The Ed Sullivan Show
The Ed Sullivan Show: Top 10 Musical Performances
This long-running variety show featured comedians, circus performers, actors and more, but became famous for its music. http://www.WatchMojo.comcounts down the Top 10 Musical Performances from The Ed Sullivan Show.
The Ed Sullivan Show is an American TV variety show that originally ran on CBS from Sunday June 20, 1948 to Sunday June 6, 1971, and was hosted by New Yorkentertainment columnist Ed Sullivan. It was replaced in September 1971 by the CBS Sunday Night Movie, which ran only one season and was eventually replaced by other shows.
In 2002, The Ed Sullivan Show was ranked #15 on TV Guide’s 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time.
The Ed Sullivan Show is especially known to the World War II and baby boomer generations for introducing acts and airing breakthrough performances by popular 1960s musicians such as Elvis Presley, The Beatles, The Supremes, The Beach Boys,The Jackson 5, The Rolling Stones, The Mamas & the Papas, The Lovin’ Spoonful, The Doors and Rosa Morena. The Canadian comedy troupe Wayne & Shuster, however, appeared on the program 67 times, a record for any performer.
On September 9, 1956, Presley made his first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show (after earlier appearances on shows hosted by the Dorsey Brothers, Milton Berle, and Steve Allen) even though Sullivan had previously vowed never to allow Presley on the show. According to biographer Michael David Harris, “Sullivan signed Presley when the host was having an intense Sunday-night rivalry with Steve Allen. Allen had the singer on July 1 and trounced Sullivan in the ratings. When asked to comment, the CBS star said that he wouldn’t consider presenting Presley before a family audience. Less than two weeks later he changed his mind and signed a contract. The newspapers asked him to explain his reversal. ‘What I said then was off the reports I’d heard. I hadn’t even seen the guy. Seeing the kinescopes, I don’t know what the fuss was all about. For instance, the business about rubbing the thighs. He rubbed one hand on his hip to dry off the perspiration from playing his guitar.’ “Sullivan’s reaction to Presley’s performance on the Milton Berle Show was, “I don’t know why everybody picked on Presley, I thought the whole show was dirty and vulgar.”
Elvis mythology states that Sullivan censored Presley by only shooting him from the waist up. Sullivan may have helped create the myth when he told TV Guide, “as for his gyrations, the whole thing can be controlled with camera shots.” In truth Presley’s whole body was shown in the first and second shows.
At the time, Presley was filming Love Me Tender, so Sullivan’s producer, Marlo Lewis, flew to Los Angeles to supervise the two segments telecast that night from CBS Television City in Hollywood. Sullivan, however, was not able to host his show in New York City because he was recovering from a near fatal automobile accident. Charles Laughton guest-hosted in Sullivan’s place. Laughton appeared in front of plaques with gold records and stated, “These gold records, four of them… are a tribute to the fact that four of his recordings have sold, each sold, more than a million copies. And this, by the way, is the first time in record making history that a singer has hit such a mark in such a short time. …And now, away to Hollywood to meet Elvis Presley.”
However, according to Greil Marcus, Laughton was the main act of Sullivan’s show. “Presley was the headliner, and a Sullivan headliner normally opened the show, but Sullivan was burying him. Laughton had to make the moment invisible: to act as if nobody was actually waiting for anything. He did it instantly, with complete command, with the sort of television presence that some have and some—Steve Allen, or Ed Sullivan himself—don’t.”
Host Laughton wrongly introduced the singer as “Elvin Presley.” Once on camera, Elvis cleared his throat and said, “Thank you, Mr Laughton, ladies and gentlemen. Wow”, and wiped his brow. “This is probably the greatest honor I’ve ever had in my life. Ah. There’s not much I can say except, it really makes you feel good. We want to thank you from the bottom of our heart. And now…” “Don’t Be Cruel“, which was, after a short introduction by Elvis, followed by “Love Me Tender.” According to Elaine Dundy, Presley sang “Love Me Tender” “straight, subdued and tender … —a very different Elvis from the one on The Steve Allen Show three months before.”
When the camera returned to Laughton, he stated, “Well, well, well well well. Ladies and gentlemen, Elvis Presley. And Mr. Presley, if you are watching this in Hollywood, and I may address myself to you. It has been many a year since any young performer has captured such a wide, and, as we heard tonight, devoted audience.”
