- The Ed Sullivan Show
show_name = Toast of the Town
The Ed Sullivan Show
caption = Ed Sullivan
genre = Variety
Bern nnett(1948-1949), Art Hannes(1949-1959 & 1961-1964) & Ralph Paul(1959-1961 & 1964-1971)
country = USA
num_seasons = 24
num_episodes = 1087
location = CBS Studio 50
Ed Sullivan Theater
runtime = 60 minutes (1 hour)
June 20, 1948
June 6, 1971
imdb_id = 0040053
tv_com_id = 1156
"The Ed Sullivan Show" was an American television
variety showthat ran from June 20, 1948to June 6, 1971, and was hosted by entertainment columnist Ed Sullivan. It ran on CBSevery Sunday night at 8 p.m., and is one of the few shows to have been run in the same time slot, weekly on the same day of the week, and on the same network, for more than two decades. Virtually every type of entertainment appeared on the show; operasingers, rock stars, songwriters, comedians, balletdancers, and circus acts were regularly featured. The format was essentially the same as vaudeville, and although vaudeville had died a generation earlier, Sullivan presented many ex-vaudevillians on his show.
The show was originally titled "Toast of the Town", but was widely referred to as "The Ed Sullivan Show" for years before
September 25 1955, when that became its official name. In its debut, Dean Martinand Jerry Lewisperformed along with Broadway composers Richard Rodgersand Oscar Hammerstein IIpreviewing the score to "South Pacific".
The show was broadcast live from CBS-TV Studio 50 in
New York City, which is now named The Ed Sullivan Theater and is the home of " The Late Show with David Letterman". The last Ed Sullivan Show was episode #1071, aired on March 28, 1971. It featured the following musical acts: Melanie, Joanna Simon, Danny Davis and the Nashville Brass, and Sandler and Young.
Along with the new talent Sullivan booked each week, he also had recurring characters appear many times a season, such as his "Little Italian Mouse" puppet sidekick "
Topo Gigio", who debuted April 14, 1963, and ventriloquist Señor Wences. While most of the episodes aired live from New York City, the show also aired live on occasion from other nations, such as the United Kingdom, Australia, and Japan. For many years, "Ed Sullivan" was a national event each Sunday evening, and was the first exposure for foreign performers to the American public.
On the occasion of the show's tenth anniversary telecast, Sullivan commented on how the show had changed during a June 1958 interview syndicated by the
Newspaper Enterprise Association(NEA)::The chief difference is mostly one of pace. In those days, we had maybe six acts. Now we have 11 or 12. Then, each of our acts would do a leisurely ten minutes or so. Now they do two or three minutes. And in those early days I talked too much. Watching these kines I cringe. I look up at me talking away and I say "You fool! Keep quiet!" But I just keep on talking. I've learned how to keep my mouth shut.
The show enjoyed phenomenal popularity in the 1950s and early 1960s. As had occurred with "
Amos 'n Andy" on the radio in the early 1930s, the family ritual of gathering around the television set to watch Ed Sullivan became almost a U.S. cultural universal. Ed Sullivan was regarded as a kingmaker, and performers considered an appearance on his program as a guarantee of stardom. The show's iconic status is illustrated by a song from the 1960 musical " Bye Bye Birdie". In the song "Hymn for a Sunday Evening," a family of viewers expresses their regard for the program in worshipful tones.
In 1965, CBS started televising the programs in compatible color, as all three major networks began to switch to 100 percent color prime time schedules. CBS had once backed its own color system, developed by
Peter Goldmark, and resisted using RCA's compatible process until that year.
In the late 1960s, Sullivan remarked that his program was waning as the decade went on. He realized that to keep viewers, the best and brightest in entertainment had to be seen, or else the viewers were going to keep on changing the channel. Along with declining viewership, "Ed Sullivan" attracted a higher median age for the average viewer as the seasons went on. These two factors were the reason the show was canceled by CBS after the end of the 1970-1971 season. Because there was no notice of cancellation, Sullivan's landmark program ended without a series finale. Sullivan would produce one-off specials for
CBSuntil his death in 1974.
Many episodes still exist; reruns aired on
TV Landin the late 1990s.
The program did not shy away from airing performances from black entertainers. Sullivan also commented on this during his NEA interview:
:"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 frequent performances from black entertainers such as
Diahann Carroll, Dionne Warwick, Sammy Davis Jr., Nat King Cole, Bo Diddley, The Fifth Dimension, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Mahalia Jackson, The Supremes, The Four Tops, The Miracles, Little Anthony & The Imperials, The Jackson 5, Jackie Wilson, Nina Simone, Gladys Knight & The Pips, and The Temptations. One telecast included black bass-baritone Andrew Friersonsinging " Ol' Man River" from Kern and Hammerstein's " Show Boat", a song that, at that time, was usually sung on television by white singers, although it was specifically written for a black character in the musical.
