The picture you see above is that ticket. I had just turned the ripe old age of 16 and went to the concert with my best friend, Forrest Church. That night, a couple of nerdy guys could even get dates!

Girls did outnumber boys at the Washington Coliseum and the screaming did drown out the music, for sure, but it didn’t matter. We knew all the words. We had been singing the songs for weeks and came off the excitement of the Beatles’ “Ed Sullivan Show” performance just two days before.

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Forrest and I were into music and would line up to get the newest releases but we were also into politics.  His father was a Senator, mine worked in the JFK White House.

The previous two months since Nov. 22, 1963 were pretty rough for our country and for two political kids growing up in Washington D.C. For our generation, the Beatles lifted us up, they helped give us an outlet, they provided us with a reason to be young again. The age of innocence was over with the events of Dallas, but we were still pretty young and pretty innocent.

Vietnam had not really begun to seriously enter our consciousness, the civil rights struggle was building, the turmoil of the 60’s was just starting.

The Beatles took the kids by storm but they also took the country and our parents by storm  —  we had protest music gaining in popularity with Dylan and Baez and Peter Paul & Mary; we had blues and rock ‘n roll and Presley, but the timing and staying power of the Beatles produced a wave that carried us out of the despair of Nov. 22. It lasted through the decade of the 1960s and, in fact, helped define the protests and the turbulence of that time.

A local D.C. disk jockey named Carroll James managed to get a copy of the hit record “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and played it incessantly on WWDC radio. He was the MC at the concert at the Coliseum on Feb. 11, 1964 and he played a big role in getting the Beatles to Washington.

[Check out our special report: The Beatles 50 Years Later]

Without Twitter, or Facebook, or cell phones, their music spread like a wild fire. Later, Carroll became a VoiceOver talent and did many of my political commercials up until his death in 1997. We loved talking about the “old” days when it all started.

I am glad we had the Beatles and I am glad we are able to celebrate them 50 years later.  I am glad that they were a part of our generation’s coming of age and that they lifted us out of that tough time.

I am glad I still have that ticket and those memories of my best friend for nearly half a century, Forrest Church. He sadly didn’t reach the age of 64, but for the two us we will always have the Beatles. They made us feel young, when we needed it.



Beatles, The


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  • Peter Fenn

    Peter Fenn is a Democratic political strategist and head of Fenn Communications, one of the nation’s leading political and public affairs media firms. Fenn Communications has worked in over 300 campaigns, from presidential to mayoral, and has represented a number of Fortune 500 companies. Fenn is also an adjunct professor at George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management. Follow him on Twitter: @peterhfenn.