Legendary concert promoter Sid Bernstein, world renowned for being the first man to book the Beatles in America, died on August 21st at age 95, according to Beatlefan. In addition to the "Fab Four's" 1964 Carnegie Hall shows and 1965 and 1966 Shea Stadium concerts, Bernstein also booked many British Invasion artists, including the Rolling Stones, Herman's Hermits, the Moody Blues, and the Kinks, along with shows by Judy Garland, Ray Charles, Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Jimi Hendrix, and ABBA. Bernstein who managed the Rascals, played a significant role in helping them develop their act -- including dropping the "Young" portion of their name -- and during the Beatles' 1965 Shea Stadium show, had "The Rascals Are Coming" flash on the scoreboard for publicity.
Sid Bernstein told us that he was able to get a jump on the competition in booking the Beatles, because he was hip to the UK press and could see that the group would undoubtedly be the next big thing: "After reading about them for months in English newspapers -- there hadn't been very much mentioned here -- the American press, the media here didn't care less or didn't think much about what was going on in Liverpool and then it spread right across Northern England and throughout England and Great Britain -- the American press really didn't pick up on it. But all my reading came out of English newspapers and out of the English weeklies -- the trade papers as well as consumer papers and that's what whetted my appetite and became an obsession that I had to bring them here."
Bernstein said that developing a working relationship with the band came about surprisingly easily and was able to book the Beatles for two shows at the legendary Carnegie Hall on February 12th, 1964. Unfortunately, union regulations wouldn't allow the Beatles to record the shows -- which were the group's only public New York concerts during their initial invasion of America: "Carnegie Hall -- there was no drawback at all. There were no problems. I called Brian, I gave him the daily theater reviews and so it happened. Washington's birthday, 1964. I think I paid them 6,500 bucks for two shows. I don't know how I got to that number, but Brian thought that was good. He like the idea of Carnegie Hall."
The Beatles' August 15th, 1965 Shea Stadium concert was Bernstein's vision. Rather than play Madison Square Garden -- as had been suggested -- the Beatles instead played the first open-air rock stadium show before a sold-out crowd of 55,600 fans. The group, who performed on a makeshift stage near where second base would normally be, earned a whopping $160,000 for their 30-minute set with the show grossing over $300,000 -- the world record for a pop concert: "It was the first stadium concert. And it broke all records for gross -- that record remained for awhile."
Bernstein says that decades after event, people still talk about that Beatles concert on August 15th, 1965: "I even meet people today, who occasionally say, 'I saw the show at Shea Stadium.' And I ask, 'Which one?' And they say, 'You know, the '65 -- the first one.' And I'll say, 'Did you hear anything?' And everybody will say, 'Didn't matter -- I was there.'"
In the 1970's, John Lennon attended a show Bernstein was promoting and he brought up the Shea Stadium concert: "As John later told me when he came to see a concert that I was doing some years later with Jimmy Cliff, y'know, sitting together -- he and two friends, my wife and I -- and during intermission, he didn't get up and he said, 'You know, Sid, at Shea Stadium,' he says, 'I saw the top of the mountain.' And I looked at him and I said, 'Y'know, John, so did I.'"
When we last caught up with Sid Bernstein, we asked him if any of the Beatles were seriously considering his offers to promote a globally telecast reunion concert: "John was. And then Paul (laughs), Paul said to some newspaper man in Venice, where he was doing a big charity (show), 'Sid has put too much weight on our shoulders.' And John says, 'I want more details.'"
In 2010 a documentary on Bernstein's career was released called, Sid Bernstein Presents. . . In addition to publishing two books, Bernstein released his debut album digitally last year, also called Sid Bernstein Presents. . .
In later years Bernstein became a mainstay on the Beatles convention circuit and was on hand for most Beatles-related openings and events. He is survived by his wife Geraldine and six children.