Celebrating the Beatles' First U.S. Concert, at the Washington Coliseum

By Mark Segraves
|  Thursday, Feb 6, 2014  |  Updated 6:29 PM EDT
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    Next week marks the 50th anniversary of the Beatles' first trip to the United States. And while most people can probably point to the Beatles' appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show" on Feb. 9, 1964 as a key moment in rock history, the band's first concert in the U.S. didn't happen until two days later -- here in D.C.

    Photographer Mike Mitchell still has iconic photos of that night. He was 18 at the time and a freelance photographer; he talked the now-defunct Washington magazine into getting him a press pass for the show.

    He didn't have a flash, so he shot in available light. He also didn't have a darkroom, so he developed the photos in his bathroom.

    But he's not the only one remembering that evening 50 years ago. Two women who were there that night also spoke to News4 about the moment the Beatles took the stage at the Washington Coliseum, blocks from D.C.'s Union Station.

    "They came in and we just went crazy, the whole crowd. ... Everybody was screaming," said Judy Wheatley.

    "Everybody was screaming, all these young girls," said Sue Middendorf said.

    The Beatles had taken the train to D.C. after their "Ed Sullivan" appearance in New York. They chose Washington for their first U.S. concert because local DJ Carroll James had been the first to play their songs in America.

    "I was listening to the car radio when Carroll James first introduced the Beatles," Middendorf said.

    At the time, the Washington Coliseum was one of the biggest venues in the area -- but even so, "that place wasn’t exactly the Madison Square Garden or anything like that," she said.

    Wheatley agreed: "I remember looking at that stage with those little wooden railings and I thought, 'This doesn’t look good enough for the Beatles'," she said.

    Today, the Washington Coliseum is used as a parking garage. But in its day it was a destination, opening as Uline Ice Arena in 1941 and later hosting basketball's Washington Capitols and many concerts. In 1965, Bob Dylan played there, and an iconic photo of him was taken that was later used on the cover of "Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits."

    The building was later used as a trash transfer station before it was listed on national historic registries, in part to save it from demolition.

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