The “British Invasion” Begins: George Harrison becomes First Beatle to Play in America
On September 26, 1963, America got its first taste of English rock ‘n’ roll. Five months before the beginning of “Beatlemania,” before the Beatles played on the “Ed Sullivan Show,” George Harrison, lead guitarist for the British band, became the first Beatle to play publicly in America at the VFW hall located at 1201 Veterans Drive in Eldorado.
During the summer of 1963, although the Beatles had a number one hit in England, the band was still unknown in the United States. When the band members took a holiday, Harrison and his brother, Peter, visited their sister Louise in Benton, Illinois making friends, camping in the Garden of the Gods, and watching a parade in Harrisburg. George bought a guitar in Mt. Vernon and later played it at Beatles performances. Two nights before returning to England, George and his siblings came to the VFW hall to hear the Four Vests, a popular local band. The band, which had already jammed with George in his sister’s living, asked George to sit in, introducing Harrison as, “The Elvis of England.” George Harrison made his American debut playing songs such as “Johnny Be Good,” “Your Cheating Heart,” and “Teddy Bear” in front of between 75 and 100 people. After the performance, one of those present said that “with the right kind of backing that kid may go places.”