George Harrison might not have made it on to the Ed Sullivan Show back in 1964 had it not been for the vigilant watch of his older sister Louise. Harrison arrived in New York with the Beatles for the famous Ed Sullivan Show gig as well as a few other performances in February of 1964, but he was immediately deemed much quieter than the rest. George Harrison, it seems, was suffering from a horrendous case of strep throat and had a temperature of 104 degrees.
The band’s manager Brian Epstein didn’t want Harrison taken to a hospital even though the hotel’s in-house doctor said he belonged in one because of the severity of his illness. He didn’t even want a nurse to be called in because he didn’t want Ed Sullivan to get wind that one of the Beatles was seriously ill. It was decided instead that George Harrison’s older sister, Louise, who was along as his guest on the trip, would move into his private hotel room and serve as his nurse–administering the medications the in-house hotel doctor had prescribed. She is noted today as possibly having saved George Harrison for his performance with the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show.
That was fifty years ago. Louise Harrison is now 82 years old. She was 11 years older than George. She has spent a good part of her life living in her younger brother’s shadow–living in Branson where she is working on a book about her late brother.
“A lot of people have asked me over the years if it was exciting. But I don’t really remember if it was exciting or not. I was too busy worrying about George. I was so concentrating on hoping he could make it,” Louise said in an interview for the New York Post.
Louise Harrison does recall the excitement of actually leaving the Plaza for the Ed Sullivan theater so the Beatles could get ready to take the stage.
“We had to run through a big bunch of police holding up their arms, like they do at military weddings, making a tunnel for us to run out the door and into the limo,” she recalls.
“And then we took off down the street, and all the people who had climbed on top of the limo were falling off. We looked out the back window, and all these eyeglasses and pocketbooks and hats and shoes and all kinds of things were coming down the street behind us.”
Only two of the four Beatles are alive today–Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr–and they will take the stage at the Ed Sullivan Theater on February 9th for a special 50th anniversary show. John Lennon and George Harrison will be in the hearts of many fans who watch the historical TV special. Louise Harrison will no doubt be among them. When her famous brother died she got nothing from his estate and the monthly gift he had always sent her ended.
That hasn’t stopped her from honoring George Harrison, however, and keeping her brother’s legacy alive.
Image via Wikimedia Commons