However, Sullivan featured "rockers", particularly black musicians, on his show "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 he would do just that to Sam Cooke, actually 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 Fats alone at his piano singing the Tin Pan Alleyballad, 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." [Rick Coleman, "Blue Monday: Fats Domino and the Lost Dawn of Rock 'n' Roll" (2007), p. 138.]
Mental illness program
In that same 1958 NEA interview, Sullivan noted his pride about the role that the show had had in improving the public's understanding of
mental illness. Sullivan considered his May 17 1953telecast to be the single most important episode in the show's first decade. During that show, a salute to the popular Broadway director Joshua Logan, the two men were watching in the wings, and Sullivan asked Logan how he thought the show was doing. According to Sullivan, Logan told him that the show was dreadfully becoming "another one of those and-then-I-wrote shows;" Sullivan asked him what he should do about it, and Logan volunteered to talk about his experiences in a mental institution.
Sullivan took him up on the offer, and in retrospect believed that several advances in the treatment of mental illness could be attributed to the resulting publicity, including the repeal of a Pennsylvania law about the treatment of the mentally ill and the granting of funds for the construction of new
"The Ed Sullivan Show" is especially known to today's generation for airing breakthrough performances by
Elvis Presleyand The Beatles.
"I wouldn't have Presley on my show at any time" — Ed Sullivan, early 1956
"And now, here is Elvis Presley!" — Ed Sullivan, October 28, 1956
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 the performer on his 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.' " [See Michael David Harris, "Always on Sunday: Ed Sullivan, An Inside View" (1968), p.116.]
At the time Presley was filming "Love Me Tender" so Sullivan's producer Marlo Lewis flew to
Los Angeles, Californiato supervise the Hollywood side of the show taping. Sullivan, however, was not able to host his show in New York Citybecause he was recovering from a near fatal automobile accident. Oscar-winner Charles Laughtonguest-hosted in Sullivan's place. Laughton appears in front of plaques with gold records and states, "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." [cite video |people=Paul Mavis (Director) |title=Elvis Presley - Ed Sullivan Shows |medium=DVD |publisher=Image Entertainment |date=2006]
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." [ Greil Marcus, "Elvis Presley: The Ed Sullivan Shows." See [http://www.elvis.com.au/presley/dvd/dvd_ed_sullivan_shows_set.shtml] .]
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." [cite video |people=Paul Mavis (Director) |title=Elvis Presley - Ed Sullivan Shows |medium=DVD |publisher=Image Entertainment |date=2006] According to Elaine Dundy, Presley sang "Love Me Tender" "straight, subdued and tender ... – a very different Elvis from the one in the Steve Allen Show three months before", when Allen smirkingly presented him "with a roll that looks exactly like a large roll of toilet paper with, says Allen, the 'signatures of eight thousand fans.' " [Dundy, Elaine, "Elvis and Gladys" (University Press of Mississippi, 2004), p. 259.]
When the camera returns to Laughton, he states,“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.” [cite video |people=Paul Mavis (Director) |title=Elvis Presley - Ed Sullivan Shows |medium=DVD |publisher=Image Entertainment |date=2006]
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 declares, "Friends, as a great philosopher once said, ‘You ain’t nothin’ but a
Hound Dog...,' " as he launches into a short (1:07) version of the song. [ Elvis Presley - Ed Sullivan Shows dvd ]
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 ..." [Greil Marcus, "Elvis Presley: The Ed Sullivan Shows." See [http://www.elvis.com.au/presley/dvd/dvd_ed_sullivan_shows_set.shtml] .] 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." [Glenn C. Altschuler, "All Shook Up: How Rock 'n' Roll Changed America" (Oxford University Press, 2003), p.91.]
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 alloted to all acts. [ [http://www.elvis.com.au/presley/dvd/dvd_ed_sullivan_shows_content.shtml] . Content Elvis Episodes Of 'The Ed Sullivan Show' DVD Box By: Elvis Australia - Aug 9, 2006 Source: EPE. Retrieved October 18, 2007] The show was viewed by a record 60 million people which at the time was 82.6% 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.' " [Altschuler, p.91.]
" and is shown in full the entire song.
For the third and final appearance,
January 6 1957Presley performed a medley of " Hound Dog," "Love Me Tender," and " Heartbreak Hotel," followed by a full version of " Don't Be Cruel." For a second set later in the show he did "Too Much" and "When My Blue Moon Turns to Gold Again". For his last set he sang " Peace in the Valley." Although much has been made of the fact that Elvis was shown only from the waist up, except for the short section of " Hound Dog," all of the songs on this show were ballads. "Leaving behind the bland clothes he had worn on the first two shows," Greil Marcus says, Elvis "stepped out in the outlandish costume of a pasha, if not a harem girl. From the make-up over his eyes, the hair falling in his face, the overwhelmingly sexual cast of his mouth, he was playing Rudolph Valentinoin "The Shiek", with all stops out. That he did so in front of the Jordanaires, who this night appeared as the four squarest-looking men on the planet, made the performance even more potent." [Marcus, "Elvis Presley: The Ed Sullivan Shows."] Sullivan praised Elvis at the end of the show, saying "This is a real decent, fine boy. We've never had a pleasanter experience on our show with a big name than we've had with you.... You're thoroughly all right." [ [http://www.elvis.com.au/presley/dvd/dvd_ed_sullivan_shows_content.shtml Content Elvis Episodes Of 'The Ed Sullivan Show' DVD Box ] ]
Years later, Sullivan "tried to sign the singer up again... He phoned Presley's manager, Col. Tom Parker, and asked about a price. Parker came up with a list of instructions and conditions and after hearing the demands Sullivan said, 'Give Elvis my best—and my sympathy,' and he hung up." [Harris, "Always on Sunday: Ed Sullivan", p.116.] The singer never again appeared in Sullivan's show, although in February 1964 at the start of the first of three broadcasts featuring the Beatles (see below), Sullivan announced that a
telegramhad been received from Presley and Parker wishing the British group luck.
Many television historians consider Elvis Presley's three appearances on "The Ed Sullivan Show" as helping to bridge a large
generation gapbetween Great Depressionand World War IIera parents and their baby boomerchildren. Later performers would use this bridge to introduce themselves to millions of American households. Among them were The Rolling Stones, The Doors, and The Beatles.
In late 1963, Mr. Sullivan found himself among a throng of 15,000 excited kids at Heathrow Airport in London who were there to see a young British recording group,
The Beatles. Sullivan was intrigued. In December, 1963, Beatlesmanager Brian Epsteinarranged for the group, still relatively unknown in the United States, to appear three times on the show at $4000 per appearance. Epstein was then able to convince Capitol Records to mount a publicity campaign for the Beatles arrival, and to release " I Want to Hold Your Hand."
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 #1 in the charts. Their first appearance on February 9is considered a milestone in American pop culture and the beginning of the British Invasionin music. The broadcast drew an estimated 73 million viewers, at the time a record for an American television program, and was characterized by an audience composed largely of screaming teenage girls in tears. The Beatles followed Ed's show opening intro, performing " All My Loving," " Till There Was You(featuring the Beatles names imposed on the screen and the famous "SORRY GIRLS, HE'S MARRIED" caption under John), and " She Loves You." Then, late in the hour, they returned to perform " I Saw Her Standing There" and " I Want to Hold Your Hand."
The Beatles returned to the show, this time broadcast from
Miami Beach, on February 16. A crush of people nearly prevented the boys from making it on stage in time. A wedge of policemen was needed, and the band began playing " From Me to 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" 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 9before 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 for the final time on
September 12 1965and 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," 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 in 1966 and 1967 airing clips of " Paperback Writer," "Rain," " Penny Lane," and " Strawberry Fields Forever."
Although the appearances by The Beatles and Elvis are considered the most famous rock and roll performances on "Ed Sullivan", several months before Elvis debuted, Sullivan invited
Bill Haley & His Cometsto 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 Dawsonin his book on "Rock Around the Clock") as the first performance of a rock and roll song on a national television program.
November 20, 1955, African-Americanrock 'n' roll singer and guitarist Bo Diddleyappeared on "The Ed Sullivan Show" only to infuriate him ("I did two songs and he got mad"). Diddley had been asked to sing Tennessee Ernie Ford's hit " Sixteen Tons". But when he appeared on stage, he sang his #1 R&B hit "Bo Diddley." Diddley later recalls, "Ed Sullivan says to me in plain words: 'You are the first black boy - quote - that ever double crossed me!' I was ready to "fight", because I was a little young dude off the streets of Chicago, an' him callin' me 'black' in them days was as bad as sayin' 'nigger'. My manager says to me 'That’s Mr Sullivan!' I said: 'I don’t give a shit about Mr Sullivan, [h] e don't talk to me like that!' An' so he told me, he says, 'I'll see that you never work no more in show business. You'll never get another TV show in your life!' " [See Jake Austen, "TV A-Go-Go: Rock on TV from American Bandstand to American Idol" (2005), p.15.] Indeed, Diddley seems to have been banned from further appearances, as "the guitarist never did appear on "The Ed Sullivan Show" again." [Austen, p.15.]
