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Brad Paisley and Keith Urban Salute the Beatles on Sunday Night TV Special

Image courtesy of Photo Credit: Cliff Lipson/CBS (via ABC News Radio)
Image courtesy of Photo Credit: Cliff Lipson/CBS (via ABC News Radio)

Sunday night, February 9, marks the 50th anniversary of the Beatles' legendary first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.  That moment will be celebrated with The Beatles: The Night That Changed America -- A Grammy Salute, airing Sunday night at the same time -- 8 p.m. -- and on the same network -- CBS -- that aired the original performance.

The special features today's artists singing Beatles classics, and Brad Paisley and Keith Urban represent country on the show. Brad teamed up with Pharrell Williams to sing "Here Comes the Sun," and Keith performed "Don't Let Me Down" with his pal John Mayer .   Katy Perry , Maroon 5 , Alicia Keys , John Mayer , Ed Sheeran , Stevie Wonder , Imagine Dragons and '80s music icons Eurythmics are also on the special.

As for Keith and John Mayer's collaboration, the show's producer says the two guitarists came up with that idea last year for another event.  Ken Ehrlich tells ABC News Radio, "I had seen them do 'Don't Let Me Down' at the Eric Clapton Crossroads show last fall at the Garden in New York, and it was really amazing, with some blazing guitar solos.  So I thought that would be great."

The most important performance of the night, though, is by the surviving Beatles: Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr . Ehrlich says initially, they weren't sure they wanted to be involved with the special.  One reason, he says, is that celebrating the 50th anniversary of something makes you seem old, and Paul and Ringo want to still be seen as vital touring musicians.  But, says Ehrlich, "once they came around and embraced the idea of it, they just got into it."

Since the Beatles broke up, Paul and Ringo have rarely performed Beatles songs together, and certainly not on TV, so Ehrlich says it was a real treat for the audience at the taping, which took place the day after the Grammys, to get to witness the mini-reunion.

"Everybody was kind of expecting it," Ehrlich said of Paul and Ringo's performance of a few Beatles' classics. "I mean, there are no secrets left in the entertainment industry anymore, but I don't think that, as anticipated as it was, that they even had a clue as to how really electric it was when the two of them got together.  It's really something."

In addition to all the performances, The Beatles: The Night That Changed America -- A Grammy Salute will also feature an historical look back on the original Sullivan performance, through archival footage and new interviews.  Though at that point the Beatles had already scored their first #1 hit in the U.S., nobody in America had really ever seen them perform live before, so more than 70 million viewers tuned into the show to see what all the fuss was about.  It's considered a watershed moment in pop culture, and countless rock stars have said that watching the show that night inspired them to make careers for themselves in music.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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