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Mon Feb 11, 2019, 10:24 AM

On this day in 1964, the Beatles played their first US concert.

Rerun from last year:

On this day in 1964, the Beatles played their first US concert.

After performing on Ed Sullivan, the packed up and headed over to the (new) Pennsylvania Station. The took the train to Washington, DC. They played their first US concert there, at the building that had begun life as the Uline Arena, on February 11, 1964.

Uline Arena

The Uline Arena, also known as the Washington Coliseum, was an indoor arena in Washington, D.C. located at 1132, 1140, and 1146 3rd Street, Northeast, Washington, D.C. It was the site of the first concert by The Beatles in the United States. Once abandoned and used as a parking facility, today it has been renovated and houses offices and a REI store.

It is directly adjacent to the railroad tracks, just north of Union Station, and bounded by L and M Streets.

The arena was home of the Washington Capitols of the Basketball Association of America (1946-1949) and National Basketball Association (1949-1950), who were once coached by Red Auerbach. Later, the American Basketball Association's Washington Caps played there in 1969–1970. It also was host to many performances and athletic events of varying types, including ice skating, martial arts, ballet, music, circuses, and speeches. It held up to 11,000 people for events.


The 11,000-seat Uline Ice Arena, which opened in February, 1941, was built by Migiel J. "Uncle Mike" Uline for his ice hockey team, the Washington Lions of the now defunct Eastern Amateur Hockey League. Uline built the arena next to his ice business.

The first event at the new arena was Sonja Henie's Hollywood Ice Revue. Another of its earliest events was a pro-America rally in 1941 designed to promote U.S. entry into World War II, just weeks before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor brought the United States into the war on December 7, 1941. During the war, Uline repurposed the arena as a housing facility for U.S. service members. The arena remained segregated after its opening until January, 1948.

Beatles concert

On February 11, 1964, The Beatles played their first concert in the United States at the Washington Coliseum, less than 48 hours after the band's appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. Tickets to the show at the Coliseum ranged from $2 to $4. There were 8,092 fans at the concert, which was opened by The Chiffons, The Caravelles, and Tommy Roe. The Beatles opened with "Roll Over Beethoven." In 2014, Roe reflected that "the marquee didn't say anything about the other acts. It just said 'The Beatles.' It was all about them. But I wasn't offended. That's just the way it worked. I was there to do my two songs and then get off the stage." The Beatles had a 12 song set and played for approximately 40 minutes.

Other events

Jewelry wholesaler Harry G. Lynn bought the arena in 1959 for $1 million. In 1959, Elijah Muhammad gave a speech there, and Malcolm X once spoke there as well. In 1960, Lynn renamed the building the Washington Coliseum.

Bob Dylan performed at the Washington Coliseum, and the photograph of Dylan on the cover of Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits was taken at a concert at the Coliseum on November 28, 1965. Chuck Brown also performed there.

They had planned to fly, but:


Feb. 11, 1964
After their history-making appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” on Feb. 9, the Beatles perform the first full concert of their American tour at the Washington Coliseum; a morning snowstorm snarls New York airports, leading to a last-minute decision to travel from New York by train; the Beatles and the New York press corps travel in a chartered Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac Railroad 10-6 sleeping car King George (built in 1948 for New York-Richmond-Norfolk pool service) attached to the Morning Congressional leaving New York at 11:00 AM; John Lennon and Paul McCartney walk through the entire train signing autographs; a crowd of 3,000 waiting fans create bedlam on arrival at Washington Union Station. (rf&pgroup, Wayner -verify NYT)

Feb. 12, 1964
The Beatles and their press entourage return to New York via the PRR for a concert at Carnegie Hall, this time in a PRR heavyweight lounge car; the Beatles are practically prisoners of the press during the trip and engage in the kind of hijinks that will characterize their two movies for the photographers; in a futile effort to evade the 10,000 fans milling around Penn Station, the Beatles’ car is switched to a different platform, but they are forced to make a mad dash for a waiting taxi. (rf&pgroup)

The train was pulled by a Pennsylvania Railroad GG1, which enters the scene at 1:11. Darn, I can't make out the number.

