From Sea To Shining Sea: The Rolling Stones’ Conquest Of America

On June 5, 1964, The Rolling Stones played their first gig on US soil in San Bernardino, California.

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Keith Richards Shopping in America, 1964
Photo: Mark and Colleen Hayward/Redferns

In June of 1964, The Rolling Stones began their conquest of America, but contrary to popular myth the Stones were not at the forefront of the British Invasion of America. The Beatles and The Dave Clark 5 had both scored top 10 hits in America well before the Rolling Stones ever crossed the Atlantic.

It was in late May 1964 that “Not Fade Away” made the Billboard charts. A few days later The Stones boarded a BOAC flight at London’s Heathrow airport and a little over six hours later they touched down at New York’s JFK Airport. If the Beatles were the first to conquer America, this was the start of a musical love affair that has sustained the Stones over the course of the next several decades.

It was on June 1, 1964, the day before Charlie’s 23rd birthday, that the Stones arrived in New York City. With 500 screaming fans to greet them at the airport, they were met with cries of “Get your hair cut,” and “Are you the Beatles,” not from the fans of course, but from passengers and airport staff. At a press conference of about 100 newsmen, local DJ Murray had arranged for an old English sheepdog to be there for photos, it naturally drew comparisons over its hairstyle and that of the band.

From the airport, they headed into Manhattan where they were staying at the Hotel Astor on Times Square. There was mayhem at the hotel, fans invaded the lobby before the band eventually made it to their room, which they shared two to a room. After breakfast, more press conferences, and a radio interview, they appeared on The Les Crane Show, a local TV show, their first live appearance on American television.

On June 3 the band flew to Los Angeles and from there to the Beverley Hilton, prior to going to ABC TV to record a segment for the Hollywood Palace Show, compered by Dean Martin. After recording three songs, all that was broadcast was 45 seconds of “I Just Want To Make Love To You,” along with Martin making wisecracks about their hair.

The next day after shopping for clothes in Hollywood, it was a trip to Malibu Beach and then in the evening a visit to RCA Recording Studios, where they would later record some of their iconic 1960s hits. On Friday, June 5, a bus took the band to San Bernardino for their first-ever concert on American soil.

On June 6 they flew to San Antonio to play the State Fair; this was the biggest crowd of the whole tour, but they were not there to see the Rolling Stones, Bobby Vee was a bigger draw. On June 6, 2015, they were back in Texas playing the AT&T Arena in Dallas.

Today many people claim to have seen the Stones on their first-ever US tour, truth is they are probably confused and it was either on their second or even third tour that they saw them.

They did just 9 nine shows in 8 eight cities – at one show in Minneapolis there were just 400 fans; in Omaha 650 turned up. In Detroit and Harrisburg, there were less than a thousand people in stadiums with a capacity ten times that. It was only at Carnegie Hall and in San Bernardino that there was anything close to a sell-out. At most shows the band opened with “Route 66” and played “Not Fade Away,” “I Wanna Be Your Man,” “High Heel Sneakers,” “I’m Alright,” and “I Just Wanna Make Love To You.”

Listen to the best of The Rolling Stones on Apple Music and Spotify.

16 Comments

16 Comments

  1. Rafael Pérez Pérez

    June 6, 2014 at 8:52 pm

    Estupendo y siguen rockeando. Arriba los Stones.

  2. alan

    June 6, 2014 at 10:35 pm

    ???
    18 th June 1964 Syracuse, New York, War Memorial Arena

    • uDiscover

      June 7, 2014 at 5:42 pm

      On the 18th June the Stones appeared on the Mike Douglas TV show

  3. Bruce Crist

    June 6, 2014 at 10:57 pm

    The June 12 show was not Minneapolis; it was in Excelsior, MN, a Minneapolis suburb, on Lake Minnetonka.

    • uDiscover

      June 7, 2014 at 5:41 pm

      It was at Big Reggie’s Ballroom, just across from the Excelsior Amusement Park. Most people have referred to this as Minneapolis, Minnesota, so it’s good to hear the facts Bruce, thanks!

  4. Sue Funaro

    June 7, 2014 at 1:34 am

    I saw the Stones at Woolsey Hall, New Haven, Connecticut but I don’t know whether it was in 1965 or 1966.

    • uDiscover

      June 7, 2014 at 5:43 pm

      Sue, it was November 1965

    • Richard Houghton

      June 8, 2015 at 7:34 pm

      Hi Sue

      I think that was 4 November 1965.

      Richard

  5. Rudolph.A.Furtado

    June 7, 2014 at 1:48 am

    Unbelievable that with modest beginnings of crowds averaging about 500 fans they are today 6 decades old in 2014 and plaqying music at a average age of 70 years.!

  6. Meredith a Hughes

    June 7, 2014 at 1:49 am

    Please come to Indianapolis Indiana for the Indy 500 in May, You could be Masters of the Parade, do Start Me Up before race on last Sunday in May?
    Thank you for the way to message you.

    Meredith

  7. Archie Ash

    June 7, 2014 at 6:42 pm

    Saw them at Weat Palm Pop festival 1969 With Janis and the Vanila fudge and many more Great times for music!

  8. Betty Garcia

    June 8, 2014 at 7:44 pm

    I saw the Stones in Santa Monica, CA at the S. M. Civic Auditorium in 1964. It was the TAMI show. I walked around the building with Brian & Bill, that was a GAS!!!! Have loved them ever since.

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