Sid Bernstein, the rock and roll promoter who teamed with Brian Epstein to bring The Beatles to America and later managed one of their biggest American rivals of the ’60s, The Rascals, died yesterday morning. He turned 95 earlier this month.
Though Bernstein proved to be more of a visionary than a hands-on executive, any bitterness between him and the Rascals had melted away by April 2013, when Sid attended a performance of the reunion show “Once Upon a Dream” when it played Broadway. Reached yesterday before the Rascals show in Toronto, Felix Cavaliere called Sid “a promoter and a see-er, like Mike Todd.” He added, “It’s the end of an era. There’s not many more like him.”
USA Today noted that Bernstein also booked shows for such non-rock icons as Tony Bennett, Judy Garland and Duke Ellington. His rock and roll connections also included Ray Charles, Bobby Darin, Chubby Checker, ABBA and The Rolling
Bernstein, who considered himself a student of pop culture trends, first learned of The Beatles phenomenon in Britain by reading the London newspapers, something far less common in the pre-Internet era. Fascinated by this rock and roll foursome, he contacted their manager Brian Epstein in 1963. A year later, he presented them at New York’s prestigious Carnegie Hall just days after their record-setting debut on “The Ed Sullivan Show”. Yet, Bernstein saw even greater potential for the Fab Four.
Sid Bernstein recalled a conversation with Brian Epstein where he guaranteed that The Beatles would sell out Shea Stadium in New York:
“Coming out of Carnegie Hall, I’m now offering him Shea Stadium. 55,000 seats. He says, ‘Do you think the boys could fill it?’ I says, ‘Of course, they will.’ He says, ‘I’m a little worried about a venue that size.’ I said, ‘Brian, you know what I’ll do? And I just want to tell you how sure I am about this thing working, I’ll give you 10 dollars for every seat that’s empty.’ He says, ‘You’ll give me 10 dollars for every seat that’s empty?’ I didn’t have to give him a dime.”
The same night Bernstein brought The Beatles to Shea, he brought along the first band he was managing — The Rascals.
Sid Bernstein on discovering and signing The Rascals — and getting them publicity the night of The Beatles first Shea Stadium show.
“On a discotheque called the Barge, I went up to see them. And I felt something, so I invited them to my next concert — and that was at Shea Stadium. And I asked them to sit in the dugout to get a feeling that miracles do happen. And they were so darned good that I felt it had to have an impact on them. And obviously, it did.”
Bernstein also used his position to have The Rascals name flashed on the Shea Stadium message board the night of the Beatles show.
By 1966 thanks to “Good Lovin’,” the then-Young Rascals joined The Beatles at the top of the charts.
Rock historian Larry Kane, who covered the first two Beatles summer tours, said, “By booking [The Beatles] into Carnegie Hall, he established their validity and credibility as not just as a mop-topped group — but a group that was serious to play a hall like that. He [was part] of their ascension to super-stardom in America.”