On the train

SLRs and rangefinders (including a Leica M-something?) capture the scene in the lounge

Ringo holds up a Seaboard Air Line Railroad timetable. That's a swell Seaboard EMD E7 locomotive on the cover:

WWDC Welcomes The Beatles

Walking down the platform at Union Station

That night

You go right by the old Uline Arena on the Red Line when you go from Union Station to Fort Totten. These pictures of the building were taken from a Metrorail Red Line train. You can see the third rail, used for Metrorail's electric power, next to the tracks in the foreground. The tracks further away have overhead electrification. They are part of Amtrak's northeast corridor.

The building is still there, but it doesn't look like that now. The distinctive arches are still instantly recognizable, but the building has been renovated. Today it's an REI:

How The Beatles Finally Took Off on American Radio

Dave Swanson

On Dec. 17, 1963, the U.S. still had no idea what was in store. The Beatles had yet to appear on The Ed Sullivan Show, where they seemingly overnight changed the landscape of pop music forever. That wouldn't occur until February 1964. But on a mid-December day in 1963, Carroll James of WWDC in Washington, D.C., played a Beatles record. He wasn't the first to do so in the U.S., but it was when things really caught fire.

According to Beatles Interviews, a D.C. teenager had mailed in a request to WWDC to hear the Beatles. "I wrote that I thought they would be really popular here, and if [James] could get one of their records, that would really be great," said Marsha Albert, that insightful teen who made the request.

Carroll James somehow secured the Beatles' new single, "I Want to Hold Your Hand," which had yet to be issued in the United States. The phones lit up and made the song an instant listener favorite. Capitol Records released "I Want to Hold Your Hand" in the U.S. the following week, and it eventually reached the No. 1 spot in Billboard on Feb. 1, 1964 – a place it would occupy for 11 straight weeks.

A month earlier on Nov. 18, the Beatles made their first appearance on U.S. television as part of the Huntley-Brinkley Report, which featured a four-minute segment by reporter Edwin Newman. Three weeks before that, on Oct. 29, the Washington Post ran a story with the headline, "Thousands of Britons 'Riot' – Liverpool Sound Stirs Up Frenzy." Both Time and Newsweek published their own Beatles stories in mid-November. The rest is history.

Photos of The Beatles in Washington, D.C.

This site is flat-out excellent:

"Beatles' D.C. Gig"
Feb-March 1964

When the Beatles first came to the U.S. in 1964, primarily to appear on the Ed Sullivan Show in New York on February 9th, 1964, they also performed two live concerts.

The first of these concerts — and their first ever in the U.S. — was performed in Washington, D.C. at the Washington Coliseum on February 11th.

Ticket stub to Beatles' first live American concert in Washington, D.C., February 11th, 1964.


Date Posted: 9 July 2008
Last Update: 12 July 2016
Comments to: jdoyle@pophistorydig.com

Article Citation
(Original Posting) Jack Doyle, “Beatles’ Closed-Circuit Gig, Feb-March 1964,”
PopHistoryDig.com, July 9, 2008.

(Title Change) Jack Doyle, “Beatles’ D.C. Gig,” Feb-March 1964,
PopHistoryDig.com, January 29, 2014.

Sources, Links & Additional Information

Beatles on D.C. mall with U.S. Capitol, Feb 1964.

Jerry Doolittle, “Beatles Arrive, Teen- Agers Shriek, Police Do Their Duty, and That’s That,” The Washington Post-Times Herald, February 12, 1964, p. 1.

On YouTube.com, there are several videos of the Beatles’ February 1964 performance at the Washington Coliseum. These are typically grainy, black-and-white videos of various lengths, some 30 minutes or more, with shots of the Beatles performing, screaming fans, and the general pandemo- nium of that concert.