Elvis’s second set in the show consisted of “Ready Teddy” and a short on-air comment to Sullivan, “Ah, Mr Sullivan. We know that somewhere out there you are looking in, and, ah, all the boys and myself, and everybody out here, are looking forward to seeing you back on television.” Next, Elvis declared, “Friends, as a great philosopher once said, ‘You ain’t nothin’ but a Hound Dog…,’ ” as he launched into a short (1:07) version of the song.
According to Marcus, “For the first of his two appearances that night, as a performer Elvis had come on dressed in grandma’s nightgown and nightcap.” Concerning the singer’s second set in the show, the author adds that there were “Elvis, Scotty Moore on guitar, Bill Black on stand-up bass, D. J. Fontana on drums, three Jordanaires on their feet, one at a piano. They were shown from behind; the camera pulled all the way back. They went into ‘Ready Teddy.’ It was Little Richard‘s most thrilling record”, however, “there was no way Elvis was going to catch him, but he didn’t have to—the song is a wave and he rode it. Compared to moments on the Dorsey shows, on the Berle show, it was ice cream—Elvis’s face unthreatening, his legs as if in casts …” When “he sang Little Richard’s ‘Reddy Teddy’ and began to move and dance, the camera pulled in, so that the television audience saw him from the waist up only.”
Although Laughton was the main star and there were seven other acts on the show, Elvis was on camera for more than a quarter of the time allotted to all acts. The show was viewed by a record 60 million people which at the time was 82.6 percent of the television audience, and the largest single audience in television history. “In the New York Times“, however, “Jack Gould began his review indignantly: Elvis Presley had ‘injected movements of his tongue and indulged in wordless singing that were singularly distasteful.’ Overstimulating the physical impulses of the teenagers was ‘a gross national disservice.'”
In late 1963, Sullivan and his entourage happened also to be passing through Heathrowand witnessed how The Beatles‘ fans greeted the group on their return from Stockholm, where they had performed a television show as warmup band to local star Lill Babs. Sullivan was intrigued, telling his entourage it was the same thing as Elvis all over again. He initially offered Beatles manager Brian Epstein top dollar for a single show but the Beatles manager had a better idea—he wanted exposure for his clients: the Beatles would instead appear three times on the show, at bottom dollar, but receive top billing and two spots (opening and closing) on each show.
The Beatles appeared on three consecutive Sundays in February 1964 to great anticipation and fanfare as “I Want to Hold Your Hand” had swiftly risen to No. 1 in the charts. Their first appearance on February 9 is considered a milestone in American pop culture and the beginning of the British Invasion in music. The broadcast drew an estimated 73 million viewers, at the time a record for US television, and was characterized by an audience composed largely of screaming hysterical teenage girls in tears. The Beatles followed Ed’s show opening intro, performing “All My Loving“; “Till There Was You“, which featured the names of the group members superimposed on closeup shots, including the famous “Sorry girls, he’s married” caption on John Lennon; and “She Loves You“. The act that followed Beatles in the broadcast was pre-recorded, rather than having someone perform live on stage amidst the pandemonium that occurred in the studio after the Beatles performed their first songs. The group returned later in the program to perform “I Saw Her Standing There” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”
The following week’s show was broadcast from Miami Beach where Muhammad Ali (then Cassius Clay) was in training for his first title bout with Sonny Liston. The occasion was used by both camps for publicity. On the evening of the television show (February 16) a crush of people nearly prevented the band from making it onstage. A wedge of policemen were needed and the band began playing “She Loves You” only seconds after reaching their instruments. They continued with “This Boy“, and “All My Loving” and returned later to close the show with “I Saw Her Standing There”, “From Me to You” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”
They were shown on tape February 23 (this appearance had been taped earlier in the day on February 9 before their first live appearance). They followed Ed’s intro with “Twist and Shout” and “Please Please Me” and closed the show once again with “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”
The Beatles appeared live for the final time on August 14, 1965. The show was broadcast September 12, 1965 and earned Sullivan a 60 percent share of the nighttime audience for one of the appearances. This time they followed three acts before coming out to perform “I Feel Fine“, “I’m Down“, and “Act Naturally” and then closed the show with “Ticket to Ride“, “Yesterday“, and “Help!.” Although this was their final live appearance on the show, the group would for several years provide filmed promotional clips of songs to air exclusively on Sullivan’s program such as the 1966 and 1967 clips of “Paperback Writer“, “Rain“, “Penny Lane“, and “Strawberry Fields Forever“.
