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Elvis Presley’s first Ed Sullivan Appearance

I finished up Peter Guralnick’s “part one” bio of Elvis Presley last week, a book called Last Train To Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley. It’s a fascinating and exhilarating look at “50’s Elvis,” including his first TV appearances in 1956.

Earlier in ’56, Elvis had made his first television appearances on shows hosted by the Dorsey Brothers, Milton Berle, and Steve Allen. These appearances shocked – SHOCKED! – the nation’s old guard. The media, parents, and citizens of high moral fortitude (yeah right) were appalled at the sexual connotations set forth by Mr. Presley. Of course, his actions then wouldn’t raise an eyebrow in today’s cesspool of cultural waste – but in 1956, ooo-weee, look out America, Elvis the Pelvis is comin’ for your kids!

On September 9th, 1956, Elvis made his first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. Mr. Sullivan was recovering from a serious car accident, so Charles Laughton actually hosted the program in the New York City studio. Across the country in Hollywood, Elvis was filming his first motion picture, Love Me Tender, so his first appearance on Ed Sullivan was simulcast from CBS Television City.

The clips below skip the intros by Laughton, so if you have a Netflix account, I’d recommend watching the entire show (available streaming). But what we have here with Elvis’s performances are pure magic. The show was viewed by 60 million Americans that night – a staggering 82.6% of the total television audience. I’m sure it changed some minds and solidified some others.

But man oh man, to be a music lover in the year 1956. It’s hard to imagine now, but try to think back to the mindset of 1950’s America – you flip on the television on a Sunday night and you see this

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“Ready Teddy” is my favorite of the bunch. I love the way he kicks off the song with a finger point to the drummer – going from 0 to 60 in about 5 seconds. This is pure Elvis – unrestrained and one of a kind.

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