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Blaser: JFK, Beatles marked a turning point

Randy Blaser
Randy Blaser

Here it is just 10 short weeks since we marked the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination and another landmark date is upon us.

If the Kennedy assassination was like a thunderclap at a late summer picnic, the appearance of the Beatles on “The Ed Sullivan Show” on Feb. 9, 1964 was like the dawn of a new day.

Perhaps no two events in modern history came so closely together and so clearly marked the end of one era and the beginning of another. The 1950s ended that week Kennedy died. And the 1960s began that Sunday evening on television with Ed Sullivan’s joyful announcement, “Ladies and gentleman ... the Beatles!”

Just to be clear, that new day was also heralded by the incessant screams of teen-age girls.

If you lived through these events, it was clear something had changed. You knew things would never be the same after JFK was killed, but didn’t know the Beatles would be that agent.

On that Sunday night, as the girls screamed and John and Paul sang, one wasn’t sure if this was just some crazy fad, with the long hair and mod suits.

We lived in a three-flat in Chicago that was typical of the way families lived in those days — my aunt and uncle and two cousins lived on the first floor, grandma lived on the second floor and we lived on the third floor.

My cousin’s living room on the first floor was the place to watch all the special event on TV — baseball games, “Leave It To Beaver,” the president’s funeral. And this Ed Sullivan show was definitely going to b a special event.

The adults laughed and ridiculed the lads from Liverpool, especially the hair. It was a fad.

We kids were quiet. We knew things would never be the same.

Before the Beatles (B.B.) it was a summer ritual to get a buzz cut. We’d go to the barber together and all get flat tops and our own jar of butch wax to be stylin’ all year. After the Beatles (A.B.) barbers went out of business.

Before the Beatles, people wore shirts and ties to go somewhere. Even the lads wore matching suits for the Sullivan performance. After that, I’d only wear a suit at a funeral.

Before the Beatles, getting your draft notice and being classified as 1A was a rite of passage, afterward it was a reason to protest.

Before the Beatles, we watched the Chad Mitchell Trio on “Hootenany,” afterward it was the “Hallabaloo” Dancers.

Before the Beatles, playing guitar and crooning was hardly a viable career path, certainly not something a guy from Chicago would take up. Afterward ... well, even if you didn’t make it as a rock ‘n’ roll star, as the Byrds sang, it sure looked like a great way to meet girls.

For those of you who didn’t see it live, and that’s most of you now, it truly was a game-changer.

The day before, we were still numb from the death of a president, we still drove one family car and still polished our shoes every Sunday night.

The next day, life would never be the same again.

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