An Interview With Ed Sullivan Show Associate Producer Vince Calandra at The Fest For Beatles Fans, NYC

This year's Fest for Beatles Fans coincided with the 50th anniversary of their first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, February 9th, 1964. The "invasion" festivities began earlier of course, including one event held Thursday February 6th at the 92nd St. "Y". That one featured Peter Asher (of Peter and Gordon, who also signed James Taylor to Apple and went on to become a major producer/manager), performer Billy J. Kramer, Beatle secretary Frida Kelly and Vince Calandra. The event was hosted by British actor/comedian and Beatle fan Martin Lewis. Donovan was a no-show due to a friend's death.

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"Who is this Vince Calandra guy?" I asked myself as the panel assembled on stage. I soon found out! Without him there the event would have been a bust. Calandra was an Ed Sullivan show production assistant who did everything from holding cue cards for Buddy Holly to standing in for the ill George Harrison during The Beatles rehearsals before the big broadcast of Feb, 9th, 1964. He accompanied them to Shea Stadium too.

Calandra's stories were amazing. You didn't want them to stop and when they did, you wanted more. Obvious was his genuine affinity for all of the people he met, especially The Beatles. You can watch the stream here and if you are a Beatles fan, I suggest you do.

When I found out that Mr. Calandra was a Fest for Beatles Fans guest I set up a Sunday interview at the show. It was crowded and noisy and he was spent from having done interviews all day but he graciously agreed to yet one more, so off we went to the Grand Hyatt Hotel's Presidential Suite.

I was as much interested in this fascinating character as I was in the Beatles connection. Mr. Calandra is a self-described "Brooklyn street kid," which makes him both an unlikely and likely candidate for how his life has gone (we should all look as good when we turn 79). Part Leo Gorcey, part Zellig, Calandra's adventures seem endless, with one more eye-popping than the next.

Also, you'll find more online interviews including this one from 2003


CBS held an event at The Ed Sullivan Show that evening just before its broadcast of last week's Grammy Salute to The Beatles, which was musically superb and I hope you watched it. (It is being reprised Wednesday evening, February 12th and 8:30PM EST so don't miss it!).

I was invited to the Sullivan Theater event by my pal Vinnie Favale and it too was worthwhile. The guests included musician/producer Nile Rodgers, John Oates (Hall and Oates), Director Julie Taymor (Lion King, All Across the Universe, Spider Man, etc.), Neil Innes (Rutles, Bonzo Dog Band), Pattie Boyd, Peter Asher, Foreigner's Mick Jones, Tad Kubler (of The Hold Steady) and filling in for Andrew Loog Oldham, Felix Cavaliere of The Rascals. I met Gene Cornish at the Fest earlier in the day so that's two Rascals in one day!


Rodgers told a hilarious story of growing up in a Southern California ghetto and not knowing anything about The Beatles when a girl he fancied insisted he come over and watch them on the Sullivan show. "This," she insisted, "was going to change everything." But even after seeing it, the classically trained musician didn't quite get it. "Only after meeting Mr. Timothy Leary", he said euphemistically for dropping acid, "did I begin to get it", Rodgers laughed, "and then I picked up a guitar and the first song I learned on it was 'A Day in the Life'!"


In an evening of great anecdotes that was best! Another was Peter Asher's about hearing "I Want to Hold Your Hand" just after Paul and John had finished writing it on Asher's mother's piano. Paul was living in Asher's family's house and dating his sister Jane.

If the stream of that event is not up now, it shortly will be here.

I was able to get Neil Innes to sign my copy of his somewhat obscure album How Sweet to Be An Idiot, which is how I felt asking for his autograph, but sometimes you just have to get over it. And when I offered host Anthony Mason copies of my DVDs (okay, I'm obnoxious) he said "I've got them. Someone gave them to me. They are great," which made me feel great.

If you avail yourself of these links, "A splendid time is guaranteed for all."

Paul Boudreau's picture

You do meet the coolest people!  Too bad your iPhone (or software app) let you down.

Michael Fremer's picture

The interview is now up and embedded within the story

StonedBeatles1's picture

Sorry I had no invite that evening but wasn't The Grammy Salute to The Beatles Killer!?  Seems Ringo has greater energy and wind than Paul nowadays.  Really a great show.

Who would have thought something with The Grammy's name in it would actually be worthy of viewing? 


Michael Fremer's picture

I agree. I enjoyed every part of it and every performance. None beat the originals but many were outstanding: both in which Dave Grohl performed, the Joe Walsh and Guy Clark, Alicia Keyes and John Legend too. And it was so great seeing Peter Frampton enjoying himself in the house band.

But of course Ringo and Paul were the best. Not congratulating the themselves or being above it all but still in the moment.... it airs again tomorrow night.

One more observation: when they played clips from the '64 performances even though the bandwidth and dynamics were limited the sound was MORE TRANSPARENT, the vocal timbres more natural and the overall sonic gestalt more believable. 

The new sound smelled of Pro Tools: there was no shimmer to the cymbals. No air around them. It was all dry and dulled-out. I watched Grohl, Starr and Laboriel hit them but didn't hear much of the result.

Did you notice that? Those old recordings were analog recordings surely using tube gear...

rakalm's picture

I fell on the ice yesterday and broke 2 ribs and have injured my shoulder (need an MRI) and I am having ALOT of pain.  I watched these clips and the pain was forgotten the whole time.  I'm not kidding.  Vince is an amazing man with stories to match his charm.  Michael, you did a great job with the interview.  Thanks for sharing.  Loved the Grammies show, will watch again tomorrow as I will have some time off to heal.  Ringo and Paul have still got it, without a doubt.  Would have been nice if they could have taped this show analog to get a really nice 2-3 LP set from the show (pressed by QRP).  Hope you get the OPTIMAL Box Set vinyl eventually, I listened to SP yesterday (before the fall) and it beats the RAINBO hands down. I would love to get your take on this eventually.  The sound on the ED Sullivan DVD videos is actually quite nice considering, I love that they run the shows in their entirety.  Time for 1 of my only 2 original Parlophones (it just feels right), that should ease the pain a bit.

Michael Fremer's picture

Sorry to hear that. Thanks for the compliments and feel better!