Although the appearances by The Beatles, Elvis and The Supremes are considered the most famous rock and roll performances on Ed Sullivan, several months before Elvis debuted, Sullivan invited Bill Haley & His Comets to perform their then-current hit “Rock Around the Clock” in early August 1955. This was later recognized by CBS and others (including music historian Jim Dawson in his book on “Rock Around the Clock”) as the first performance of a rock and roll song on a national television program.
African American artists – The Supremes
The Supremes were a special act for The Ed Sullivan Show. In addition to nearly 20 appearances, they were a personal favorite of Sullivan, whom he affectionately called “The Girls.” Over the five years they performed on the program, the Supremes performed 15 of their hit singles, and numerous Broadway showtunes and other non-Motown songs. The group featuring the most popular lineup of Diana Ross, Mary Wilson, and Florence Ballard appeared 15 times from December 1964 through May 1967.
The group reappeared on the series in October 1967 as the newly rebilled “Diana Ross & the Supremes”, with Ballard replacement Cindy Birdsong and Ross more prominently featured. The Supremes’ final appearance on the show, shortly before it ended, served as the platform to introduce America to Ross’s replacement, Jean Terrell, in March 1970.
In an era when few opportunities existed for African American performers on national television, Sullivan was a champion of black talent. He launched the careers of many performers by presenting them to a nationwide TV audience and ignored the criticism. In an NEA interview, Sullivan commented:
|“||The most important thing [during the first ten years of the program] is that we’ve put on everything but bigotry. When the show first started in ’48, I had a meeting with the sponsors. There were some Southern dealers present and they asked if I intended to put on Negroes. I said yes. They said I shouldn’t, but I convinced them I wasn’t going to change my mind. And you know something? We’ve gone over very well in the South. Never had a bit of trouble.||”|
The show included entertainers such as Frankie Lymon, The Supremes, Marian Anderson, Louis Armstrong, Pearl Bailey,LaVern Baker, Harry Belafonte, James Brown, Godfrey Cambridge, Diahann Carroll, Ray Charles, Nat King Cole, Bill Cosby,Count Basie, Dorothy Dandridge, Sammy Davis, Jr., Bo Diddley, Rocío Dúrcal, Duke Ellington, Lola Falana, The 5th Dimension,Ella Fitzgerald, The Four Tops, Aretha Franklin, Dick Gregory, W. C. Handy, Lena Horne, The Jackson 5, Mahalia Jackson,Eartha Kitt, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Little Anthony & The Imperials, Moms Mabley, Johnny Mathis, The Miracles (later known as Smokey Robinson & the Miracles), Melba Moore, The Platters, Leontyne Price, Richard Pryor, Lou Rawls, Della Reese,Nipsey Russell, Nina Simone, Sly & the Family Stone, The Temptations, Martha Reeves & The Vandellas, Tina Turner (at the time known as “The Ike & Tina Turner Revue”), Leslie Uggams, William Warfield, Dionne Warwick, Dinah Washington, Ethel Waters, Flip Wilson, Jackie Wilson, Nancy Wilson, and Stevie Wonder.
Before his death in a plane crash in December 1967, soul singer Otis Redding had been booked to appear on the show the following year. One telecast included African-American bass-baritone Andrew Frierson singing “Ol’ Man River” from Kern andHammerstein‘s Show Boat, a song that, at that time, was usually sung on television by white singers, although it was written for a black character in the musical.
However, Sullivan featured “rockers”, and gave prominence to black musicians “not without censorship”. For instance, he scheduled Fats Domino “at the show’s end in case he had to cancel a guest”. A year later the same thing happened to Sam Cooke, cutting him off in the middle of “You Send Me“. Aware that many white adults considered Domino a threat, Sullivan hid his band behind a curtain, reducing the number of black faces. He presented Domino alone at his piano singing as if he were a young Nat ‘King’ Cole or Fats Waller, and he “had Fats stand up during the last verse of the song to reveal his pudgy figure.”