Elvis Presley performs on stage on the Ed Sullivan Present on January 6, 1957 Photograph: Steve Oroz/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Photos
On Monday, July 2, 1956, Ed Sullivan despatched off a telegram to Steve Allen, the Tonight Present host who had just lately been given an extra weekend comedy/selection program to try to break impresario Sullivan’s dominance over the Sunday 8-9 PM time slot. The earlier night time, Allen had trounced Sullivan within the scores, and the rationale could possibly be defined in simply two phrases: Elvis Presley. Whereas Sullivan had been reluctant to ebook the 21-year-old singing sensation because of his hip-swinging, sexually charged performing fashion, rival NBC had taken benefit of the controversy that Presley had generated bumping and grinding his manner by “Hound Canine” just some weeks earlier on the Milton Berle Present by rapidly reserving him for Allen’s program. There, outfitted in full tuxedo and tails, a “chastened” Elvis stood completely nonetheless and sang the tune to an precise basset hound carrying a prime hat. The gimmick labored, and even Sullivan needed to admit it – which he did the subsequent day by way of a quick missive, which learn merely, “To Steven Presley Allen, NBC TV, New York Metropolis. Stinker. Love and Kisses, Ed Sullivan.”
For the ever-competitive Sullivan, seeing Allen get the products on him, even for per week, was a name to arms, and it wasn’t lengthy earlier than he was in negotiations with Presley’s tight-fisted supervisor, “Col.” Tom Parker, to get Elvis lined as much as seem on his present. Figuring out he had the higher hand, Parker performed hardball, and what emerged was a deal for 3 appearances, unfold over a number of months, for what was then an astronomical determine of $50,000. Preparations have been made for Presley to make his Sullivan debut on the night time of September 9, however then destiny stepped in and shuffled the deck in order that Presley’s efficiency took two sudden turns.
For all of the mythology surrounding Elvis Presley’s historic debut look on the Ed Sullivan Present that September night time in ’56, it normally comes as a shock to most individuals to search out out two fascinating information about that exceptional second in Twentieth-century American well-liked tradition: First, Ed Sullivan wasn’t even the host of his personal program that night time. A number of weeks earlier than, he had been in a horrific auto accident on a Connecticut street when one other automobile crashed head-on into the one he was driving in along with his son-in-law Bob Precht, leaving Sullivan with a fractured rib and chest and facial bruises and Precht with a damaged arm and ankle. Consequently, the still-recuperating Sullivan was unable to attend this system, and internet hosting duties fell that night to British actor Charles Laughton. Second, even when Sullivan had absolutely recovered, he wouldn’t have been ready to absorb Presley’s efficiency in particular person from his present’s house base theater in New York as a result of Elvis’ look was as an alternative broadcast from a CBS Tv Metropolis soundstage some 3,000 miles away in Los Angeles, the place the singer was finishing filming for what can be his movement image debut within the western romance, Love Me Tender.
These two components elevate an fascinating level for conjecture. Had it not been for Allen beating Sullivan within the scores, would Presley have appeared on the Sullivan Present that yr? The sensible cash would say sure as a result of, for all of the controversy surrounding Elvis in his early days – let’s not overlook that in 1956, America and rock and roll weren’t precisely on the most effective of phrases, and Presley’s lusty picture and musical fashion, which was closely influenced by African American rhythm and blues, made him a flashpoint determine within the ’50s tradition wars – Ed Sullivan had already earned his repute as a color-blind and socially inclusive arbiter of style. Performing African American songwriter Otis Blackwell’s “Don’t Be Merciless” and the Little Richard hit “Prepared Teddy” (whereby each time he began to shake, the cameras lower away from full head-to-toe pictures), Presley’s preliminary Sullivan look was estimated to have attracted an viewers of some 60 million individuals – over 80% of all attainable tv viewers – and Sullivan actually understood the ability that Presley was already wielding along with his swinging hips and driving music, so he doubtless would have had him on anyway.
Nonetheless, because the numbers proved, the impression of a Sullivan endorsement really meant one thing. Whereas Elvis Presley had appeared on a number of nationally broadcast TV applications earlier than September ninth, 1956, and was already being hailed because the “King” of rock and roll, his debut on Ed Sullivan turned out to be, traditionally talking, the official coronation. As quickly as Elvis began crooning the theme tune from Love Me Tender – and you may hear the swoons coming from females within the viewers as quickly as they understand it’s a delicate ballad – America had no alternative however to lift the white flag. No matter all of the nay-sayers, rock and roll had gained. And, when all was mentioned and achieved, Ed Sullivan had helped make it occur.
Take a look at the official playlist to see all of Elvis Presley’s performances from the present.
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