On October 18, 1964,
Jackie Masonallegedly gave Sullivan the fingeron air. A tape of the incident shows Mason doing his stand-up comedy act and then looking toward Sullivan, commenting that Sullivan was signaling him. Sullivan was reportedly telling Mason to wrap it up, since CBS was about to cut away to show a speech by President Lyndon Johnson. Mason began working his own fingers into his act and pointed toward Sullivan with his middle finger slightly separated. After Mason left the stage, the camera then cut to a visibly angry Sullivan. Sullivan argued with Mason backstage, then terminated his contract. Mason denied knowingly giving Sullivan the finger and later filed a libelsuit. Sullivan publicly apologized to Mason when he appeared on the show two years later. At that time, Mason opened his monologue by saying "it is great to see all of you in person again." Mason dropped the lawsuit, but never appeared on the show again. Bob Dylanwas slated to make his first nationwide television appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show on May 12, 1963, and intended to perform "Talkin' John Birch Paranoid Blues," a song he wrote lampooning the John Birch Societyand the red-hunting paranoia associated with it. During the afternoon rehearsal that day, CBS officials told Dylan they had deemed the song unacceptable for broadcast and wanted him to substitute another. "No; this is what I want to do," Dylan responded. "If I can't play my song, I'd rather not appear on the show." He then left the studio, walking out on the stint. The Doorswere notorious for their appearance on the show. CBS network censors demanded that lead singer Jim Morrisonchange the lyrics to their hit single "Light My Fire" by altering the line, "Girl, we couldn't get much higher," before the band performed the song live on September 17, 1967. The line was changed to, "Girl, we couldn't get much better". However, Morrison sang the original line, and on live television with no delay, CBS was powerless to stop it. A furious Ed Sullivanrefused to shake the band members' hands, and they were never invited back to the show. According to Ray Manzarek, the band was told they would never do the Ed Sullivan show again; Morrison replied, "So what. We just did the "Ed Sullivan Show" [ [http://archives.cnn.com/2002/SHOWBIZ/TV/10/03/ed.sullivan.sidebar/ When the Doors went on Sullivan] ] —at the time, an appearance was a hallmark of success. Manzarek claims the band agreed with the producer beforehand but had no intention of altering the line.
In contrast, the
Rolling Stoneswere instructed to change the title of their " Let's Spend the Night Together" single for the band's January 15 1967appearance. The band complied, with Mick Jaggerostentatiously rolling his eyes heavenward whenever he reached the song's one-night-only, clean refrain, "Let's spend some time together."
Diana Ross & The Supremes, frequent guests on Sullivan's show, performed their then-release and eventual controversial #1 hit song "Love Child" on Ed's show, but nothing about its title or content seemed to faze Ed or its producers, or the network.
The show is also famous for showcasing original cast members of Broadway shows performing hit numbers from the musicals in which they were then appearing, at a time when this was rareFact|date=April 2008. There were appearances from Broadway celebrities such as
Carol Lawrenceand Larry Kertsinging "Tonight" from " West Side Story", Julie Andrewssinging "Wouldn't It Be Loverly?" from " My Fair Lady", as well as with Richard Burtonsinging "What Do The Simple Folk Do?" from "Camelot", Robert Gouletsinging "If Ever I Would Leave You" from the same show, and Richard Kileysinging "The Impossible Dream" from " Man of La Mancha". "La Mancha" leading lady Joan Dieneralso made an extremely rare television appearance in her stage role of Aldonza/Dulcinea, singing the song "What Does He Want of Me?"
All of these artists performed their songs wearing the same
makeupand costumesthat they wore in the shows, in order to preserve the illusion that one was actually seeing the musical in question. This was also extremely rare on television at the time. (Several of these performances have recently been released on a DVD).
Due to the program's legacy, many musicians have parodied "The Ed Sullivan Show" over the years in countless music videos. Among the notable include:
L.A. Guns' "Never Enough"
Billy Joel's "Tell Her About It"
Outkast's " Hey Ya!"
Red Hot Chili Peppers's " Dani California"
* opens their concerts with prerecorded footage of a man doing an intentionally poor Ed Sullivan impression in black and white and then introducing the band, which plays the first part of the show with an exact recreation of the set the Beatles used.
The Rutles(1978) (Movie)
* Joe Garner, "Stay Tuned: Television's Unforgettable Moments" (Andrews McMeel Publishing; 2002) ISBN 0-7407-2693-5
* [http://slate.msn.com/id/2095079/ Slate article] about the Beatles' appearances on the Ed Sullivan show
*imdb title|0040053|Toast of the Town
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