DC DJ was first to spin Beatles record in US

WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- On Tuesday night, thousands of Beatles fans will jam into a frigid, abandoned D.C. Coliseum to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Fab Four's first concert in America.

That breakthrough gig at the Washington Coliseum might not have happened but for a groundbreaking D.C. disk jockey Carroll James, who was among the first, if not the first, to spin the Beatles music in the U.S.

It was two months before the Sullivan Show and the sold out concert at the Washington Coliseum when CJ the DJ at WWDC smuggled in the single from a then obscure British band at the request of a teenage fan named Marsha Albert. Within weeks, "I Want To Hold Your Hand" roared to number one on the charts. By the end of March 1964, the Beatles had locked up all five top spots on the Billboard chart -- a feat that's never again been repeated by anyone.

Carroll James passed away in 1997, but his widow still keeps the memories in a box. "I cannot believe it's been 50 years," Betty Duke said.

She remembers the music execs were at first a little mad Carroll James started playing the Beatles. "Of course Capital Records owned the rights to the record," says Duke. "And it was like, what are you doing young man, this is a smuggled copy?!...But then the response was so incredible, they released the record early."

James actually released a record of his interview with the Beatles before the D.C. concert. "You George are the only Beatle who has been in America before this trip? Is that correct?" James asked George Harrison on February 11, 1964, just before the Beatles concert at the Washington Coliseum "Yes that's correct," Harrison responded. "In New York, I went into a record shop to ask if they'd ever heard of us, and they hadn't. You know that was October."

We know them now, and 50 years later, we're still talking about them.

Marsha Albert, the teen who first requested the Beatles, has kept a low profile. A nationwide search by fans failed to find her a decade ago -- until the Washington Post turned her up. She told the paper she sees herself as just a footnote in the history of a band whose music "will stand with Bach, Brahms and Beethoven for generations to come."


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