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ENTERTAINMENT, MUSIC, POP, POP CULTURE

Cousin Brucie, Tell Me a Story: The Beatles at Shea Stadium

August 14, 2014

Cousin Brucie, aka radio legend Bruce Morrow, is known for a lot of things: He essentially MC’d the entire British Invasion at one of the country’s highest-profile radio stations (WABC), he currently hosts Cousin Brucie’s Saturday Night Party and Cruisin’ with Cousin Brucie on SiriusXM 60s on 6, and he even did an acting stint as the magician who “saws” Jennifer Grey in half in Dirty Dancing (among many other things). But Brucie is perhaps best known for introducing The Beatles — yes, those Beatles — at Shea Stadium in August 1965.

Here, Brucie recounts the first time he met John, Paul, George, and Ringo, and what it was like to introduce them that day.

“The very first time I met The Beatles, we were up in the hotel room, and I walked in, and they were a ragtag bunch,” Brucie begins. “They were all over the place. George was fooling around with Ringo a little bit. John and Paul were throwing a pillow at each other. I mean, it was just wild. There weren’t these serious moments. I guess when you have responsibility the way they have it, you want to get away from the anxiety, so you act kind of strange.”

Brucie goes on to describe a now-famous photograph of him interviewing the foursome in their hotel room. “What I’ve been told by [The Beatles’] official photographer, is that it’s probably one of the only moments that all four of the guys were paying attention to one person — me — and they stopped, they settled down, they really listened. That was one of my favorite moments, that I knew that I’d captured all four of them, which was almost an absolute rarity – it didn’t happen.”

As significant as it was to interview the guys in their hotel room, Brucie’s most memorable Beatles moment came later at the beyond-packed Shea Stadium, where Brucie and co-announcer Ed Sullivan spent a lot of time gawking at the sheer size of the audience. “Ed Sullivan and I introduced The Beatles to this crowd of 65,000 screaming, wild, wonderful, very contained audience,” says Brucie. “That day nobody got hurt. It was just enthusiasm, there was so much electricity in the air. To this day, I feel it in my body. Con Edison could have turned their machinery off, because there was so much electricity coming from Shea Stadium, it would’ve lit the whole city.”

While Brucie wasn’t overly concerned about the audience’s manic enthusiasm, the band, who up until that point had never played a show of this magnitude, was noticeably anxious. “We were down below in the dugout, and Paul and John came over to me,” recalls Brucie. “I remember Ringo was looking at the crowd with his eyes (I don’t think he blinked), and George Harrison, he was in the corner. I don’t know if he was scared or he was praying. I mean, of all the appearances [The Beatles] ever made, I don’t think they ever felt electricity … and maybe danger. They were very anxious. John said to me, ‘Cousin, is this gonna be alright, is this gonna be alright? It seems to be dangerous.’ And I said to them, ‘Guys, they’re here for one reason, they’re here to share a space with you. The music is important, but they just wanna be in a space with you.’”

Even Ed Sullivan felt worried about the audience’s size, and Brucie, ever the joker, told a little white lie: “Ed Sullivan said, ‘Is this gonna be alright? Is this dangerous?’ I looked at him and I thought, you know, this guy is a real stiff, I’m gonna get him. So I said, ‘Ed, it’s very dangerous.’ And he said, ‘Well, Cousin Brucie, what do we do?’ I looked at him with my eyes wide open, I said, ‘Pray.’ And he said, ‘Pray?’ I mean, I really had him.”

Despite Ed’s anxieties about the crowd, “Nobody got hurt that day,” maintains Brucie. “There might be a couple skimmed knees. I was asked by the police and the security of Shea Stadium to patrol with them. I went around with them to calm the kids down, because they had chicken wire, it looked like a fortified area so people couldn’t get into the infield where everything was happening. The kids were calm, some of them had their hands on the wire, and I and the police just took their hands gently. The police were great to the kids. Nobody tried to get to them, nobody tried to ruin the moment. The moment was sacred.”

“It was a sacred, almost religious moment,” continues Brucie. “Sharing that space — not the music, that became secondary — with The Beatles. The music, [you] couldn’t even hear it. In fact, it was very funny, just about a year ago somebody gave me a DVD transferred from a film of the actual show. It was the first time I heard it. You could not hear a thing, but you know something? It didn’t matter.”

“I mean the guys on stage, they couldn’t hear themselves or their speakers on stage. Once in a while you heard, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah,’ but that’s it. Shea Stadium was the experience of a lifetime. For me and for 65,000 others. I’ve done a lot of shows, I’ve never, never seen anything like that show at Shea Stadium. I don’t think I ever will, I don’t think anybody ever will.”

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