On Feb. 9, 1964, a quartet of shaggy-haired musicians from Liverpool, England, walked onto the stage of "The Ed Sullivan Show." The Beatles, still largely unknown to much of the United States, were already a sensation with young audiences on both sides of the Atlantic.
But their "Sullivan" performance was the first chance "The Fab Four" had to perform on US television, and they made the most of it. The show was seen by more than 70 million people and the group was soon the biggest act in the English-speaking world.
To commemorate the Beatles' "Sullivan" appearance - the beginning of the so-called "British Invasion" of music - Penn State Altoona will host "It Was 50 Years Ago Today! An International Beatles Celebration" Thursday through Feb. 9 at the Devorris Downtown Conference Center.
"We were looking for a way to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Beatles coming to America on that triumphant 'Ed Sullivan Show,'" said Ken Womack, associate dean for Academic Affairs at Penn State Altoona. "I started talking to colleagues here and at University Park and that's where the idea of a conference came from."
Womack, a Beatles scholar, helped organize the event and its speakers.
"We should have about 40 presenters from across the nation and the world who will present papers on the Beatles," he said.
The conference's featured speakers are (schedule subject to change):
n Andy Babiuk - musician, writer and consultant to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and major auction houses. Babiuk is the author of the book "Beatles Gear," an analysis of the Beatles' instruments and equipment;
n Walter Everett - a professor of music at the University of Michigan and a past recipient of Penn State Altoona's Kjell Meling Award for Distinction in the Arts and Humanities. Everett is the author of the book "The Foundations of Rock";
n Richard Langham - Langham served as a recording engineer at Abbey Road Studios, working with the Beatles during their early recording sessions there;
n Mark Lewisohn - according to a Penn State release, Lewisohn "is, quite arguably, the world's leading authority on the Beatles." He has written many books, including "The Beatles! Live," The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions" and "The Beatles Chronicle." Lewisohn published the first part of a planned three-part Beatles biography in October;
n Jude Southerland Kessler - the author of three volumes in a planned nine-book biographical collection, "The John Lennon Series." She's one of the top Lennon scholars.
A full conference agenda can be found online at www.altoona.psu.edu/beatles.
Womack will also be presenting at the conference.
"I'm going to be presenting a piece with a former student of mine who is a Schreyer Honors Scholar named Larissa Gill," he said. "That's just going to be on a class that I teach about the Beatles."
Penn State Altoona's student art club, CANVAS, is holding a contest for students called "Tell Me What You See: Images Inspired by Songs of the Beatles." The contest's goal is to make art based on Beatles songs.
"I'm very excited about our students who are going to be participating," Womack said.
The conference wraps up on Feb. 9, the actual 50th anniversary of the Beatles' "Sullivan" performance, with a very special event.
"The end of the conference, we'll be showing the whole 'Ed Sullivan Show' from that night," Womack said. "Not even NBC is doing that."
The showing of the episode will be at 8 p.m. in the Devorris Center auditorium.
Mirror Staff Writer Keith Frederick is at 946-7466.