Skip to main content

In 1963, George Harrison became the first member of The Beatles to visit America. The band’s visit the following year sparked Beatlemania in the country, but Harrison’s first visit was much more lowkey. His sister had moved to Illinois, and Harrison took a quiet trip to see her. Nobody recognized him, but they did take note of his fashion. A local teacher mentioned that she thought Harrison looked “pitiful” on his trip. 

A black and white picture of George Harrison wearing a suit and playing guitar.
George Harrison | Fox Photos/Getty Images

George Harrison was the first member of The Beatles to visit America

In 1963, Harrison traveled to Illinois to visit his sister Louise. 

“I’d been to America before, being the experienced Beatle that I was,” Harrison said, per Rolling Stone. “I went to New York and St. Louis in 1963, to look around, and to the countryside in Illinois, where my sister was living at the time.”

Louise’s husband was an engineer at a coal mine, so she moved to Benton, Illinois for his job. Though Beatlemania was already in full swing in Britain, people did not recognize him in the United States. He was able to enjoy a quiet visit without the chaos he had grown accustomed to at home. 

People noted that he looked pitiful on his trip

Residents of Benton recalled meeting Harrison, but not because he was a celebrity. Instead, he stood out to them because of the way he looked. 

“He had a funny haircut, kind of long and stringy,” Monty Field, a teenager at the time, told Smithsonian Magazine. “Most of the boys at that time had flattops.”

Harrison also wore ripped jeans, and Field wondered if he’d ripped them on a camping trip. 

“Chris [Field] and I figured that George ripped his jeans on that camping trip,” he said. “That was the most generous explanation we could come up with, though with that hair, you kind of wanted to give him some money to see a barber.”

On the visit, Harrison did a bit of promotion when he interviewed with the local high school’s newspaper. Marilyn Lewis, the teacher who interviewed him, wasn’t very impressed by him, though, and spoke to him “mainly as a favor to Louise.” When asked if she found him cute, Lewis scoffed. 

“Heavens, no,” she said. “He looked kind of pitiful.”

George Harrison had a much different experience the second time he came to America

Harrison returned to America the following year, but his visit was much different. He traveled to New York with The Beatles and was greeted by 3,000 screaming fans when they landed. During the trip, they performed on The Ed Sullivan Show, bringing full-blown Beatlemania to the United States. 

Many musicians noted that the band’s appearance on the show was life-changing for them. Harrison nearly wasn’t a part of it, though. He had a high fever and was almost too sick to play.


George Harrison Said Meeting Elvis Was ‘a Bit Sad’

“He had a really bad strep throat,” Louise told Houston Public Media in 2015. “His temperature was 104, and the doctor had me move into the room with George, and you know I had to give him medication almost every hour. First of all, the doctor had said, ‘We need to send him to hospital.'”

Somehow, Harrison managed to perform, though.