Monday, October 13, 2014

Rock 'n' Roll on The Ed Sullivan Show

It was forty years ago today that Ed Sullivan died at age 73 from oesophageal cancer. While Ed Sullivan started his career as an entertainment columnist in the Twenties, it would be as the host of the long running Ed Sullivan Show (originally titled Toast of the Town) that he would have his most impact. As the host of The Ed Sullivan Show, Mr. Sullivan often introduced Americans to acts they would not have seen on others shows. He not only featured African American acts more often than other variety shows, but he also featured lesser known acts with whom white Americans might not have been familiar. At a time when, for the most part, country music only appeared on such country specific shows as Louisiana Hayride, Mr. Sullivan was regularly featuring country artists on his show.

Of course, Ed Sullivan was also famous for introducing many rock 'n' roll acts to the American television audience. In fact, CBS and many television historians believe that it was Ed Sullivan who aired the first rock 'n' roll performance on national television. That particular performance occurred on 7 August 1955 when Bill Haley and His Comets played "Rock Around the Clock" on the show. Over the  years Ed Sullivan would feature several legendary rock and rhythm and blues acts on his show, including The Animals, The Dave Clark Five, The Miracles, The Beach Boys, The Supremes, The Lovin Spoonful, The Four Tops, The Doors, and many others. Here are four of the best known performances from the show.

Contrary to popular belief, Elvis Presnley's debut on The Ed Sullivan Show did not mark his first appearance on national television. In fact, he had made his national television debut on the  Dorsey Brothers' programme Stage Show on 28 January 1956. He even appeared on The Milton Berle Show (the first time on 3 April 1956) and The Steven Allen Plymouth Show (the first time on 1 July 1956) before he appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show. Regardless, Elvis's first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show on 9 September 1956 was very much a big event. 60 million viewers tuned into see Elvis on the programme. Here is his performance of "Love Me Tender" from that show:

Bill Haley and Elvis Presley were not the only legendary rockers from the Fifties to appear on The Ed Sullivan Show. Buddy Holly and The Crickets appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show on 1 December 1957. The band performed their hit single "That'll Be the Day" and their latest single "Peggy Sue". The band's appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show would largely be responsible for "Peggy Sue", then making its way up the charts, ultimately reaching #3 on the Billboard singles chart. Unfortunately Buddy Holly and The Crickets would only appear one more time on The Ed Sullivan Show, on 26 January 1958. The band wanted to perform their hit "Oh, Boy!", but Ed Sullivan thought the song was too suggestive and insisted they perform another song. Ultimately Buddy Holly and The Crickets' time on the show as cut from two songs to one and Ed Sullivan was not happy when the one song they performed was "Oh, Boy!". Ultimately Ed Sullivan was none too eager to have the band back on the show, but their performance proved so popular that he invited them back anyway. Buddy Holly's response was that Ed Sullivan did not have enough money to pay The Crickets to be back on the show.

Regardless, here is their performance of "That'll Be the Day" from their first appearance on the show.

Of course, the single most famous edition of The Ed Sullivan Show was The Beatles' debut on the programme on 9 February 1964. It was not the first time The Beatles had been seen on American television. The Beatles' first appeared on American television in a news report aired by NBC their evening news programme The Huntley-Brinkley Report, on 18 November 1963. CBS aired their own news report on The Beatles on The CBS Evening News on 10 December 1963. On 3 February 1963 Jack Paar showed a clip of The Beatles performing "She Loves You" on The Jack Paar Show, although he clearly did so in an effort to get laughs. The Beatles' first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show was then historic as the first time the band played on a live television programme in the United States. It was also historic as the show that kicked off the British Invasion. Indeed, that night The Beatles were seen by 73 million viewers, the most for any programme up to that date.  Here then, without further ado, is The Beatles' full performance from the 9 February 1964 edition of The Ed Sullivan Show.

Ed Sullivan would feature many more British Invasion bands on his show. In fact, The Dave Clark Five would make their first appearance on the show only a few weeks after The Beatles, on 8 March 1964. Over the years such British bands as The Animals, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Freddie and the Dreamers, Herman's Hermits, The Hollies, and others appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show. Among the bands to make multiple appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show were The Rolling Stones. They made their first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show on 25 October 1964. It was very nearly their last. While The Rolling Stones generated a good deal of excitement, performing Chuck Berry's "Around and Around" and Kai Winding's "Time is On My Side", Ed Sullivan apparently thought they generated too much excitement. Ed Sullivan is alleged to have said,  "I promise you they'll never be back on our show."

Fortunately Ed Sullivan would change his mind and The Rolling Stones would appear five more times on The Ed Sullivan Show, the last being on 23 November 1969. Aside from their debut, perhaps The Rolling Stones' most notorious appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show was on the 15 January 1967 edition of the programme. The Rolling Stones were set to perform the songs from their latest single, "Let's Spend the Night Together" and "Ruby Tuesday". Ed Sullivan felt "Let's Spend the Night Together" was much too suggestive and insisted the band change the line to "Let's Spend Some Time Together". The Rolling Stones complied, but during the performance both Mick Jagger and Bill Wyman visibly roll their eyes every time they get to the chorus. Here, from the 15 January 1967 edition of The Ed Sullivan Show, are The Rolling Stones performing "Let's Spend the Night Together" "Let's Spend Some Time Together".

No comments: