The Ed Sullivan Show: An Unforgettable Vintage Classic

The Ed Sullivan Show was one of the most popular shows throughout the mid 20th century. Some of the most important television events have taken place on the Sullivan stage, including several controversial performances that will remain forever in the history of television and music. One such performance was of Elvis Presley on September 9th, 1956.

Though the show is full of controversies, it still managed to leave an impact on our lives. So, let’s have a peek at the host and controversies of The Ed Sullivan Show.

Edward Vincent Sullivan – A Legendary Television Variety Show Host


(Original Caption) 8/1936-Atlantic City, New JerseyEd Sullivan, Broadway columnist of the Daily News.

Born on September 28, 1901, in Harlem, New York, Ed Sullivan was an American television personality. He was a well-known entertainment and sports reporter, and syndicated columnist.

However, after the death of Ed’s twin brother and sister, his family shifted to Port Chester, New York. He was a high school athlete and had won 12 letters in athletics. He also tried to enlist in the Navy but got rejected because of his age.

In high school, he developed an interest in Journalism. During the same, he used to write for The Port Chester Daily Item for which he continued writing for even after the high school graduation. He has worked for multiple newspapers including The Hartford Post and The New York Evening Mail. He also pursued journalism professionally as an adult. After graduation, he wrote for The Associated Press, The Philadelphia Bulletin, The Morning World, The New York Bulletin, The Morning Telegraph, and The Leader.

Finally, in 1927 he landed himself a job in The Evening Graphic as a sports writer, where he quickly became a sports editor.

After two years, Sullivan became the paper’s gossip columnist. He then produced vaudeville shows for which he was the master of ceremonies. It was through emceeing that he entered the new world of television.

In 1947, he was hired Master of the Ceremonies for the Harvest Moon Ball. Worthington Miner, the manager of a television program, was impressed by this event and hired Sullivan to be master of ceremonies for the TV show, “Toast of the Town.” This show eventually became “The Ed Sullivan Show.”

The Ed Sullivan Show


(Original Caption) 6/20/1954-New York, New York- A perplexed Ed Sullivan, New York columnist and television emcee, faces the mitts of Ezzard Charles (L), who lost a 15-round decision to Rocky Marciano (R), on June 17th in Yankee Stadium. The pleasant looking gent in the center is newly crowned U.S. Open Golf champ, Ed Furgol. The sports trio appeared on Sullivan’s June 20th show in New York City.

Ed Sullivan introduced more than 10,000 acts of The Ed Sullivan Show that was aired between 1948 and 1971. The show is the longest-running variety program of all time, and its format was mainly the same as vaudeville. It was one of the few shows to have run at the same prime-time slot and gain consistently high rankings. The show highlights every type of entertainment including Classical musicians, Opera singers, famous recording artists, comedians, songwriters, dramatic actors who performed monologues from plays, ballet dancers, and circus. It also ranked #15 on TV Guide’s 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time.

Now, let’s have a glance at some of the most legendary performances at the show.

The Beatles – 1964

The Beatles undoubtedly were the most famous performers on The Ed Sullivan Show. The appearance of these three youngsters from Liverpool, who call themselves the Beatles, drew the largest television audience of all time. It was around 70 million people. The performance went live for three consecutive Sundays. You must’ve remembered the first chant of “Yeah, yeah, yeah” and the group’s matchless charisma and energy that allowed them to change the world.


Television host Ed Sullivan receives some guitar lessons from Beatle Paul McCartney in between rehearsals at CBS television studios in Manhattan, where the English rock ‘n’ roll sensations will make their national television performance debut February 9th. Fellow Beatles John Lennon and Ringo Starr stand behind.

They sang – “All My Lovin,’” “Till There Was You,” “She Loves You,” “I Saw Her Standing There” and “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.”

Elvis Presley – 1956

Elvis Presley appeared on this show for the first time in 1956, and 60 million people watched his performance. The first performance made Elvis a household name. However, The King’s gyrating hips were censored by Sullivan, and he was shot only from waist up in his last and third performance on the show. He performed two more times in October 1956 and January 1957. He sang – “Love Me Tender,” “Don’t Be Cruel,” “Hound Dog” and “Ready Teddy.”


NEW YORK – JANUARY 6: Rock and roll musician Elvis Presley performs on stage with his back up singers The Jordanaires on the Ed Sullivan Show on January 6, 1957, in New York City, New York. On the left are Jordanaires Neal Matthews Jr (1929 – 2000, far left) and Gordon Stoker (1925 – 2013). (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

The Jackson 5 – 1969

The Jackson 5 charmed the audience with the performance at the show and their bright, colorful costumes. Michael Jackson, an 11-year old, wowed the audience as the group sang live. The people knew as he stepped up to the mic, he was going to be a big star. They performed for the two consecutive years in 1969 and 1970.


CIRCA 1969: R&B quintet ‘Jackson 5’ perform on a TV show in circa 1969. (L-R) Tito Jackson, Marlon Jackson, Michael Jackson, Jackie Jackson, Jermaine Jackson. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

They sang – “I Want You Back,” “Stand” and “Who’s Loving You.”

The Rolling Stones – 1964

They first performed in 1964 that took place as a part of “Pop Go The Sixties.” Though they have censored lyrics and Sullivan didn’t like them much, they still managed to establish as rock’s bad boys. Sullivan substituted their second song “Let’s Spend The Night Together” with the phrase “Let’s Spend Some Time Together.”


Portrait of the band ‘The Rolling Stones’; (clockwise from top) Brian Jones, Mick Jagger, Bill Wyman, Charlie Watts, Keith Richards, and Ian Stewart, circa 1963. (Photo by Archive Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

They sang – “Ruby Tuesday” and “Let’s Spend the Night Together.”

The Doors – 1968

As Ed wanted to keep The Ed Sullivan Show appropriate for the whole family, he refrained The Doors from singing “Girl, We Couldn’t Get Much Higher” on stage.


Photo of Doors Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Where most of the musicians would’ve listened to the request, Jim Morrison didn’t. Yes, he still sang the song after which Sullivan banned him from the show. To this Jim Morrison allegedly replied “Hey, man. We just did The Ed Sullivan Show.”

They sang – “People Are Strange” and “Light My Fire.”

The Legacy Of The Ed Sullivan Show

Though the show has started as an entertainment show, it changed the landscape of American Television. It was the only show during the 20th century that saw the black and white as equal, which was a bold move at that time.


(Original Caption) 6/3/1952- Ed Sullivan celebrates the fourth anniversary of his TV show ‘Toast of the Town.’ Stars (Left to Right): Rex Harrison; Audrey Hepburn; Ed Sullivan; Ginny Simms; and Jack Smith, join Sullivan for the cake-cutting ceremony. Show personnel, John Wray; Marlo Lewis; Ray Bloch and the ‘Toastettes’ look on.

However, now, as the era has come to an end, this show still occupies the same place in our heart as it did in the past and it always will.