John S. Wilson, “2,900-Voice Chorus Joins the Beatles; Audience Shrieks and Bays and Ululates,” New York Times, February 13, 1964.

“Potential $4 Million Box Office For Beatles On Closed Circuit TV,” Broadcasting, February 24, 1964.

“Closed TV Shows Here for Beatles,” Dallas Morning News (Dallas, TX), March 2, 1964.

Myra MacPherson, “Help! The Day The Mania Came To Washington,” Washing- ton Post, February 7, 1984.

For more detail on Beatles’ tickets, see: “Closed-Circuit Telecast Tickets,” rarebeatles.com.

Jeff Shannon, Review of Beach Boys “Lost Concert” DVD (June 1999), Amazon.com.

Richie Unterberger, “The Beatles at the Washington Coliseum, Washington, DC, February 11, 1964.” See also his book, The Unreleased Beatles: Music and Film, available at Amazon and other booksellers.

For Beatles’ photographs of the 1964 D.C. performance see Rowland Scherman website.

J. Freedom duLac, “Paul McCartney, Al Gore, Tommy Roe Recall Beatles’ First U.S. Concert in D.C.,” Washington Post, December 3, 2010.

News Release, “The Beatles Now On iTunes: All 13 Legendary Beatles Studio Albums & Special Digital Box Set,” Apple.com, November 16, 2010.

David Beard, “The Beach Boys Lost Concert Completely Restored with the Beatles First American Concert Closed Circuit Broadcast,” Endless Summer Quartely.blogspot, December 16, 2010.

Chuck Miller, “Did the Beatles Appear in Albany Movie Theaters BEFORE “A Hard Day’s Night”? Yes They Did…,” TimesUnion.com, January 13, 2011.

See also, Pictorial History Of Uline Arena website for excellent photos of Beatles at D.C. concert (scroll to the bottom of the page).

WPGC Beatlemania Website.

Tommy Roe, E-mail correspondence to Jack Doyle, January 2, 2014.

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Reply On this day in 1964, the Beatles played their first US concert. (Original post)
mahatmakanejeeves Monday OP
underpants Monday #1
DonaldsRump Monday #2
First Speaker Monday #3
lilactime Monday #4
ailsagirl Monday #5
ProfessorGAC Monday #6

Response to mahatmakanejeeves (Original post)

Mon Feb 11, 2019, 10:34 AM

1. Well you did your homework

Thanks I’ll read up on it later.

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Response to mahatmakanejeeves (Original post)

Mon Feb 11, 2019, 11:36 AM

2. This is really great stuff!

Thanks so much for posting.

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Response to mahatmakanejeeves (Original post)

Mon Feb 11, 2019, 11:45 AM

3. You know, this is really kind of weird...

...1964 was 55 years ago(!)...and we're still fascinated by all this. Nobody in 1964 was very much interested in the pop culture of 1909. The whole idea that the world is moving faster and faster isn't really true...it moved rapidly in the 1920s--nobody cared about the past then; it was the "Modern" decade--but since the 60s or 70s, we've had a long epoch of culture moving relatively slowly, and a long-term interest in nostalgia...

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Response to mahatmakanejeeves (Original post)

Mon Feb 11, 2019, 02:14 PM

4. That was really interesting and those photos took me right back to that time.

I saw several shows at the DC Coliseum in the 60s but unfortunately the Beatles weren't one of them.

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Response to mahatmakanejeeves (Original post)

Mon Feb 11, 2019, 04:15 PM

5. Thanks for this great post!!

I feel so privileged to have experienced them while growing up!!

And the truly amazing thing is that their music still rocks-- after all this time!!

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Response to mahatmakanejeeves (Original post)

Mon Feb 11, 2019, 04:46 PM

6. Really Fun Post

Great job!!!

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